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Large corporations, especially manufacturers, have sought since the 1990s to lower their working capital costs by reducing inventories to the bare minimum, requiring suppliers to deliver parts just in time, with little room for error. Consequently, they’ve outsourced production of parts to long chains of suppliers stretched around the globe. So while 10 years ago inflation in China and Brazil or the tsunami in Japan were important news, today companies are so tightly interwoven that distant events can quickly halt production, battering their bottom lines.  The danger to supply chains has been compounded recently by skyrocketing prices in commodities ranging from oil to metals to cotton.

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