Mapping Urban Supply Chains for Resilience and Growth

Now that more than half of us live in cities, it is critical to understand urban supply chains and how they can continue to grow in the face of increasing demand and frequent disruptions. Since 2012 we've helped urban and regional governments map their supply chains (soon we'll publish the results of our work with the NYCEDC). Here are some of the lessons we've learned along the way:

  • Urban supply chains are public-private partnerships: when modeling the movement of goods inside a city, private sector activity tells only half the story. Supply chain performance can be just as dependent on infrastructure chokepoints, zoning, and public sector customers.
  • Focus on the key players: urban supply chains often consist of thousands of individual businesses overseen by dozens of agencies. An initial mapping will reveal which stakeholders most directly affect supply, demand, and logistics - engage with them first.
  • Optimization: just like industrial supply chains, urban supply chains can be optimized - so long as you track key performance metrics such as capacity, lead time, and inventory. These attributes make it possible to quickly evaluate the overall risk and economic opportunity of the entire network.

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Emerging networking and collaboration tools transform real-time data from global suppliers into vivid, multitier supply chain maps.

The devastating tsunami and subsequent nuclear accident that rocked Japan in 2011 brought the complexity and vulnerability of global supply chains into sharp relief. Across the globe, the automobile, electronics, chemical, and retail sectors, among many others dependent on Japanese output, were faced with unprecedented disruption of their supply chains.

At the time, few of the affected organizations had sufficient visibility into their supply chains to plan for, or respond effectively to, a disruption of this magnitude. “Global companies can have hundreds of thousands of suppliers,” says Leonardo Bonanni, Ph.D., CEO of Sourcemap, a provider of web-based supply chain visualization solutions. “Yet most cannot interact with these suppliers in real time.”

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