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Disruptions Happen: Baltimore Bridge Collapse Underscores Need for Operational Agility  

In business, as in life, uncertainty can result in unexpected disruptions that have an outsized ripple effects. That’s why agility in business operations, paired with a focus on strategic planning, is not just a competitive advantage; it’s a necessity.

The tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday (March 26) has suspended all vessel traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore until further notice. The effect on supply chains is likely to be significant, particularly the secondary impact on East Coast trucking logistics as operators need to reroute their fleets. 

While the Port of Baltimore is in the bottom half of America’s top 20 largest ports, it ranks first among the nation’s ports for volume of automobiles and light trucks, roll on/roll off heavy farm and construction machinery, imported sugar, and imported gypsum. Per a statement from Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, the Port of Baltimore’s private terminals handled a record 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo, worth $80 billion, in 2023. The port ranks ninth among major U.S. ports for foreign cargo handled; and ninth for total foreign cargo value.

The incident serves as yet another reminder of the fragility of supply chains, and adds another snarl to the global shipping landscape atop ongoing attacks from Houthi militants in the Red Sea, and a drought in Panama that has slowed traffic through the Panama Canal. 

And while the situation may seem as though it’s just one thing after another for business leaders to deal with, what history shows is that a combination of proactive planning, real-time monitoring, data analytics, and agile decision-making can help businesses minimize the impact of the unexpected on operations.

See alsoUncertainty Costs Middle-Market Firms 4.4% of Revenue on Average

Uncertainty, a Constant Companion

Change is inevitable. Whether it’s a shift in consumer preferences, regulatory requirements, technological advancements, or supply chain disruptions, businesses must be able to quickly adapt.

“Whether the run is three years, five years, 10 years, there will be another crisis. It’s just a matter of figuring out what type of crisis and how that’s going to impact your business,” Angela Floyd, CFO at DPR Construction, told PYMNTS, emphasizing that leveraging concepts like pre-mortem and scenario planning when “the times are good” can offer organizations a valuable way to prepare for the unknown and better protect their balance sheet.

Maintaining a steadfast focus on the company’s growth trajectory and strategic roadmap can be paramount in times of change, as well as crucial to helping ensure resilience and agility. 

“It is important to stay the course when times are uncertain, to make the best decisions with the information available,” Cedar CFO Scott Stockberger told PYMNTS.

Echoing that sentiment, Ninos Sarkis, CFO at Bloomreach, told PYMNTS, “What you can control is making your business stronger and more resilient during these times so that you come out the back of it a stronger company. … There’s a lot of relatively low-hanging fruit to make a business more efficient, more scalable and more automated.”

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Real-Time Data Creates Resilience

PYMNTS Intelligence finds that firms whose biggest source of uncertainty was supply chain challenges lost an average of $11 million, or 3.8% of revenue, in the past 12 months. 

Against this backdrop, leveraging digital solutions to harness real-time data empowers organizations to make informed decisions quickly and respond promptly to changing market conditions. Whether it’s adapting production schedules in response to supply chain disruptions or adjusting pricing strategies based on competitor activities, access to up-to-the-minute data enables businesses to maintain agility.

By embracing flexibility and adaptability, firms can quickly pivot their strategies, restructure operations, and better navigate turbulent landscapes. 

And while unexpected disruptions may leave executives feeling as though they are stranded on an island, it is important to remember that in business, as in life, no one is truly going it alone. 

“Business is a team sport. There are people all around you that have been through situations that you’re about to go through or are in the process of going through. … It’s okay to listen and ask for help,” Marc Mehlman, CFO at Ascensus, told PYMNTS.