Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tragic Disruptions

 I had a taste last week of how adverse weather conditions can easily disrupt what may look like a great business plan. After attending the annual Electronics Components Industry Association (ECIA) executive conference in Chicago, I stayed back in the windy city for several more days to conduct some company visits. If only I had known a heavy snowstorm would roll in over the weekend and paralyze activities on the eastern coast of the United States. My flight to Philadelphia on Saturday was cancelled just as we were preparing to board, and the airline could only find a seat for me on another flight two days later.
I chose instead to take a 22-hour-long train ride back home. Everything went smoothly at first. I slept, did some work, and caught up on some reading materials. But, again, the weather had some nasty plans ahead. A rock slide -- following the snowstorm -- terminated the train ride 140 miles from Washington, D.C. and we had to wait several hours to be taken by bus to the capital city. I finally arrived home exhausted after more than 30 hours on the road. The flight should have lasted only one hour and 45 minutes!
I was one of the lucky ones. News reports indicate the snowstorm resulted in the loss of 21 lives and knocked out power supply across the eastern shores of the United States last weekend. Still, what happened in the US was a minor irritant compared to the devastation facing Thailand, which is struggling with severe flooding and disruptions to commerce in and around Bangkok. EBN bloggers examined the impact of the flooding on the electronics supply chain in several articles over the last days. (See: Planning for the Unpredictable and Thailand Floods Hit the Supply Chain.)
The flooding in Thailand adds to the misery the electronics industry has faced in the last year. The March earthquake in Japan hit the industry hard and derailed segments of the supply chain. It also pointed to the inability of the industry to prepare for and avoid the catastrophic results of natural disasters. At the same time, the human toll of these disasters cannot be ignored. As companies take steps to put in place second-source options for their businesses, they also have an obligation to their communities to help them quickly recover from these occurrences.

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