Rare Earth Elements and the Triple Bottom Line

Rare Earth Elements and the Triple Bottom Line

July 10, 2020

COVID-19’s impact on supply chains has brought attention to the United States’ reliance on China and other countries for manufacturing critical items using Rare Earth Elements (REE).

REE materials are needed to make hybrid car batteries, computer touch screens, and special magnets used in the defense of the nation. The issue arose from environmental regulations that begin in the 1960s to the 1980s.  As costs rose to make products using REE in the United States, manufacturing shifted to other countries.


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This post is based on the Supply Chain Brain article, It’s Time to Reconsider the Math on Rare Earth Elements, by Shubho Chatterjee and Joe Carson, May 19, 2020, and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: Peter Sobolev/Shutterstock

Discussion Questions:

1.  What are options that the United States could consider to reshore REE manufacturing capability?

Guidance: REE manufacturing left the United States in part due to Triple Bottom Line considerations several decades ago.  This is a good general discussion question.  Students may argue Continue reading

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Manufacturers Plan Nearshoring and Reshoring

Manufacturers Plan Nearshoring and Reshoring

In April 2020, 878 North American companies were surveyed, with 64% of those companies reporting they will likely reshore or nearshore manufacturing and sourcing to avoid supply chain disruptions in the future.  Manufacturers can shorten lead time and cut transportation costs by reshoring and/or nearshoring.

The handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in China further illustrated the vulnerabilities associated with sourcing from distant regions of the world.


Video Spotlight: 


This post is based on the Supply Chain Dive article, 64% of manufacturers say reshoring is likely following pandemic: survey, by Matt Leonard, May 14, 2020, and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: Shutterstock / 3D_creation

Discussion Questions:

1.  Let’s suppose a United States company is planning to maintain a current supplier in China and plans to nearshore a new supplier in Mexico.  What is the best sourcing strategy for each supplier from the company’s perspective?

Guidance: Lead time from China is longer, but the costs may or may not be lower.  Lead time from Mexico should be Continue reading

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Map Your Supply Chain

Map Your Supply Chain

Supply network mapping is labor intensive but can reduce risks to supply chain disruptions from COVID-19 to earthquake damage.

Most companies do not map their network and do not know how to mitigate risks when a crisis unfolds.  Another reason the mapping proves helpful is removing the focus from lowering procurement costs to better understanding critical suppliers at many levels upstream.

To reduce the labor costs involved in mapping, focus on key components from a bill of materials, such as the top five products by revenue, and then drill down to the raw material vendors.


Video Spotlight: 


This post is based on the Supply Chain Digest article, Supply Chain News: Coronavirus Again Illustrates Need for Mapping Your Supply Chain, Harvard Business Review Article Says, by SC Digest Editorial Staff, April 6, 2020, and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: ConceptCafe/Shutterstock

Discussion Questions:

1.  Supply chain mapping for a retailer could be beneficial.  Draw a supply chain map for a grocery store chain.  What are missing items from your supply chain map that Continue reading

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