The objective of secure supply chains is to ensure their integrity, confidentiality and authenticity of goods, services, information and resources throughout – vital to today’s digital economy. This may not be a simple process but it is crucial, since there are many complex networks involving multiple parties. Any weak link in the chain can create opportunities for hostile actors to exploit vulnerabilities and introduce substandard, malicious or counterfeit components.
The Allianz Risk Barometer 2023 results show that business and supply chain disruptions rank as the second top risk (34%), alongside cybersecurity incidents (also 34%). The report also shows that companies have begun diversifying their businesses and supply chains, and introducing risk management measures. Still, much work must be done to improve supply chain transparency, provide good quality data and engage with the relevant stakeholders to obtain and manage it.
There are several best practices that contribute to a holistic and effective approach to supply chain security, including:
Risk management and resilience planning
Proactive risk management and resilience planning are vital elements of secure supply chains, identifying and assessing potential risks and vulnerabilities within the supply chain, including physical, operational and cybersecurity risks. Companies can achieve this by continuously monitoring and auditing the supply chain to identify and prioritise potential vulnerabilities or security gaps. Keeping a register of potential risks and implementing contingency measures according to risk priority helps the supply chain recover from disruptions more efficiently. The objective is to manage cybersecurity risks and protect against data breaches, ransomware attacks and other cyber incidents.
A supplier management policy with clear criteria for selecting and managing suppliers based on their security practices and reliability improves the strength of the supply chain. It may involve conducting due diligence, audits and assessments of suppliers’ security controls and procedures.
Secure supply chains protect sensitive information and data, including customer information, proprietary designs, financial records and trade secrets, from unauthorised access, use, disclosure, alteration and destruction. Collaborating with secure and reputable vendors and suppliers is crucial to maintaining security practices throughout the supply chain ecosystem.
Protecting intellectual property
Protecting intellectual property (IP) is crucial for organisations that have created original works, inventions and innovations. They rely on their supply chains to safeguard this IP and prevent unauthorised access or theft of designs, technologies or innovations. Secure supply chains implement measures to prevent product counterfeiting and cloning and detect tampering during transportation or storage.
An adequate level of physical security protects the physical infrastructure and assets within the supply chain, including manufacturing facilities, warehouses and distribution centres. Implementing this level of security may involve access controls, surveillance systems, security personnel and other measures to prevent unauthorised access, theft, or tampering.
Security solutions must be addressed holistically by stretching beyond technology, to people and processes. It is vital to educate employees within the supply chain about security risks, best practices and their roles and responsibilities. Regular training programs raise awareness and promote a security-conscious culture throughout the organisation.
Leveraging new technologies
Exploring and leveraging emerging technologies can enhance supply chain security. For example, blockchain technology can provide transparency and traceability, while Internet of Things (IoT) devices can monitor and track goods throughout the supply chain.
Compliance with relevant laws and regulations is essential for supply chain security. Depending on the industry and geographical location, organisations may need to adhere to specific data protection regulations, industry standards or international trade requirements.
It’s a multi-dimensional challenge
Supply chain security is a multi-dimensional challenge that requires collaboration and coordination among all stakeholders. It is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring, assessment and improvement, to adapt to evolving threats and maintain security and resilience. A secure supply chain builds trust and confidence in customers that the delivered products or services are genuine, safe and free from tampering or malicious alterations.
A comprehensive supply chain security practice enables organisations to establish trust, reduces the risk of security breaches or incidents, and maintains the reliability and reputation of their supply chains. This approach is critical for protecting a company’s interests and safeguarding the interests of customers and other stakeholders in the supply chain network.
By Hector Tejero, Solutions Architect, Arrow Electronics