You may ask why we are using the words “economic downturn” in a post.  Most of our manufacturing clients are reporting strong sales and many economic pundits are saying that a recession is still far off into the future.  With that said, this is exactly the time to start thinking about your supply chain and your contracts.  Because, as many manufacturers know, supply chain and customer disputes rear their ugly head when the economy takes a nosedive.

I recently read an article entitled “Can Supply Chains Prepare for a Recession?”, which discusses a study completed by the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics.  The following quote caught my eye:

Good times are dangerous: Business managers are under constant pressure to bend the rules, be flexible and agree to policies during good times that will cause great pain and suffering when the economy goes south.

The article then goes on to identify seven considerations for how manufacturers can prepare for an economic downturn by understanding how their supply chains will be impacted.  But, I would go back to the quote.

For example, a lot of manufacturers enter into long-term agreements to ensure stability.  Those LTAs are often loaded with conditions that tend to not be enforced during good times.  When the economy tightens, however, it is common for customers and suppliers to start enforcing difficult terms and also seeking to apply those terms retroactively.  For that reason, even if you do not negotiate a term out of a contract, it is important to know it is there.  Hence, why manufacturers are starting to adopt playbooks and checklists to ensure that their contracting personnel understand the risks of what they are signing.

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Photo of Jeffrey White Jeffrey White

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or family owned manufacturers. For those looking for my detailed law firm bio, click here.

I am often asked why I have focused a large part of my law practice on counseling manufacturers and distributors. As with most things in life, the answer to that question is tied back to experiences I had well before I became a lawyer. My grandfather spent over 30 years working at a steel mill (Detroit Steel Company), including several years in its maintenance department. One of my grandfather’s prime job duties was to make sure that the equipment being used was safe. In his later years, he would apply those lessons learned in every project we did together as he passed on to me his great respect and pride for the manufacturing industry.

Because of these experiences, I not only feel comfortable advising executives in a boardroom, but also can easily transition to the factory floor. My experience has involved a range of industries, including aerospace and defense, chemicals, energy, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, nutritional and dietary supplements, and retail and consumer products. While I have extensive experience in litigation (including product liability and class actions), I am extremely proactive about trying to keep my clients out of the courtroom if at all possible. Specifically, I have counseled manufacturers and distributors on issues such as product labeling and warranties, product recalls, workplace safety/OSHA, anti-trust, and vendor relations, among other things. I always look for the business-friendly solution to a problem that may face a manufacturer or distributor and I hope this blog will help advance those efforts.