Automotive industry has taken the strongest hit as a result of production stoppages and trade restrictions - EIU

Over half the supply-chain managers in Europe and North America say that increased concerns over the resilience of existing supply chains is the top factor driving their Asia Pacific supply-chain strategy, but just 3.2% of managers in Asia say so.

This is according to research commissioned by Citi and undertaken by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

52% of managers based in Europe and North America are concerned about a breakdown in global trade, compared to just 9% in APAC.

More optimism in Asia

Supply chains in Asia Pacific appear to be relatively more resilient, but the pandemic is leading to a broader rethink of supply-chain strategies for the longer-term, the research finds.

Chris Clague, Asia editorial lead, trade & globalisation at the EIU, and editor of the report, says: “The pandemic has resulted in companies thinking deeply about what its effects and longer-term geopolitical and economic trends might mean for the resilience of their supply chains.”

A third of all companies are conducting a complete overhaul of their supply chains, and these changes are geared towards the longer term. Only 22.9% of supply-chain managers say they are not making any significant changes to their supply-chain strategies. 

Auto industry hardest hit

From a sectoral perspective, close to half or 48.3% of supply-chain managers in the automotive sector and 40% in the footwear and apparel industry are conducting an overhaul of their supply -chain strategy; higher than the survey average of 32.6%.

This compares against 16.7% for the IT/tech/electronics industry, 23.1% for manufacturing, and 33.3% in both the food and beverage and healthcare/pharmaceutical/biotechnology sectors. 

This corresponds to the level of disruption faced by these sectors with the automotive industry taking the strongest hit as it faces production stoppages, trade restrictions and difficulties in access to primary inputs. 

How supply-chain managers are rethinking their supply chains varies in different regions.

While 40% of managers in Europe and 48% in North America say their companies are pursuing diversification as their top supply-chain strategy, this share is just 24% among supply-chain managers in Asia Pacific. 

Larger companies are more keen to move away from “single sourcing” to reduce supply-chain dependence, while smaller companies prefer localising and shortening supply chains. 

The pandemic has also resulted in a greater focus on the digitisation of supply chains and investments in technology for purposes such as trade facilitation, supply and demand forecasting, financial management and inventory management. 

Of all supply-chain managers surveyed, 32.5% say their companies have increased investment in digital tools or processes by more than 50% as a result of the pandemic.

While this number stands at 12% among managers in Europe and North America, it shoots up to a shade over 40% among managers in Asia. These investments are largely in the areas of trade facilitation, forecasting and predicting, inventory management and manufacturing processes.

The report, Disruption, Digitisation, Resilience: The future of Asia-Pacific supply chains, is based on a survey of 175 global supply-chain managers across six primary industries.