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In case you had somehow managed to miss the news, COVID-19 better known as the Coronavirus is “global-public-health-emergency” which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China.  Global health pandemics are clearly bad news no matter what way you look at it, but COVID-19 is worse news than most because it has led to the shut-down of Wuhan city, which is a global hub for manufacturing and distribution.  This has the potential to cause a lot of disruption, but there are ways you can deal with it.  Here are some tips.

Keep calm and carry on

There have been pandemics before and there will almost certainly be pandemics again.  They can be short-term (SARS) or long-term (the 1918 influenza pandemic lasted a total of 23 months), but sooner or later they come to an end and the world keeps on turning.  There may be struggles along the way, lessons to be learned and changes to be made, but if you apply intelligent perseverance, you stand an excellent chance of making it through and coming out the other side.

Hope for the best but plan for the worst

The Coronavirus has highlighted the extent to which the world has become reliant on China for everything from raw materials (including foods) to manufactured goods.  While China may be most associated with the production of electronic goods, it also manufactures pharmaceuticals and medical equipment together with industrial machinery and supplies, especially for the automotive industry.

The media is full of stories of people panic-buying food, medical supplies and other essential items and the automotive industry is in turmoil because China not only supplies much of the equipment and many of the parts needed for car factories in other parts of the world but also makes cars and is an important market for car manufacturers.

In short, over the long-term, the world in general and manufacturers, in particular, may need to have a significant rethink of their supply-chain strategy and consider whether or not they should be prepared to accept a higher cost-per-unit in return for reducing their dependence on a single country (otherwise known as a single point of failure).  In the long term, this might even reduce prices by creating competition for China.

Review available inventory now

Hopefully, you should already know what you have in full detail, but if you don’t, then now is the time to find out.  In addition to checking what supplies you have of what products, it’s very advisable to divide your inventory between non-perishable items (which can be stored indefinitely) and perishable items (which have to be used within a certain time).  Ideally, you’ll go even further and subdivide your perishable items according to their shelf life and double-check the expiry dates on your existing stock to see how long it will last.

Armed with this information, you can then evaluate where you stand with getting fresh supplies and, if necessary, look for alternative options.  If you are looking for different suppliers, then it might be advisable to look at “best-case” and “worst-case” scenarios.  The “best-case” scenario is that China continues to function, albeit probably to a more limited extent than normal.  The worst-case scenario is that the whole country has to go into lockdown (or at least large parts of it) and you have to find a supplier from somewhere else in the world.

Keep pushing the safety of products made in China

Remember that you are sourcing products from China to sell to people elsewhere and people will only buy those products if they are convinced that they are safe.  Make sure that you highlight the safety of your products everywhere you can and at the very least update the information on your own website.