COVID Hotspot in My Supply Chain

COVID Hotspot in My Supply Chain

Welcome to “Ask Deb from QA,” a new column from MxD.

Every week, Deb from QA — with decades of experience on the factory floor — will answer your questions to demystify and explain the digital manufacturing industry.

Please submit your questions to

Dear Deb from QA: One of the critical parts we need is made in a factory recently shut down because they’re in a coronavirus hotspot. We can’t produce our circuit boards until they re-open. What are my options?

Ol’ Deb isn’t afraid to roar from time to time, and here’s one such case. 

If you’re in charge of supply chain at your factory and you somehow, improbably, for inconceivable reasons unbeknownst to me, DON’T have dual sourcing options (and ideally more), then frankly, you get what you deserve. 

You can’t just snap your fingers and source a new component. At minimum, if it’s a fairly standard component and you do a mini-qualification run, you might be able to be up and running in three months. 

But if it’s a custom component that involves, say, tooling, it could be a year to 18 months. Bottom line, have a backup plan now. Your supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

To be honest, the purpose of this column isn’t to shame those who already find themselves in a bind. It’s to scare straight manufacturers who don’t have a supply chain contingency plan in place.

When the pandemic started, we all found out the hard way about the flaws in the U.S. supply chain, You can read all about it in this excellent article: 5 Supply Chain Lessons Learned from COVID-19

But allow me to offer three more things you should understand about each and every one of your components:

  1. You have to understand how each component fits into your product and how difficult it is to obtain that component. What we’re really talking about is product substitution: Take a simple resistor. Not all resistors are created equal. A resistor with +/-5% tolerance might be easier to find than one with a +/-1% tolerance. 
  2. Is this a standard component that adheres to an industry-recognized standard, one that’s manufacture- and qualification-checked? Would you be able to buy the same component from another supplier and be confident it’ll be the same product? 
  3. Based on your understanding of one and two, come up with an appropriate sourcing strategy and an emergency plan. At its most basic it means having at least two sources in two locations. 

So there you have it. Understand your component, and always have back-up plans in place.

Assuring quality,

Check out last week’s Ask Deb here:
Where do I hire for cybersecurity?

Deb from QA wants to hear your questions. Send ‘em to and she’ll answer as soon she’s done with her shift.