Risks to your Supply Chains – Vulnerability in an Uncertain World


As a small island nation, Australia has all the time been depending on worldwide commerce. Its beneficial phrases of commerce have helped it face up to many exterior shocks all through its historical past. Whilst Australia’s world provide chains have withstood the disruptions attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has highlighted the vulnerability of those integral provide chains, and Australia’s ongoing financial prosperity, to different future shocks.  

Within this context, the Productivity Commission has been requested to look at the character and supply of dangers to Australia’s essential world provide chains and develop methods to mitigate such dangers.   

The Productivity Commission has just lately launched its interim report into these weak provide chains (Interim Report). The Interim Report has a selected deal with Australia’s position as an importer.


Some noteworthy findings of the Interim Report:

  1. One in 20 Australian imports could also be weak to concentrated sources of worldwide provide.

  2. Most weak imports are consumption or intermediate items with fewer capital items (though these characterize the best share of weak imports by worth). 

  3. The major provider of weak imports is China – accounting for two-thirds of these merchandise.

  4. Vulnerable imports are a small share of the products used within the nominated important industries for the wellbeing of Australians – logistics, power, well being, authorities, communications, water and banking. 

  5. Effective threat administration requires a great understanding of a agency’s dangers to make sure that the web advantages of any funding to mitigate the prices of disruptions are matched by their potential results and prices.

  6. Risks are finest managed by those that have direct incentives to mitigate in opposition to them. Firms are primarily chargeable for managing dangers of their provide chain. Governments have duty, like every agency, to handle dangers in provide chains for which they buy and/or ship items and companies instantly, notably when these are items and companies in important industries.

  7. There are situations the place authorities intervention in non-public sector threat administration could also be justified, nonetheless the web profit must outweigh the doable prices. 

Whilst the findings that weak imports characterize a small share of important items and companies are encouraging from a macro perspective, particular person companies might want to fastidiously analyse their provide chains and networks with respect to their specific services and products. 

Firms can do that by:

Adopting Risk administration methods:

  • Prevention – eg finding important provide chain components in much less disruption-prone areas, selecting suppliers which are much less weak to disruptions, investing in threat administration for essential suppliers

  • Preparedness – eg holding buffer inventory and provider capability, diversifying provider networks and geographic footprint, use of contingent contracting, insurance coverage

  • Responsiveness – spend money on early detection, versatile manufacturing processes, dynamic pricing and promotions

  • Recovery – develop post-disruption restoration plans.

Taking benefit of technological developments:

  • Internet of issues – permitting monitoring of location, climate, site visitors patterns and bottlenecks

  • Blockchain – by which data of an asset or transaction and the origin of products is maintained in numerous areas 

  • AI, machine studying, and analytics – by which warehouse operations, transport and logistics and stock administration may be automated.

Accepting the help of governments within the type of:

  • Provision of data and experience of its companies – eg Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and business regulators

  • Financing help from Commonwealth and State / Territory Governments and their companies – eg Austrade, EFIC, CEFC and ARENA.

  • Dual purposing present authorized obligations – eg companies who’re obliged to report on their provide chains underneath the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) and the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018 (Cth) may use the evaluation performed to discharge such obligations to mitigate dangers of provide chain disruption.


The Interim Report’s discovering that “risks are best managed by those who have direct incentives to mitigate against them” is a welcome distinction to the ‘authorities is aware of finest’ method. However, in mild of an ongoing commerce warfare between China and the United States, geo-political instability within the Asia-Pacific area and the current EU controls on vaccine manufacturing, Australian companies should be ready for a better diploma of vulnerability of their provide chains. 

Domestic manufacturing business proponents have used the pandemic to reignite dialogue about onshoring. The Interim Report famous that onshoring doesn’t remove all provide chain dangers, with home manufacturing amenities and transport networks weak to onshore dangers. 

Recent examples embody pure disasters and state-based well being laws (together with border closures) throughout the top of the pandemic which slowed the motion of products round Australia. The prices of onshoring embody sustaining larger prices of manufacturing, on account of larger enter (notably labour) prices and to foregoing economies of scale. The native manufacturing value premium was beforehand recognized by Ford and Holden as a motive for transferring offshore. 

Realistically, onshoring can’t remove dangers related to publicity to world provide chain disruptions. Complete insulation from disruptions is unlikely as a result of most home manufacturing additionally depends on some imported inputs. 


Submissions and feedback at the moment are open on the Interim Report. It is anticipated {that a} remaining report might be revealed in late May 2021 and can embody an evaluation of disruptions to provide chains that will have an effect on exports.

Copyright 2020 Okay & L Gates
National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 91


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