Inflation Woes: Four Key Ways for Companies to Address Inflation in the Supply Chain

The U.S. economic system is grappling with the highest inflation in many years, with intensive inflation in the provide chain affecting corporations worldwide. Supply chain disruptions undoubtedly have contributed to rising inflation, as intensive delays and skyrocketing prices proceed to plague the trade.

In March 2022, the consumer-price index (or CPI) — a measure of the costs customers pay for merchandise — rose at an annual fee of 8.5%, which is the highest improve in 47 years.1 In the meantime, the producer-price index (or PPI) — a measure of inflation meant to gauge the influence on suppliers — equally rose considerably at an annual fee of 11.2%.2 Lastly, the employer value index (or ECI) demonstrates that, from March 2021 to March 2022, complete compensation rose 4.5%, wages and salaries rose 4.7%, and profit prices rose 4.1%.3

As a result of inflation will increase the costs of products or providers, negotiations about who bears that threat in enterprise associate relationships and the penalties of that threat allocation may have considerably larger monetary impacts than we have now seen in latest reminiscence. Consequently, making certain your corporation groups are properly versed on the impacts of and technique of mitigating inflation in new contracts has a direct influence in your backside line.

On this article, we offer methods for corporations in the provide chain to handle excessive inflation and alleviate related pressures, together with (1) how to revisit and use present settlement provisions to handle inflation threat, (2) approaches to negotiating new agreements and amendments to present agreements, (3) approaches to restrict inflationary publicity, and (4) methods for value discount.

Determine 1:

% Change in CPI March 2021 versus March 2022

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Division of Labor, Client Worth Index – March 2022, issued April 12, 2022

Four Key Ways to Mitigate the Results of Rising Inflation in the Supply Chain

1. Revisit and Use Provisions in Current Agreements

Companies confronted with rising prices should overview their provide agreements to decide in the event that they already include mechanisms the firm can use to handle inflation. On the purchase aspect, corporations ought to look in their agreements for phrases relating to fastened costs. On the promote aspect, corporations ought to examine methods to cross elevated prices on to clients. Most provide contracts include quite a lot of provisions that will help in combatting inflationary pressures.

(a) Pricing Provisions

From a vendor’s perspective, a contract could embrace index-based worth escalation provisions, which tie contract costs to a number of indices. The underlying indices could also be (i) broad financial indices equivalent to the PPI or “market basket” indices tied to all objects and all city customers, (ii) focused indices equivalent to ECI for a particular location, or (iii) tied to the value of a particular commodity used in the underlying product. Contracts will typically incorporate a number of commodity indices primarily based on the proportion these commodities are used in the product that’s the topic of the settlement, in order to precisely mirror the prices related to producing the good.

Allocations underneath these pricing provisions differ relying on negotiation energy. They might put all of the threat on one celebration, share the threat equally, or share the threat in accordance to specific percentages. The latter two choices signify methods to keep away from a “win/lose” method.

Sellers will need to see whether or not their agreements enable for periodic negotiations for up to date costs and benefit from these alternatives. A purchaser, in the meantime, could look for provisions that enable it the flexibility to restrict the portions ordered, enabling it to scale back prices as needed or to search a extra value environment friendly various. A purchaser additionally will need to decide if the contract prohibits the vendor from altering costs.

No matter the present provisions, the actual influence of inflation is probably going to set off business discussions to handle rising prices; that is true each for exhausting items provide agreements and oblique providers agreements with longer phrases equivalent to outsourcing and managed providers relationships.

(b) Pressure Majeure as a Mechanism to Regulate Worth?

Exterior of pricing provisions equivalent to the above, nonetheless, a celebration could look to different contract provisions, equivalent to pressure majeure, to see if its efficiency underneath the contract could possibly be excused; elevated prices alone aren’t sufficient to represent a pressure majeure occasion. So as for a pressure majeure to arguably apply, the improve in prices should be brought on by an occasion that itself is a qualifying pressure majeure occasion underneath the phrases of the relevant contract (which can embrace occasions like a labor strike or pandemic).

Pressure majeure provisions are meant to excuse efficiency underneath a contract however not to act as a pricing adjustment mechanism. Nevertheless, pressure majeure and its extra-contractual cousin, business impracticability, can be utilized as instruments to convey the events to the negotiating desk the place occasions past both celebration’s affordable management are impacting the potential to produce and ship merchandise.

2. Negotiate Amendments to Current Agreements

To the extent sellers have fixed-price contracts with their clients, sellers ought to contemplate negotiating with such clients to modify these contracts in order to preserve the costs they cost their clients in line with their enter prices. When getting into these discussions, corporations that want to implement a worth adjustment, or get rid of fastened pricing fully, ought to contemplate significant methods to incentivize their clients to agree to such adjustments. Would the buyer be prepared to agree to a worth adjustment in order prolong the settlement or modify the amount? Any objects that keep the relationship between the events whereas additionally allocating value will increase in an equitable means must be thought of.

Conversely, consumers confronted with price-increase requests ought to fastidiously contemplate their choices:

  • First, a buyer receiving a price-adjustment request ought to verify the request is definitely tied to inflation and never simply an try by a provider to improve its backside line. Search detailed calculations supporting the worth changes, and require suppliers to show how a lot their prices have elevated above expectations.

  • Second, clients ought to contemplate what objects they want to request in return for accepting a given price-adjustment request, equivalent to whether or not they want to modify their amount or timing of supply.

  • Third, a buyer confronted with a worth improve request ought to contemplate whether or not the request ought to embrace the alternative for the buyer to get hold of pricedowns in the future, in the occasion there are adjustments in the pricing setting.

3. Pricing Tied to Indexing and Different Ways to Restrict Future Inflationary Publicity when Drafting New Agreements

When drafting new agreements, corporations ought to contemplate how greatest to mitigate the results of inflation.

For practically 40 years, we have now loved comparatively low and regular ranges of inflation, which explains why present agreements could not adequately handle the allocation of serious and sudden financial change.

A lot of these at the higher echelons of management right this moment have by no means handled a excessive inflationary setting. To place it in perspective, the CEO of Walmart, the No. 1 firm on the Fortune 500 record for 2021, was 19 years previous when inflation was final a newsworthy matter.

In the future, nonetheless, we anticipate far fewer agreements to have long-term fastened costs, as sellers negotiating agreements will need to incorporate quite a lot of methods that enable for pricing flexibility and keep away from longstanding, fastened costs. One such technique is tying costs to an index. As mentioned above, this could possibly be a normal index equivalent to the CPI or PPI or be rather more particular relying on the merchandise bought. There are quite a few indices for varied merchandise and commodities that events could use to mirror precisely the prices of manufacturing the items which can be the topic of their settlement. Events could contemplate incorporating a mechanism for revisiting these provisions, particularly in the occasion that inflation slows. Caps on inflation threat additionally could also be included as a backstop.

If not tying costs to an index, promoting events will need to shorten the time period of their agreements or require the events to renegotiate costs at set factors all through the period of their agreements. Alternatively, events could contemplate worth will increase of a sure proportion which can be routinely carried out periodically. The vendor could even need to go away the pricing open and set up pricing at the time the order is positioned.

On the different hand, clients will need to incorporate provisions that trigger the provider to bear the inflationary threat. Principally, this implies locking in costs for as lengthy of a interval as the vendor will agree to and making certain costs are fastened upon the issuance of buy orders.

If and when sellers push again on prolonged fixed-pricing provisions, there are a selection of strategies events could use to meet in the center:

  • Pricing preparations which can be tied to a number of indices could also be capped to a sure proportion, making certain the buyer will know its upward publicity.

  • Embrace thresholds of index motion such that the worth stays static except and till the proportion threshold is exceeded.

  • Allocate elevated value publicity so a sure proportion vary of index motion is allotted to one celebration after which the subsequent proportion vary is allotted to the different celebration. Events then could share any publicity above these ranges.

  • Moreover, index-based pricing will be clarified to embrace each upward and downward motion, making certain that clients, whereas risking inflationary prices, can also obtain the advantages of deflationary environments.

4. Suppose Strategically to Cut back Prices

Except for contemplating purely contractual strategies to fight inflation, corporations ought to assume strategically about methods to scale back prices extra effectively.

  • Streamlining. So as to pursue this technique, corporations want to decide which areas are driving elevated spending and contemplate methods these areas could also be managed otherwise. For instance, corporations could contemplate whether or not there are totally different inputs that can be utilized to decrease prices or processes that could be streamlined. Companies can overview their stock administration, labor inputs, and different areas to decide the place value slicing could also be an possibility with out sacrificing services or products high quality. This streamlining would possibly embrace ending product traces with decrease ranges of profitability.

  • Expertise & Innovation. As well as, with labor constituting such a excessive proportion of the value will increase corporations are experiencing, an organization might want to double down on expertise and innovation that reduces headcount. Or, as costs rise, an organization could pursue different pricing fashions. For instance, a heavy gear producer could choose for a pay-per-use mannequin in lieu of the conventional sale mannequin. 

  • Diversification of the Supply Chain. One other technique corporations could use is diversifying their provide chains, making certain they supply the flexibility and sustainability wanted to climate turbulent durations. Although including hyperlinks to provide chains won’t decrease prices in the close to time period, it will probably assist guarantee a enterprise continues to perform easily even in the occasion of worth shocks, materials shortages, or different disruptions.

The stressors driving inflation are unlikely to be relieved any time quickly. Companies ought to use each useful resource obtainable to leverage their present contracts and negotiate new phrases to handle inflation’s severe repercussions on their backside line.


1 How High Is Inflation and What Causes It? What to Know, Wall Avenue Journal (April 12, 2022).

2 Supplier Prices Rose Sharply in March, Keeping Upward Pressure on U.S. Inflation, Wall Avenue Journal (April 13, 2022).

3  Employment Cost Index – March 2022, U.S. Division of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (April 29, 2022).

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