In the quest to seek alternative global low-cost manufacturing sourcing across multi-industry supply chains, countries such as Thailand and Vietnam were high on the list. Both offered relatively attractive direct labor wage rates while offering a highly educated and motivated workforce. Up to this point, that has resulted in a steady flow of foreign investment in these countries including internal supply chain ecosystem capabilities.
All of this is now subject to current re-evaluation because of new political and social unrest that is occurring in these countries. The most visible has been Vietnam where this week, anti-China related violence has caused widespread rioting across the country, targeting factories and industrial parks that rioters believe are owned by Chinese interests. This rioting began earlier this week and according to various global media reports has resulted in arson and vandalism involving multitudes of factories and businesses owned by Japanese, Malaysian, South Korean and Taiwanese ownership since rioters have not been precise in targeting.
The protests were apparently prompted by Vietnamese citizen outrage over an oil rig that China placed in a disputed part of the South China Sea. We have read reports of some speculation that the core anger may be more broadly directed at accumulated anger against foreign-based exploitation within the country. The government of China is holding the Vietnamese government responsible for not taking more definitive actions to curb the rioting and damage. A report published by the Wall Street Journal today indicates that upwards of 3000 Taiwanese and 600 Chinese citizens were fleeing the country amid fear of further violence.
While foreign based business people flee Vietnam for fear of personal safety, a large number of factories have halted production because of either damage or lack of workers. Thus, the potential for significant industry supply chain disruption in the automotive, footwear, high tech, consumer goods and other areas is growing each day. It would appear that many brand owners and foreign interests are looking to the government of Vietnam to curb the current building wave of violence and factory destruction and avoid the current situation from quickly moving from the current bad to a far worse situation.
Meanwhile, continued political unrest across Thailand continues to provide an uneasy environment as violent protests continue sporadically across that country. Yesterday, there were reports that at least three anti-government protestors were killed and 22 were injured as government authorities fired guns and lobbed grenades at antigovernment protestors.
Supply Chain Matters has previously noted how significant incidents social unrest has led to a new wave of worker protests within China’s low-cost manufacturing sectors such as footwear. Political tensions involving China and Japan over disputed ownership of islands continue and have both supply and product demand impacts to certain Japan based firms.
From our lens, the notions of global sourcing are beginning to take on a new risk management perspective, that being social, national and political unrest along with the longer-term implications of that unrest. The notions that industry supply chains can continually follow a singular strategy that is solely directed at sourcing in low-cost countries is being challenged, and increasingly requires a re-evaluation. Global sourcing now includes far more considerations beyond the cost of direct labor, and as we have continually noted, are now taking on social, political and employer of choice perception aspects. The ramifications apply not only to product brand owners, but to industry supply ecosystems.
We believe that these incidents are not isolated and business and supply chain teams need to focus on much broader trends and their implications in access to foreign markets and supply chain ecosystems. The need for supply chain sourcing flexibility and resiliency has never been as important as it is now becoming. Insure that your firm and its supply chain strategies are prepared to manage among these new challenges and needs.
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