Supply chain managers must learn to become ‘masters of disaster’ because crisis and disruption will continue to challenge the logistics sector through 2023 and beyond, an industry senior figure is warning.

Christine Mezger-Behan, is senior vice-president of supply chain operations at KION Group, the parent company of German company STILL GmbH, which supplies forklift trucks, platform trucks and intralogistics systems.

She said: “Supply chain disruptions are here to stay. They’re all here to challenge us. And the question is: what is the world going to throw at us next?”

Mezger-Behan believes 2023 will see continuing shortages of supply and capacity along with limited availability of labour, all adding to the risk of insolvencies, before there is some slight relief.

But she believes it will be short-lived because people are already reacting to the economic downturn and higher inflation by tightening their belts. She added: “The result will be more shortages in materials but also in transport and warehousing.”

Drawing on her own experience in Europe and worldwide, working in supply chain strategy and network design, planning, organisation, transport and warehousing management, Mezger-Behan is urging supply chain managers to be well prepared for constant disruption in the year ahead and longer into the future.

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She said: “They must not forget their strategic roles in holding on to a vision and keeping their teams focused on it. Standards also have to be applied, however hectic the business environment. Parallel processes only lead to even more chaos.”

Mezger-Behan is also warning supply chain leaders to ensure they have a planning process that contains scenarios.

She added: “Give each of these scenarios a name… ‘baseline scenario’ for the most realistic one, ‘upside’ or ‘downside’ for the best or worst case. Clear terminology and processes are the key.”

She also warned that manufacturers should be especially prepared for material shortages, which, after a somewhat short relief, might catch people off-guard, she added.

Turning to STILL’s UK material handling businesses, Mezger-Behan said: “There will be an inevitable impact on inbound supply of materials but we are predicting a buoyant year nevertheless on the back of a full order book. The drive towards automation, linked to shortages of labour, will remain a focus.”