Water industry supply chain resiliency in the aftermath of COVID-19
Delays, shortages and businesses going bust: Welcome to supply during the 2020 pandemic.
COVID-19 has exposed some gaping holes in industry supply chains. A recent article in Supply Chain Digital claimed that “94% of Fortune 1000 companies have been affected by supply chain disruption” because of COVID-19.
Utilities are suddenly faced with the reality that any disruption to the delicate procurement process can have a massive ripple effect on the provision of safe, clean water to customers at the end of that supply chain. And, in this episode, we explore how supply chain issues are impacting on the water industry and ask, what will enable utilities to create a resilient water supply chain in the years to come.
To take us further into this topic, we talked to 4 incredible experts in the water industry: Jacob Wu from Unitywater, Simon Kaye and Meha Bola from GHD in North America and Katrina Donaghy from water tech company Water Ledger.
To read our in-depth article on the water industry supply chain, visit our blog on Medium.
Meet the experts from this week’s episode
Strategic Procurement Business Partner — Goods and Services
Corporate Strategy and Performance
Experienced Business Partner with a demonstrated history of working in the utilities industry. Skilled in Team Leadership, Procurement, Business Process Improvement, Stakeholder Management, and Project Planning.
Over the past 16 years, Simon’s experience has been wide-ranging across a number of CapEx and OpEx projects and clients across the Utilities, Transportation, Property and Public Sectors in the UK and abroad specialising in Operational & Business Efficiency, Business Change Management, Procurement Advice, Project Development, Project Management, Project Co-ordination and Risk Management.
Meha Bola is a highly experienced management consultant with a background in leading organizational development initiatives, including strategic communications, stakeholder engagement, business process improvement, and performance improvement. Meha has about 20 years experience in the water sector in North America and the Pacific region and has a keen interest in sustainability, resource management and innovation.
As CEO and Co-Founder of Civic Ledger and Water Ledger, Katrina believes that shifting to the digitisation of government services and programs will fundamentally change the way we value, share, consume and hold public assets such as civic entitlements. Her ability to translate complex technology into language understood by Government and Business Leaders, has driven Civic Ledger’s piloting of blockchain use cases within government.
- Jacob: generally the lead time for supply of the critical parts or some other equipment is has been easily doubled. Usually it will be to four to eight weeks now probably we look at at least about eight to 12 weeks time.
- Simon: [Supply chain] challenges are only now to become more apparent. And it’s something that I think is going to potentially impact the market over the next two months.
Simon: I think the opportunity is how utilities work with supply chains and vice versa… and create true partnerships in relation to how they can work together now that then creates a platform for that longer-term relationship.
- Simon: I think there’s definitely an opportunity in North America where there’s many, many water utilities. Some of them are clearly very small and therefore, they don’t have the ability to truly drive efficiencies through buying power or volume. I think that creates an opportunity for consortiums of water utilities to be formed to come together that then therefore, can leverage a far greater buying power and be able to drive far better price efficiency ins to the marketplace.
- Jacob: [In Australia] we regularly share knowledge and we have a business partnership, work together. And I think there’s a trend here in Australia’s utility business, we tend to invest in some of the technology or some of the like the supply chain ourselves. We actually share some of our critical stock…
- Meha: If there is a myopic drive towards the bottom level prices, then you’re accepting risks that are not captured anywhere and you’re not paying for those risks as they’re being incurred. You’re gonna pay for it potentially later when there is a major crisis in that supply chain is disrupted.
- Katrina: What we’ve seen around the world through the COVID is this disruption, massive disruption to supply chains. And we’ve also seen, very unexpectedly, about 10 years worth of regulation collapse to allow digital to become normal. So we’ve got this really interesting place right now where all of a sudden we have some significant problems. We need to solve them very fast. But the old way of solving those problems is no longer the first choice. We have to think differently.
- Katrina: I think technology needs to be seen as an enabler and a tool to be used. But first and foremost, it must be about humans. It must be about society. It must be about how do we solve a problem for a customer or an old problem that we just have been able to solve before. Technology cannot lead.
- Katrina: In Australia we have some of the best blockchain companies that are doing the heavy lifting around supply chains. When we think about BeefLedger, BeefLedger’s doing the provenance and the supply chain into China for beef…Obviously, we all know Everledger with Leanne Kemp and doing the traceability of diamonds. We’ve got AgriDigital, which is doing the provenance and traceability of grains. So there’s a lot of work going on in Australia around traceability and also the wine industry.
- Meha: In order to innovate, people need to be willing to take risks. Without risks there is no innovation…if you aren’t willing to allow your people to fail, they are going to fall back on the most safe risk free routes that they can to get things done and they will not be able to innovate.
- Katrina: Utilities need to understand that they actually are data organisations. And how do they bring in different thinking to understand that it is their data that enables them to actually then innovate?
- Jacob: The key issue facing utility from a procurement perspective is it’s still a head heavy or labour heavy process at the moment. It’s just unfortunate to say that investment in this area is still quite…not enough. It’s quite expensive at the moment. So from our perspective, we want to invest but, unfortunately, to invest in this it’s quite expensive and some of the utilities just don’t have the money.
- Meha: It doesn’t have to be necessarily a huge investment of money. But it does take time and it takes building psychological safety a sense of trust in your organisation to enable people to do that.
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