Managing Cash Flow in the Age of Supply Chain Disruption

By Karen Burns, Sensiba San Filippo

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 exposed global supply chain vulnerabilities begging the question about how to ensure stability and resiliency in the future. Wherever your business sits on the spectrum, from manufacturer to consumer, this is likely to be a hot button issue. Disruptors include but are not limited to resource scarcity, congestion, population growth, and climate change. All of these either directly or indirectly put a strain on cash flow. So, how can you navigate the disruptions to maximize liquidity?  

Take a Hard Look at Suppliers

Where do your current bottlenecks occur?

Near Sourcing

Reduce your dependency on foreign markets and delayed deliveries by sourcing suppliers near you. This way, you’ll be able to manage days on hand through smaller buys. Another advantage is that smaller, local suppliers may be more willing to negotiate extended terms if you’re a big fish in their pond. Working with local suppliers also supports local, “made in the USA” manufacturing. In certain situations, this can demand pricing premiums when selling goods to customers.

Dependence on Single Suppliers

Any parts sourced by single suppliers leaves you vulnerable to issues they face. Have you assessed the risks to which your suppliers are exposed and whether that will affect their ability to respond timely? How about your supplier’s suppliers? Consider building relationships with alternate suppliers who may be available when the need arises, potentially at more competitive pricing.

Increased Shipping Costs

Prices for freight and logistics are skyrocketing. Assuming you can work with suppliers to procure materials, getting them in time to manufacture your product on a timely basis is a whole other issue. Many manufacturers will need to account for potential expedited shipping fees.


Invest in Technology

It might seem counter-intuitive, but you’ll need to spend money to save money.

Materials Requirement Planning (MRP)

Chances are, if you’ve seen much growth in the past few years, you may have outgrown your current system and it may be time to look at that software implementation you’ve been avoiding. Having the tools to work with your customers to plan for demand is key to ensuring appropriate “safety stock numbers” to optimize inventory. It will also ensure you’ll have a better chance at getting your hands on the materials when needed.

Accounts Payable Automation

Cloud based software simplifies, digitizes, and automates back office financial processes. One such use of this resource will allow you to prioritize payments to vendors with early pay discounts.

“Smart Logistics” Implementation

In a recent PwC study, “survey respondents see smart logistics as the strongest lever for cost savings [accounting for nearly 50%]. It’s typically the largest cost bucket in the connected supply chain, as it incorporates warehouse, order management and transport (inbound and outbound), which are each key cost drivers.” This interactive connection of suppliers, manufacturers, logistics service providers and customers fosters supply chain transparency and integrated planning.


Stay Flexible

As constant, unpredictable change has become the norm, the trendy, managerial term for this, “VUCA” [volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity], demands that you avoid traditional, outdated approaches and move forward with more agility, encompassing the items already discussed.

End-to-End Transparency

The aforementioned PwC study also shows that companies with end-to-end transparency in their supply chain have been much more successful in being agile as circumstances change. Consider bringing on specialists at appropriate intervals, building in slack where possible, experimenting to understand cause and effect of changes, and investing in information and related data analytics.

Use your size to your advantage

While some of the recommendations here may seem more applicable to larger companies, they often struggle to manage their cash flow because of the sheer volume of daily transactions and the bureaucracy associated with layers of management. Strategic mid-market companies will model the cause and effect of potential change and then be nimble enough to execute at a moment’s notice to take advantage of the opportunities.


About the Author:

Karen Burns is an Assurance Partner with Sensiba San Filippo LLP, a Certified B Corporation and leading regional accounting and business advisory firm. She is also Co-Founder of Association of Manufacturers Bay Area (AMBayArea), a trade group dedicated to addressing the daily challenges that Bay Area manufacturers face. Karen has over twenty years of experience providing financial and business consulting services to companies in a variety of industries, with a particular passion for the manufacturing and distribution sector. She has great depth of experience working with rapidly growing manufacturing companies, from start-ups to multigenerational family businesses, helping them to identify opportunities, challenges, and trends. She can be reached at 925.271.8700 or at