IT Supply Chain Shortages

In the last 18 months, the pandemic has taken a toll on everyone. Businesses have had to reevaluate everything and make some tough choices. Some companies struggled to keep their workforce, and devastatingly some weren’t able to keep their businesses going. Others adopted masks and rigorous sanitation and health screening policies to continue operating in person. Almost every organization has adapted to entirely new working models, and most of us have changed our perception to embrace the “new normal.” This shift in the way we work and live has created many changes and an IT supply chain shortage. While it sounds daunting, there are several steps you can take to keep your business operating at peak efficiency. In this blog, we’ll share how you can avoid product shortages and the resulting downtime.

Widespread Supply Chain Issues

Even early on in the pandemic it was evident that there was a significant impact on manufacturing and shipping. Suppliers began struggling, allocating stock for essential businesses. It was noticeable to companies and consumers that items you could usually obtain quickly were no longer available at all. There was a general feeling that the system was overwhelmed. Everything from cars to garden supplies, kayaks, and computer technology equipment seemed to be in short supply. The conditions created a perfect storm that experts noted may not normalize until well into 2022. “Just in time fulfillment,” once a pinnacle of efficiency that dominated global manufacturing and supply chains, started to show cracks.  

Shortages in Technology

How organizations have planned and budgeted for hardware replacement in the past needs to be reevaluated. It reminds me of the old adage, “If you are 5 minutes early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late…” In business technology, a new adjustment period has emerged. Scarcity of product is combined with a shortage of the resources needed to install and configure it. Planning ahead and having a backup plan if something goes wrong is imperative in this product scarce market. 

Raw material and chip shortages have greatly affected both the tech industry as well as any business relying on technology for vital functions. At this point, that’s pretty much all of them. Once easy items to procure, such as PC’s, chips, switches, and accessories, can be hard to come by and can take weeks or months to ship. Lead times have been unpredictable at best, with some items nearly six months out. On top of the material shortage, a shortage of workers has directly affected the shipping industry. As a result, shipping times are seldom guaranteed. Rushing a replacement isn’t always an option.

The useful life of equipment needs to be aligned to expected uptime for the business. There should always be a plan for an equipment failure. As equipment ages, the chances of degradation and failure increase dramatically. I often hear organizations say a piece of equipment is running “just fine,” so they don’t see a need to replace it – until it breaks. As I’m fond of saying, hope is not part of a business strategy. Organizations that don’t regularly maintain and replace their equipment are gambling with their business operations. Due to supply chain and resource constraints you might be unable to get things in a pinch. Lack of availability can lead to expensive downtime for your organization.

Dealing with the IT supply chain shortage & keeping your business operating efficiently

Here are the best ways to avoid the impact of product shortages so you can keep your business up and running.

  1. The first step in the process is to identify the life cycle of your technology equipment. While laptops may only be suitable for 3-4 years, network equipment might only need replacing every 5-7 years.  It is essential to take this into account and adequately document each device’s expected lifespan. Document each device and its expected replacement date. It will help if you budget now for what you may be replacing next year. Planning months and even years ahead for replacement is necessary to avoid rushed orders, increased prices, excessive downtime and delayed shipments.  
  2. Ensure a warranty covers all your equipment.  Now I know some people may think, “I don’t do warranties!” – but when it comes to your business you should reconsider. A warranty ensures that replacement parts are available for a particular device during an agreed upon period of time. In a world where things have become more and more complex, this is something that can be very simple. Businesses should consider standardizing as much as possible, particularly when dealing with multiple devices like switches, laptops, or wireless access points. Creating similar configurations across the organization can help streamline the rollout and maintenance of these devices. Not only will this save time, it allows for a more consistent experience.   
  3. Plan to maintain your devices on a regular basis or partner with an MSP like ADNET to automate patching, backups, and daily maintenance. Automate tasks utilizing the proper tools, like a Remote Management Solution (RMM), to ensure these devices operate at peak efficiency. Create a Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plan to cover failure of equipment. Your Business Continuity Plan should also outline the next steps to remediate if a failure happens, although that could be a topic unto itself. Ensuring your hardware is operating correctly and is covered by a warranty is critical to mitigate risk. 

Planning is key

Planning has a large impact on any business. Not only does solidifying a replacement strategy in advance help ensure that you have budget appropriately, it lowers the chance of running into an emergency situations. Poor planning can lead to limited availability, rushed orders, increased prices, excessive downtime and delayed shipments. With proper planning you have more control over what you are able to order and can also avoid late product arrivals that may affect productivity. Planning also helps you achieve a more predictable budget moving forward, with less surprise expenditures.

While it may seem like there’s nothing you can do to combat the IT supply chain shortage we’re all facing, a little planning goes a long way. With a solid strategy and budget in place for the next year, you can hopefully order what you need in plenty of time, avoiding downtime and inconvenience.

Whether you’re dealing with issues from the current IT supply chain shortage or wondering how to plan around these longer lead times – reach out to us, we’re happy to help.