May 17 2021

5 Tips for Avoiding Supply Chain Disruptions in Higher Ed

Expect more disruptions in the future and plan ahead for a more effective business continuity plan.

After experiencing multiple supply chain disruptions caused by events such as the U.S.-China trade war, the global pandemic and the Suez Canal blockage, higher education institutions are desperate to get the technologies they need — when they need them — for academic success.

Considering there are multiple COVID-19 variants and potential climate change-related hazards looming on the horizon, it is imperative for universities and colleges to plan ahead to avoid major disruptions in the future.

From what we are seeing on the ground, many technology-makers are operating under conservative business forecasts, only manufacturing products and parts as orders come in. For this reason, we recommend working with partners like CDW•G to help understand the current state of the supply chain — and to look into solutions such as preordering or buying and holding to help reduce lead times.

To help ensure that faculty, staff and students can get the technologies and learning experiences they need without disruptions, we also recommend adopting these five strategies to minimize delays.

 1. Plan Ahead by Centralizing Procurement

Higher education is very decentralized, which can make it difficult to put in orders early. That’s why it is necessary to centralize management by having a procurement office that plans ahead for what you will need over the next few years.

For instance, every four years, you might need to refresh 4,000 computers for faculty and staff. Plan ahead by buying 1,000 a year to phase it out.

Many institutions received bulk money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as well as the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED) fund. To avoid major disruptions, procurement offices should use that money to negotiate bulk purchases — much earlier than anticipated.

If you need assistance, we have educational strategists that help you get the most out of your CARES Act and ARPA-ED funds.

RELATED: Which CARES Act-Funded Technologies Best Support Underserved Remote Learners?

2. Have a Spare Pool For Emergency Tech Failures

We’re starting to hear universities put in orders for spare technologies, and that’s a really smart approach.

You need to build a buffer for tech failures. Let’s say you have 500 people in your department. If their computers break at a rate of one a month, keep 20 spares on hand. When your number of spare computers drops down to 10, buy 10 more so you can guarantee they will arrive in time — no matter what happens.

3. Be Open to Ordering a Different Brand

To get your technologies and products on time, we advise you to be open to different configurations, processors and brands.

Some brands may require more lead times than others. The difference can be as drastic as 15 weeks versus six weeks, yet there is often no difference in quality. Since we take a vendor-agnostic approach, we can speak honestly to the strengths of each of our partners. With a full view of supply chains, we are able to offer advice on how to pivot if something is unavailable.

4. Consider Cloud Platforms for Extended Workloads

The global microchip shortage affects more than computers and devices. Microchips are also a critical component in database servers. One way to avoid server shortages is to switch to cloud computing.

You don’t have to wait for new servers to arrive. Cloud computing platforms such as Amazon Web ServicesGoogle Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure are capable of running an entire university on a metered-billing pricing model.

MORE ON EDTECH: Learn how metered consumption can help higher ed save money.

To be fair, not everyone may be ready to migrate to the cloud — at least not entirely. We can assess your data centers to see if it makes sense for your institution to operate in the cloud. We have expertise in all of the major platforms that can help solve your critical business problems.

5. Get a Trusted Partner to Assess Institutional Strategies

We can all agree the procurement landscape is vastly different from what it was a year ago. That’s why having a partner like CDW•G can help you solve these critical business problems.

Whether it’s navigating procurement uncertainties or guiding your journey to the cloud, keeping these key considerations in mind can help students, faculty and staff get the devices and education they need — on time. Let’s future-proof your procurement plan.

 This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.


imaginima/Getty Images

Become an Insider

Unlock white papers, personalized recommendations and other premium content for an in-depth look at evolving IT