U.S. Moves to Build Supply Chain Resiliency: How Importers Can Mitigate Disruption

by | Jun 30, 2021 | Imports, Markets

The Biden Administration has announced plans to strengthen the resiliency of critical U.S. supply chains to protect American industries from shortages that were exacerbated by COVID-19, significantly impacting earnings prospects in several key U.S. industries.

But while there is no doubt that the wide-ranging measures – published at the end of a 100-day review mandated by Executive Order in February – will help buffer the U.S. through future bouts of turbulence, businesses are still struggling with immediate solutions that can resolve their supply chain challenges.

Current Supply Chain Resiliency Issues

Research by Descartes Datamyne supported the conclusions of the Biden Administration ahead of the announcement of its plans, giving high vulnerability scores to the key supply chains of commodities such as semiconductors and printed circuits, large capacity batteries, pharmaceuticals and ingredients, and strategic minerals, which were the focus of the original review. High-level details are as follows:


After a significant drop in both the volume and value of imports in 2019 from 2018, 2020 semiconductor imports remained steady in both value and quantity according to figures from Descartes Datamyne. Examining these year-over-year trends, when accounting for the overall decline in global trade in 2020 due to COVID-19, the value of imports remaining steady potentially points towards increased demand and higher prices.

Printed Circuits

From 2018 through 2019, imports of printed circuit boards into the U.S. shrank in both value and quantity on a year-over-year basis, according to Descartes Datamyne research. In 2020, the decline in value bottomed out, but was met with an increase in volume, indicating a pricing shift in the value of these goods.

Large Capacity Batteries (Lithium Ion)

In 2020, imports of lithium ion batteries into the U.S. surged 31% in value and grew a slower 12% in quantity, according to Descartes Datamyne research. The figures point to supply not keeping up with demand.

Major recommendations by White House planners for these key industries included:

  • Investing US$50 billion into the semiconductor industry to expand U.S. manufacturing and research and development as well as protect American technological advantages;
  • Providing multi-billion-dollar funding to spur consumer adoption of electric vehicles, and support domestic production of advanced and next generation battery cells for these vehicles;
  • Increasing investments in new pharmaceutical manufacturing processes; and
  • Creating a sustainable inventory of strategic minerals by working with “allies and partners to diversify supply chains away from adversarial nations and sources with unacceptable environmental and labor standards.”

Immediate Supply Chain Resiliency Strategies

Organizations should certainly place confidence in the supply chain resiliency plans unveiled by the Biden Administration; however, given the positive effects will not likely immediately mitigate current disruptions, businesses need a strategy to address the challenges of today, which very well could get worse before they get better.

Any potential strategy for businesses hedging against disruption combines a number of steps including risk assessment and identifying alternative supplier sourcing in the international market.

For businesses wanting to mitigate supply chain risks, both the short- and long-term strategy that provides the greatest competitive advantage lies in understanding supplier markets – especially those that organizations are not familiar with.

Market leaders understand that they need a periodic review of their supply chain and suppliers, examining both their current supplier’s capacity and risk of disruption as well as new potential suppliers. They would examine import duty rates and what is influencing market trends, commodities produced and trade flows. This kind of in-depth market and trade analysis is only possible with the use of a robust global trade intelligence solution.

Identifying New Suppliers

For many companies facing these supply chain challenges, the question is: how can we identify new suppliers in the international market? The answer lies in global trade data. Using current import and export trade data, businesses can research markets to be aware of as many supply options as possible. They can also examine the commodities being produced on a per market basis, the trade volumes and flows and combine that with production capacity and labor availability. In this way, organizations may find a diamond in the rough – a source of alternative supply.

For example, in the past decade, businesses looking to import vanillas bean from leading suppliers in Madagascar have been met with major challenges that were both natural (in the form of ongoing droughts) and man-made. Using global trade data, these importers could look beyond Madagascar to other countries of origin such as Indonesia and India.

How Descartes Can Help

While the Biden Administration’s plan to strengthen key U.S. supply chains will bear future fruit, some companies need to take concrete action now. Even in the future, however, alternative supplier sourcing will still be an important business strategy because it gives organizations the opportunity to examine all available options – at home and abroad.

In addition to enabling better informed business decisions and market determinations, global trade intelligence allows businesses to identify potential disruptions and establish a more resilient supply chain. However, such insight is only possible with robust, flexible, and scalable global trade solutions.

With a comprehensive database of accurate, up-to-date import-export information, powered by the Bill of Lading and Census data of 230 markets across 5 continents, Descartes Datamyne enables users to reduce risk by identifying alternate suppliers. Using queries based on Harmonized System codes, users can search across multiple nations and sort by country of origin and can then narrow that search to identify suppliers based on their specific business demands.

Organizations across all industries benefit from our solutions that help to initiate growth strategies, explore new markets, simplify trade data research, better classify goods, reduce duty spend, and minimize the risk of transacting business with denied parties.

Supply chain disruptions will occur, but with Descartes’ solutions in place, businesses will be able to build more resilient supply chains and be better prepared to minimize the impact of future disruptions.

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