How Corning cracked the supply chain code
War. Extreme weather. A pandemic. Cyberattacks. Human rights infringements. Disruptions to the supply chain came hard and fast in 2022.
While some supply chain professionals have been scrambling since 2020, Cheryl Capps has moved forward with confidence. According to Corning’s senior vice president and chief supply chain officer, her team can expertly manage disruptive global events – ensuring that Corning plants keep operating and customers are served.
How’s that? Well, Cheryl knows Corning has some ingrained strengths working to our advantage.
Here she recounts the marathon that was 2022 – and reveals how we flex the muscles that minimize disruption.
Supply chain’s been kind of crazy
Things go wrong all the time. In the past few years, you might have seen, for example, the ship caught in the Suez Canal, or maybe a cyberattack on the port in Amsterdam, or a COVID shutdown in China, an explosion, or a labor walkout. Those kinds of incidents have been impacting us at a rate 12 times higher than before the pandemic.
Early bird gets the worm
We’ve gotten really good at detecting disruptions as they are unfolding and reacting quickly. Say there’s an explosion at a supplier’s factory over a weekend – we hear about it immediately and start securing backup supply. Let's say our competitors didn't hear about it on that Saturday. They wait until the supplier notifies them … maybe Monday, maybe even Tuesday or Wednesday. By then, we have a plan in place and new orders locked in. We have the edge.
Digital is key
We have co-developed some of the most advanced supply chain systems for early detection with our external partners. The systems use artificial intelligence and predictive modeling, providing real-time alerts when there’s an emerging risk. When a hurricane is forming, we use the predicted path of the storm to see not only which suppliers are in that path, but which trucks we're going to have in that path.
We can secure material and move shipments in advance. We have backup plans. We’re prepared.
Pair that with collaboration across the chain
For example, when Hurricane Nicole was forming, the cone of uncertainty overlapped with Corning customers and suppliers. A team member created an incident in our collaborative platform and added relevant followers to it.
Every Corning business that had suppliers on the list, every sourcing manager, every logistics person – everybody's on this platform now watching it as the storm moves. Supply chain professionals get assigned action items depending on what piece of the supply chain they manage. They load their contingency plan into the system, and then we all work collaboratively from one system of record.
We work on it until the problem is resolved, and we're tracking the status of actions all the way through the supply chain.
Corning’s global workforce as 24/7 strength multiplier
Once we are aware of a disruption, the local team can launch an incident on the collaborative platform, saying, "Hey, I need help. I've got to find a supply for X, Y, or Z."
Let’s say the incident starts in Reynosa, Mexico. They launch the incident, engage the rest of the North American team, and work on it until they go home, knowing the Singapore and China teams are already waking up and jumping on it. Hours later India engages, then Europe. By the time the North America team comes back to work, all these players have helped comb the world for suppliers, materials, or logistics solutions.
That's part of what makes us so fast compared to our competitors. Sometimes we lock in a solution within a day or two, when it takes our competitor weeks. We have boots on the ground in 80 countries, and everybody wears the Corning hat.
Partnership is priceless, even more so in a crisis
One of our major suppliers in North America – the company that does most of our trucking and all our U.S. border crossings – suffered a cyberattack. Without them, our North American logistics organization would come to a grinding halt – planes, ships, everything.
When it happened, you just have one of those moments like, "Oh, my gosh, this is like our worst-case scenario. Did the cyberattack affect our systems, too?" It was incredibly stressful for the team. But the story has a good ending – you didn't hear of Corning shutting down, right?
We have an incredible relationship with this company in terms of partnering on solutions. We reached out and offered to help. We told them, "We'll do whatever it takes." We sent people out to help them. We worked 24/7. We worked through our processes manually, without the normal computer systems. And, together, we got through a really tough period without shutting down our operations.
And we learned from the experience. We had a crisis playbook for this type of incident, but we learned how to make it even better. We also reinforced our belief that supplier relationships are priceless.
What’s not said says everything
We have not had to spend a lot of time explaining to customers or investors, "Because of global disruptions in the supply chain, we weren't able to do X, Y, and Z." In today’s environment, the fact that these are not the headlines you read about Corning is really special.