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She and her colleagues have developed five elements of a resilient value chain system. “The pandemic is like a fire accelerant for this topic. In Germany, only a few companies are really prepared.” The Stuttgart-based team is not only focusing on higher inventory levels, but is also calling for changes in production and organization. “We have to prepare for upcoming crisis scenarios. They don’t always have to be as dramatic as a pandemic.” The Fraunhofer researchers want to be partners with industry on this journey and define five key areas of work:

1. Robust infrastructure focuses on the infrastructural dependencies of production, such as energy supply and IT, which are decoupled from product-specific shocks but pose system-inherent challenges (for example, restarting after an abrupt production stop).

2. Learning processes have the ability to adapt. This occurs through the transition from rule-based to goal-oriented systems and processes. Here, the ability to learn relates to available resources or defined goals. For example, self-optimizing systems to shorten the production ramp-up time after adjustments or parameter optimizations.

3. Adaptive production describes the ability of a production system to adapt reactively and proactively to changing conditions. Adaptability is achieved through flexibility and reconfiguration. In the case of minor disruptions, adaptation within the flexibility corridor is sufficient, whereas reconfiguration is required for major disruptions.

4. Agility is the ability of organizations to quickly align their strategy, structures, processes, people and technologies to (new) value-creating business opportunities based on iterative learning and decision cycles in a dynamic environment. Structures for fast decision-making processes and agile teams with clear responsibilities are crucial in crisis situations.

5. Sovereign production networks pursue the goal of achieving their own independence in both the supply and demand chains through different strategies. For this purpose, resilience factors must be identified and monitored. Sovereign value chains have the ability to react quickly and effectively to changing conditions as well as to anticipate them and take proactive measures. Real-time monitoring of supplier status and flow of goods can reduce risks and optimize costs and throughput.