National Academies Press: OpenBook

Freight Transportation Resilience in Response to Supply Chain Disruptions (2019)

Chapter: Supply Chains and Resilience: Stakeholder Roles

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Page 129
Suggested Citation:"Supply Chains and Resilience: Stakeholder Roles." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Freight Transportation Resilience in Response to Supply Chain Disruptions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25463.
Page 129

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129 supply chain resilience, the concept of social capital is most relevant to the employees of the owners and operators of the networks and facilities that are disrupted. No individual or place is immune to disruption or disruption-related losses. Accidents, acts of terrorism, financial disasters, natural disasters, and so forth can lead to a wide range of consequences. It is nearly impossible to anticipate all of the possible configurations of a disruption and of the dynamics of a response. However, whereas most guidance focuses on how to respond to incidents in the safest and most expeditious manner possible, which is certainly an important aspect of enhancing system resilience, the guidance in this document also adopts a proactive approach to anticipate possible hazards and threats. This then leads to the identification of strategies to minimize or avoid altogether disruptive impacts. SUPPLY CHAINS AND RESILIENCE: STAKEHOLDER ROLES An important characteristic of the supply chain and one explicitly considered in this guidance is the distinction between public agency and private company roles. These differences occur primarily for incident-level responsibilities and planning-level efforts. For incidents…… In a general sense, public agencies have three major responsibilities as it relates to supply chain resilience. First, and perhaps most importantly, public agencies own important infrastructure networks that support the efficient movement of goods and commodities. Even when considering that railroads own their own track, rail movements are often supported with the use of trucks (and thus roads) to move goods and commodities to and from rail terminals. The public agency role in providing, operating and maintaining this road network thus becomes an important contributing factor to supply chain resilience. This is especially critical in recovering from an incident by opening the disrupted roads as soon as can be safely done. Second, public agencies often provide the emergency response capabilities relating to firefighting, hazardous materials handling, ambulance and medical services, and managing traffic flow during an incident and community evacuations, if warranted by a particular incident. It is usually these public agencies that interact with companies as the firms respond to their own demands during an incident. Considerable focus has been placed on establishing the protocols and standard operating procedures to guide these interactions. Third, public enforcement (for public safety) and regulatory agencies (for investigations) often have focused missions with respect to the handling of incidents. In some cases, these missions can often be at odds with the objectives of other incident participants. Safety is always the most important goal, but following that, many of the transportation agencies and private carriers are anxious to reopen the facility or service as soon as possible. Regulatory and safety agencies want to understand the causes of the incident and thus do not want to disturb the incident scene until the necessary information is collected. For example, in a rail derailment, the railroad will want to remove the cars that still remain on the rail as soon as possible for delivery to the destination, whereas investigators might very well want to see “the entire picture” before the site is disturbed. These two perspectives have sometimes resulted in tensions among those responding to an incident ….. simply because they each have different roles to play in the incident response. For pre-event planning and preparation….. Many businesses have developed plans for what to do in response to an incident, in particular defining the responsibilities for each unit in the firm depending on the type of disruption. These responses generally fall under the concept of business continuity plans. The importance of such plans was highlighted by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 (see insert) where global supply chains were disrupted for months due to the loss of motor vehicle component supplies out of the affected area in Japan. One of the lessons learned from this experience was that most Japanese firms now have business continuity plans that outline the steps that will be taken for expected exigencies associated with such a large disruption. However, the major focus of business continuity plans is on the business itself and steps that need to be taken to recover service, maintain customer relations, and avoid negative

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TRB’s National Cooperative Freight Research Program (NCFRP) has released a pre-publication version of Research Report 39: Freight Transportation Resilience in Response to Supply Chain Disruptions. The report provides guidance to public and private stakeholders on mitigating and adapting to logistical disruptions to supply chains resulting from regional, multi-regional, and national adverse events, both unanticipated and anticipated.

The report, which makes a significant contribution to the body of knowledge on freight transportation and system resiliency:

(1) assesses research, practices, and innovative approaches in the United States and other countries related to improving freight transportation resiliency;

(2) explores strategies to build relationships that result in effective communication, coordination, and cooperation among affected parties;

(3) identifies factors affecting resiliency;

(4) analyzes potential mitigation measures;

(5) characterizes spatial and temporal scale considerations such as emergency planning and response timeframes;

(6) prioritizes response activities by cargo types, recipients, and suppliers;

(7) identifies potential barriers and gaps such as political boundaries, authorities, ownership, modal competition and connectivity, and social and environmental constraints; and

(8) examines the dynamics of supply chain responses to system disruptions.

The report also includes a self-assessment tool that allows users to identify the current capability of their organization and institutional collaboration in preparing for and responding to supply chain disruptions.

Disruptions to the supply chain and their aftermath can have serious implications for both public agencies and companies. When significant cargo delays or diversions occur, the issues facing the public sector can be profound.

Agencies must gauge the potential impact of adverse events on their transportation system, economy, community, and the resources necessary for preventive and remedial actions, even though the emergency could be thousands of miles away.

Increasing temporary or short-term cargo-handling capacity may involve a combination of regulatory, informational, and physical infrastructure actions, as well as coordination across jurisdictional boundaries and between transportation providers and their customers.

For companies, concerns can include such issues as ensuring employee safety, supporting local community health, maintaining customer relationships when products and goods are delayed, and ultimately preserving the financial standing of the company.

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