In October and November of 2011, floods inundated large parts of central Thailand, including thousands of factories that made everything from automotive parts and hard disk drives to eyeglass lenses and air conditioners. In addition to the human and economic cost in Thailand, the disaster affected businesses around the world.
Carmakers in Detroit shut down because they could not get the parts they needed and half of the world's hard disk drive production was wiped out, leaving computer manufacturers with stalled assembly lines. When disasters like this occur, businesses around the globe feel the effects.
In addition to making advance arrangements for alternative suppliers, businesses can protect themselves by purchasing two types of insurance coverage: Contingent business interruption, and supply chain insurance.
Contingent business interruption
Contingent business interruption insurance, also called business income from dependent properties, pays for a business's lost profit plus continuing expenses when it must slow or stop operations because of damage to another business's property.
These other businesses can be customers or suppliers. For example, if a motorcycle dealership were left with no bikes to sell because its supplier in Japan suffered a fire, the insurance would make up part of the lost income.
The damage must result from a cause of loss that the insurance policy covers, such as fire or a hurricane. This is important because standard property insurance policies do not cover losses caused by catastrophes, such as floods and earthquakes.
Supply chain coverage
Supply chain insurance takes contingent business interruption a step further. It covers income lost because of damage to a supplier's or customer's property. However, it also covers losses resulting from events that do not cause physical damage. These may include:
Businesses often have different tiers of suppliers, with key suppliers at the top. While it is common to insure only the top tier, insurers are increasingly offering multi-tier coverage. This applies to the business's entire supply chain. Multi-tier coverage provides a more comprehensive solution for the business while also spreading out the insurer's risk.
Some insurers offer options. One lets policyholders choose between measuring losses in terms of gross earnings or number of units from the supplier. Some also offer agreed-value coverage, which eliminates penalties for buying amounts of insurance less than the amounts of value at risk.
Businesses should determine where they are vulnerable to supply chain losses and develop back-up plans for dealing with unexpected disruptions. These could include reserves of the needed supplies and contracts with alternative suppliers.
Insurance can help businesses recover from a supply chain loss after the fact. Advance planning can help make that loss as small as possible.