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.


Video Spotlight: 


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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COVID-19 Exposes the Fragility of Our Global Supply Chains

COVID-19 Exposes the Fragility of Our Global Supply Chains

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. What happens when several links are weak?

If you think shortages of consumer products and personal protective equipment are worrisome, think again. Despite prior warnings that pandemics may paralyze our supply chains, we may soon run out of many other goods, including food and critical vaccines. Deep, scattered supply chains and reliance on a few global suppliers have hindered our ability to respond quickly to changes in demand. As it turns out, a lean supply chain may not be an agile one.


Video Spotlight: Making Vaccines


This post is based on the FiveThirtyEight article, How COVID-19 Is Wreaking Havoc on our Ability to Make Things – Including Vaccines, by M. Koerth, April 15, 2020, and the YouTube video, Vaccine Manufacture: It’s Complicated, by GSK, May 4, 2016. Image source: Shutterstock/Ienetstan.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are the current hurdles in the manufacture of vaccines?

Guidance: The hurdles include: ingredient sourcing (thousands of ingredients coming from factories with many tiers of suppliers; limited quantities of materials to meet surging global demand), worldwide shortage of glass since 2015, and heavy reliance on overseas suppliers and manufacturers.

2. What are Continue reading

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