As Supply Chain Matters has noted in prior commentary, the election of Donald Trump as the incoming President of the United States will present quite a number of global and domestic supply chain management uncertainties for industry teams to manage over the coming months, and perhaps years. The question is how to be prepared.

Thus far, Trump’s initial communications and proposed Presidential Cabinet appointments would imply that campaign promises to kill unfavorable trade agreements as well as openly confronting American companies to keep jobs in the United States are holding true. Then again, news of potential Cabinet and advisor appointees would imply a pro-business administration.

The first public confrontation involving the heat and air conditioning Carrier business unit of United Technologies over proposed job reductions that were transferring to Mexico has received quite a lot of media coverage. Trump’s supporters are elated with this initial confrontation. In the end, after closed door discussions, Carrier has agreed to keep roughly 1,000 jobs in Indiana, while the state of Indiana had to agree to provide UTC upwards of $7 million in financial incentives to remain in the state. While Carrier still plans to invest $16 million to retain some operations in Indiana, the intent is to go-ahead with the movement upwards of 1300 other jobs to Mexico and close another facility in Indiana as originally planned. While visiting the Carrier Indiana facility yesterday, Trump once again vowed to reexamine existing trade agreements such NAFTA, and put U.S. businesses on-notice that there would be consequences for any decision related to the movement of jobs out of the country.

Political opinion is now raising the specter of U.S. corporations having to base business sourcing decisions on threats of punitive actions. That further raises speculation that other countries will respond to a Trump administration with threats or their own punitive actions.

On a somewhat positive note, the selection of Elaine Chao, a former Cabinet secretary serving eight full years during the Bush Administration as the nominee for Secretary of Transportation is being perceived as an intent to follow-through on the campaign promise to aggressively invest in needed infrastructure in roads, bridges and other badly needed U.S. transportation infrastructure needs. Ms. Chao provides what is widely perceived as an extensive policy background and she is also the spouse of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. If confirmed, Ms. Chao will inherit management of current unprecedented levels of safety related recalls involving the U.S. automotive sector, especially those related to air bag inflators manufactured by supplier Takata. She will have oversight of regulations pertaining to Uber-like transportation services as well as regulations pertaining to autonomous driving vehicles.

For industry supply chain teams, there is little doubt that capabilities in assessing supply chain network design decision support options based on criteria related to direct labor costs, inventory, transportation and landed costs, as well as what may be constantly changing local content requirements will be essential.  Capabilities in managing what may turn out to be very fluid and changing global trade management policies and regulations will obviously be essential along with integrating such information with existing product sourcing and planning systems.

Supply Chain Matters sponsor LLamasoft has already indicated a marked uptick in interest levels in the firm’s supply chain network design and Supply Chain Guru focused technology coming from UK based firms because of the Brexit referendum, and anticipates similar increased interest levels as the Trump leadership era unfolds.

As teams prepare for their 2017 investment and resource budgets, minimizing risks related to global sourcing and material movements, deeper analysis and more informed decision-making capabilities, along with overall agility in supply chain focused decision making should be high priority areas.

In 2017 and beyond, supply chain and product management teams will indeed be very involved in counseling senior and line-of-business management on the various whiplash effects of a far more changing global trade environment.

Bob Ferrari

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