The Interconnected Modern Supply Chain

The Interconnected Modern Supply Chain

The supply chain for medical needs during the pandemic has highlighted the weaknesses of modern global supply chain management.

In lean operations, demand management, procurement management, and fulfillment management are integrally interrelated. The removal of redundancies in the supply chain, the reliance on offshoring, and the lack of a larger safety cushion are part of the just-in-time global supply chain design.

During this pandemic, the just-in-time system has backfired, causing critical healthcare supplies to be insufficient in both quantity and location.


Video Spotlight:


This post is based on The Hill article, Supply chain management is a vital weapon in the war against coronavirus, by Ricardo Ernst and Jerry Haar, April 15, 2020, and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: McGraw-Hill Education/Sandra Mesrine

Discussion Questions:

1. The article notes that 95% of surgical masks and 70% of tighter-fitting respirators such as the N95 mask are made overseas, mainly in China.  How does this negatively impact the supply chain in getting masks to hospitals in the United States?

Guidance: 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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JIT Risks in the Food Supply Chain

JIT Risks in the Food Supply Chain

The just-in-time supply chain for grocery store replenishment depends on transportation of food items from around the globe.  Shipping is primarily used to move food items. COVID-19 restrictions have slowed down the movement of goods dramatically.

Most grocery stores carry limited days of inventory and depend on transportation systems all working on time.  The pandemic has exposed a major flaw in just-in-time systems: no extra inventory in the system.


Video Spotlight:


This post is based on the CNN article, Can’t fine what you want in the grocery store? Here’s why, by Hanna Ziady, April 2, 2020, and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: Tada Images/Shutterstock

Discussion Questions:

1. Discuss the limitations of the just-in-time supply chains.

Guidance: The major limitation discussed in the article is a disruption with transportation systems.  Without reliable transportation, just-in-time is not possible.  Students may also note that having little safety stock at distribution centers closer to retailers is another concern. Continue reading

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