The Forgotten Phase of M&A: Mitigating Supply Chain Risks

By David Finch

David Finch, President
and Founder of Insight Collaboration Partners

Based on feedback, Mr. Finch has turned his expertise on supply chain integration during M&A into a three-part series. Mr. Finch outlined due diligence in his first article. His third article will focus on supply chain integration post-M&A. This series of articles first appeared in BONEZONE®. He will speak on this topic at OMTEC® 2017. —Editor

The primary responsibility of the supply chain team post-M&A is the assurance of uninterrupted upstream and downstream product supply. In order to minimize disruption and eliminate risk, you must validate what was learned or assumed from the due diligence phase and develop a tactical plan to identify and map out the current, transition and future or desired state of the supply chain. That process includes analyzing people, inventory, upstream and downstream customer experience—each of which is outlined below.

First, it’s important to note that once the transaction is complete, you can expect requests to improve your balance sheet and to reduce—reduce your cost of goods sold, suppliers, headcount and more. All of these steps are important for long-term success and post M&A performance.

In order to achieve this objective, we must identify and deal with supply chain issues before they occur, putting the business at risk. Some people within the organization may see this pause for analysis as slowing down the process, but the potentially devastating impact and extensive delay that supply chain disruptions could have is why I refer to this approach as, “Going Slow to Go Fast.”

That is, you’ll get there faster by dealing with issues before they occur rather than as they occur. Typically, 60 to 90 days should be planned for a thorough assessment of the current state of the supply chain, including risk discovery and mitigation planning. It is also recommended that a single individual from both the acquiring and acquired company sides has overall responsibility for completion of this phase, with appropriate executive sponsorship and authority.

With that swiftness in mind, here we begin the essential steps to identify supply chain risk and develop a mitigation plan to minimize or eliminate that risk.


One critical area is the people and their tribal knowledge. Change upsets the delicate balance among departments and throughout the organization in so many little ways that may not be immediately visible, but can show their effects over time.

Generally, other than directors and higher-ups, the supply chain staff of the acquired company has not been offered an incentive to remain with the combined company. This makes them a risk from both a personal decision to leave as well as a headcount reduction opportunity for the combined company. Therefore, it is important that you identify those individuals who have extensive knowledge of systems, processes and particular nuances of supply, products and customers as soon after close as possible. This is best accomplished by first developing leading questions concerning these areas and by conducting one-on-one interviews. The interviews should include known issues with the supplier base, procured materials and services, related systems, products and customers.

Your mission is to identify key personnel who possess extensive supply chain knowledge and the related systems and processes. Once these people are identified, steps should be taken to capture and document their knowledge and, if applicable, retain these individuals.


You will deal with excessive/imbalanced inventory and other opportunities for reduction during the transition phase. Your focus here is short-term risk for supply disruption. That can be accomplished by minimally including obsolescence, expiry and regulatory concerns.

Obsolescence – The concern is not that inventory has been overstated, but that inventory that has been identified as obsolete (or to become obsolete) may not have been communicated to suppliers or customers. It could be that a product line has been identified as obsolete, but inventory is being sold as long as sufficient size mix is available to make it viable or limited to a single or few customers.

Make sure that you include instrumentation in this analysis. This would include those used only with the obsolete implants, as well as instruments that have been obsoleted but no replacement identified that are used with active implants.

Once confirmed, make sure that the planning and supply functions have been disabled and that the customer base and customer experience associates have been informed. Identifying these implants and instruments will require the input of marketing, product line management and engineering, typically the sources or approvers of product obsolescence decisions.

Expiry – As with obsolescence, expired product may impact inventory value, but remember, the focus is on risk of supply disruption. This is especially true when combined with long supply lead times and customer short dating policies.

Either one, if not identified and dealt with early, can potentially shut off supply for a period of time, especially if the product cannot be reworked or re-sterilized to extend its shelf life. Normally, expiry risk can be identified through inventory analysis, which includes expiration date with internal policies and customer agreements.

Regulatory Concerns – Generally, regulatory concerns for inventory fall into two categories: registration and expiring registration. Based on the regions into which the company sells or intends to sell the acquired products, you need to confirm registration and the expiration of that registration.

This holds true for both the implant and the required surgical instruments. Issues with either one can lead to the inability to sell in a previously-approved region/market, or cause months and sometimes years in delay to introduction along with the associated expense. A comparison of regulatory registration records to short and long term product marketing plans should uncover issues in this area.

Other – Other areas to include are procured products and raw materials that have long lead times, new vs. reworked instruments (some markets will not accept used or reworked instruments) and ratio of surgical sets of implants and instruments to historical or projected surgeries.

Upstream Supply

The greatest risk to immediate and short term supply tends to be single sourced and long lead time items that have insufficient inventory to cover the replenishment cycle. These values may or may not be included in the planning systems or may not be current.

Single Sourced Items – As with all items that are procured, you are competing with other customers for the limited capacity of the contract manufacturer. Single sourced items elevate that risk, which is why you should look for issues as soon as possible after close.

Unfortunately, these issues typically cannot be uncovered from an analysis of inventory. The best source may be the people who manage inventory and procurement. Be sure to include this in your interview process.

Long Lead Time Items – You should be able to find most of the issues in this area from an analysis of inventory and procurement records, provided they are correct and complete. In addition, long lead time impacts not just procured components and finished items, but also raw materials used in the manufacture of procured and internally manufactured items. As with single source items, a more accurate source may be interviews with staff.

Downstream Customer Experience

As stated earlier, one of the primary responsibilities of the supply chain team post-M&A is to assure a reliable order-to-delivery-to-cash process that maintains or improves the customer experience.

Bottom line, you cannot allow the customer to feel your pain. That means you may have to uncover opportunities for failure and eliminate them. Customers do not care if the item you do not have in stock when they need it is an A, B or C item, nor do they care about your inventory policy for each.

In addition to obsolescence and registration issues already touched on, you need to thoroughly review order fulfillment and invoicing systems. The best source for this is often the associates who manage these systems and your customers. You should not make broad assumptions for alternate or substitute products. If you identify an unavoidable supply risk, it is important that you communicate to and include the customer in the solution.

In Conclusion

Post-M&A, the primary responsibility of the supply chain team is the assurance of uninterrupted upstream and downstream product supply.

To avoid costly and lengthy disruption, companies need to include an assessment of people, inventory, upstream supply and downstream customer experience as soon as possible after the transaction closes. This will include a combination of analysis and one-on-one interviews. A best practice is to complete a timely analysis of current, transition and future or desired state of the supply chain, including people, before implementing changes.

David Finch is President and Founder of Insight Collaboration Partners, a consulting firm that assists companies in due diligence and post-acquisition strategy implementation, strategic sourcing, intra and inter-company collaboration and improving operational efficiency and cost.

Mr. Finch has more than 30 years of hands-on experience in global supply chain and manufacturing operations in the medical device and orthopedic industries with Becton Dickinson, Johnson & Johnson, Wright Medical and MicroPort Orthopedics. He can be reached by email.

Tags: M&A