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

Facebook
Twitter
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

Facebook
Twitter
India’s Short-Lived Ban on Exports of Coronavirus Drug

India’s Short-Lived Ban on Exports of Coronavirus Drug

April 29, 2020

As demand for potential coronavirus drugs surges during this pandemic, several countries have banned the export of these drugs.  As many drugs and/or their key ingredients are made in a handful of countries, export bans create tremendous problem and potential shortages.

India announced a partial ban on the export of hydroxychloroquine in late March. Following a threatened retaliation from President Trump, the ban was at least partially lifted.

Several researchers are studying the affect of this drug in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin.  One small-sample study in France showed promising, but not definitive results.  In addition to potential for treating coronavirus, hydroxychloroquine has been used in the prevention and treatment of malaria for many years.


Video Spotlight: Increase in demand for drugs to treat coronavirus leads to shortages (Mar 23, 2020, CBS Evening News)


This post is based on the Bloomberg article, Global Rush for Trump-Backed Virus Drug Sparks India Export Ban, by Bloomberg News, March 24, 2020; the Japan Times article, After Trump threat, India lifts export ban on COVID-19 treatment drug, by Bloomberg, April 7, 2020; and the YouTube video in the Spotlight. Image source: aberration/123RF

Discussion Questions: Continue reading

Facebook
Twitter