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  • Gary Pine

What are Supply Chain Risk Overlays?

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

In the dynamic and ever-evolving landscape of global business, navigating the complexities of supply chains has become a critical task. At the heart of this task lies the concept of 'Supply Chain Risk Overlays', a sophisticated approach to identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks within a supply chain.


But what exactly are these overlays, and how do they function to safeguard a business's operations? In this guide, we unravel the intricacies of supply chain risk overlays, offering you a detailed insight into their distinct types and how they can be effectively implemented in modern business strategies.


Understanding Supply Chain Risk Overlays

Supply Chain Risk Overlays serve as an analytical lens, providing an additional layer of scrutiny and strategy to the existing supply chain structure. These overlays are designed to help businesses navigate through potential disruptions and vulnerabilities that can affect the smooth functioning of a supply chain.


They function as a protective shield, helping to identify and mitigate potential risks before they escalate into significant issues. There are different types of risk overlays, each focusing on various aspects of the supply chain.


Here, we briefly introduce the prominent types:


  1. Geopolitical Risk Overlay: This type focuses on assessing and mitigating risks arising from political instability, trade restrictions, and geopolitical conflicts.

  2. Environmental Risk Overlay: This overlay concentrates on identifying and managing risks associated with environmental factors, including natural disasters and climate change impacts. With the growing emphasis on sustainable business practices, understanding environmental and sustainability risks is more important than ever. This overlay assesses factors like climate change impacts, resource scarcity, and shifts in environmental regulations, helping companies to mitigate potential risks and align their supply chain operations with sustainable practices.

  3. Operational Risk Overlay: Focusing on the internal processes of a supply chain, this overlay helps in identifying and mitigating risks such as manufacturing bottlenecks, quality control issues, and logistical disruptions.

  4. Technological Risk Overlay: In the digital age, this overlay is crucial in managing risks associated with technological advancements, cybersecurity threats, and data management.

  5. Compliance and Regulatory Risk Overlay: This overlay assists businesses in navigating through the complex landscape of legal and regulatory compliance, helping to avoid potential violations and reputational damage. The legal and regulatory landscape can have far-reaching implications for supply chain operations. This overlay focuses on potential risks arising from changes in laws and regulations, legal disputes, and compliance issues, providing businesses with the insights they need to navigate the complexities of legal and regulatory requirements.

  6. Cybersecurity Risk Overlay: In the age of digital transformation, cybersecurity risks have become increasingly prevalent. This overlay considers potential threats related to cyberattacks, data breaches, and IT infrastructure failures, enabling businesses to anticipate and prepare for these risks.

  7. Market/Competitive Risk Overlay: Market conditions, competition, and consumer behaviour significantly influence supply chain operations. This overlay helps businesses understand and anticipate these influences, enabling them to adjust their strategies in response to market dynamics.

To delve deeper into the intricacies of supply chain risk overlays, consider reading Understanding Supply Chain Risk Overlays, which provides a comprehensive insight into this topic.


What are the 3 Key Categories of Supply Risk?

Supply risks can be broadly categorised into three main groups: external risks, supply chain risks, and corporate risks. Let's explore each of these categories in detail:

  1. External Risks: External risks are those that arise from the broader economic, political, or environmental landscape. These could include geopolitical issues, market fluctuations, or natural disasters. Companies often have little control over these risks, but they can develop strategies to mitigate their impact.

  2. Supply Chain Risks: These are risks directly associated with the operations of a supply chain. They encompass a range of issues including supplier reliability, transportation disruptions, and manufacturing bottlenecks. A well-structured supply chain risk management strategy can help in identifying and mitigating these risks early on.

  3. Corporate Risks: Corporate risks are internal risks that originate from within the organisation. These could be related to governance, operational processes, or financial stability. Companies can manage these risks through robust corporate governance and internal control systems.

What is Included in Supply Chain Risk?

Supply chain risk encompasses a wide array of potential disruptions and vulnerabilities that can affect a supply chain's smooth operation. These include:

  1. Supplier Risks: Issues related to supplier reliability, quality, and financial stability.

  2. Logistical Risks: Problems arising from transportation disruptions, warehousing, and customs delays.

  3. Operational Risks: These involve risks related to internal processes, such as manufacturing bottlenecks or quality control issues.

  4. Demand Risks: Fluctuations in customer demand, which can create inventory management challenges.

  5. Geopolitical Risks: These include political instability, trade restrictions, or conflicts that can disrupt the supply chain.

  6. Environmental Risks: Natural disasters or climate change impacts that can affect various nodes of the supply chain.

Understanding the different elements included in supply chain risk is vital in developing strategies to mitigate potential disruptions. You can explore this further in the article Your Supply Chain: A Puzzle Worth Solving with Supply Chain Modelling.


What are the Supply Chain Risk Strategies?

Developing strategies to manage supply chain risks is a critical aspect of ensuring business continuity and success. Here are some commonly adopted strategies:

  1. Risk Identification and Assessment: This involves identifying potential risks and assessing their likelihood and impact.

  2. Supplier Diversification: Reducing dependency on a single supplier can mitigate risks related to supplier reliability.

  3. Inventory Management: Implementing strategies to manage inventory effectively can help in mitigating demand and supply fluctuations.

  4. Technology Integration: Utilising technology to enhance visibility and control over the supply chain.

  5. Business Continuity Planning: Developing plans to ensure business continuity in the event of disruptions.

To understand how technology can aid in managing supply chain risks, refer to the article on Systems engineering, digital twins and supply chains.


What are the Different Types of Risk Pooling in Supply Chain?

Risk pooling is a vital strategy in supply chain management, helping to mitigate risks by aggregating risks across different entities or time periods. Here, we explore the various types of risk pooling strategies commonly used in supply chains:

  1. Centralised Inventory Pooling: This involves consolidating inventory at a central location, which can lead to reduced holding costs and improved service levels.

  2. Quantity Aggregation: By aggregating demand across various locations, companies can reduce the variability in demand, thereby lowering safety stock requirements.

  3. Lead Time Pooling: This strategy focuses on reducing the lead time variability, which can be achieved through measures such as supplier diversification and improved forecasting.

  4. Capacity Pooling: Here, the focus is on pooling production capacity across different facilities to ensure smoother operations and better resource utilisation.

For a deeper understanding of how risk pooling can be visualised and managed through modern tools, consider reading Supply Chain Mapping through an ESG Lens.


What are the 4 Main Categories of Risk?

In a broader perspective, risks in business can be categorised into four main groups:

  1. Strategic Risks: These involve high-level risks associated with company strategy, including market competition and changes in consumer preferences.

  2. Compliance Risks: As mentioned earlier, these encompass potential legal and regulatory violations that can have significant repercussions.

  3. Operational Risks: These are risks associated with the day-to-day operations of a business, including supply chain disruptions and internal process failures.

  4. Financial Risks: These involve risks related to fiscal management, including market volatility, currency fluctuations, and credit risks.

By understanding and categorising risks into these groups, companies can develop more targeted and effective risk management strategies.


In conclusion, understanding and effectively managing supply chain risks is a complex yet vital aspect of modern business operations. Supply Chain Risk Overlays serve as a comprehensive tool, helping companies navigate the intricacies and uncertainties that modern supply chains encounter.


By adopting robust risk management strategies and leveraging modern tools and technologies, companies can build more resilient and successful supply chains.


We hope this guide has provided you with a deeper insight into the world of supply chain risk overlays. For further reading and to enhance your understanding, do explore the resources linked throughout this article.

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