During the pandemic, lockdowns, travel restrictions and physical distancing regulations forced factories to shut down or operate with skeleton staff, some businesses were compelled to lay off employees to bring costs down and remain operational, deliveries were delayed due to issues at logistics firms, and more.
At the same time, there was a surge in demand for chips around the world, creating the perfect storm that decimated the pro audiovisual (AV) supply chain. Three years on and the situation is abating somewhat now that most restrictions have been removed and suppliers and manufacturers slowly build their inventories back up.
However, monthly surveys conducted by AV trade association AVIXA show that the supply chain is still the biggest industry challenge.
“It’s been a difficult few years, supply chain constraints are ongoing and some businesses are still reporting more than a year’s worth of delays,” says Sean Wargo, senior director of market intelligence for AVIXA. “The AV industry has been implementing an evolving set of strategies to help mitigate the supply chain challenges. Initially, businesses were focused on price points and passing along the price increases just to help lock in a specific supply. Now the pervading strategy seems to be for suppliers to find out what clients need and place orders for raw materials as early as possible, establish a realistic timeline and communicate this to clients.”
This has been one of the positive outcomes of the supply chain delays, claims Wargo. “Currently, demand has slowed down a little, allowing suppliers to catch up and consult with clients to properly address needs,” he explains. “This more consultative relationship is where the AV industry has always wanted to be, but we’ve struggled to get there before now.”
According to Wargo, it is essential for those in the AV supply chain to ensure clear, transparent and honest communication about everything from shortages of raw materials to delays in production schedules, component substitutions, changes to the original project, product unavailability and late deliveries to the customer.
“One tiny issue at any point along the supply chain can have a significant knock-on effect elsewhere, so it’s vital that partners at every level of the chain proactively communicate with one another to ensure that everyone is fully aware of what is happening at all times,” says Wargo. “It’s crucial that partners are open and honest about the specific challenges they’re facing – and set realistic expectations about when they will be resolved.
“Communicating these types of issues as early as possible enables supply chain partners to discuss potential contingency plans and develop solutions that benefit everyone. Of course, partners must avoid blaming others for any problems that arise and instead remain humble and understanding. No business intentionally wants to cause problems that impact the whole supply chain!”
Wargo acknowledges that seamless and intuitive communication can be difficult to achieve at scale, particularly across global supply chains involving multiple partners in different geographies. However, he believes that this is where digital technologies, specifically AV products and solutions, can help.
“During the pandemic, many organisations used digital technologies to circumvent the challenges introduced by strict travel restrictions, lockdowns and physical distancing regulations,” he says. “For example, enterprise communication platforms like Microsoft Teams, video conferencing solutions and related AV products suddenly became critical because they empowered employees to continue communicating and collaborating effectively with their colleagues, external partners and end customers, regardless of where they were located.”
Wargo adds that trade associations like AVIXA can also play a pivotal role in helping to drive collaboration between supply chain partners. He says AVIXA is the conduit that brings together a community of more than 11,400 members worldwide, including manufacturers, systems integrators, dealers and distributors, consultants, programmers, live events companies, technology managers, content producers, and multimedia professionals.
“We connect all the different businesses that make up the AV supply chain, providing them with a platform where they can openly communicate the challenges they’re facing, share expertise, discuss best practices and collaborate to develop strategies and solutions to overcome problems,” he explains. “We host multiple tradeshows and other meetings and events throughout the year, giving businesses the opportunity to talk about what’s going on in the marketplace and seek the help and guidance they need.
Despite the fact the world is facing a seemingly endless series of black swan events, Wargo is confident that improving communication and collaboration with the help of AV technology and associations like AVIXA will improve supply chain operations in the long term.
“Many businesses are feeling frustrated and helpless, but there’s never been a better time for supply chain partners to unite, discuss the individual and collective challenges they’re facing, and collaborate to solve these issues,” he says. “The pandemic showed what amazing things businesses can accomplish when they work together, and I’m confident the AV industry can achieve even more if it continues to do so in the future.”
This article was originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.