“The Great American Logistics Machine” Catches the Coronavirus

“The Great American Logistics Machine” Catches the Coronavirus

June 30, 2020

Logistics – the seemingly simple process of moving goods from Point A to Point B – has been an American strength and continually improving science.  Witness the ability of Amazon to deliver in as little as 2 hours in some markets.

The public has taken this capability for granted.

But now, in the Coronavirus era, we are experiencing rationing of meat, shortages of basic goods (paper products) and necessary ones (masks, drugs).  Even for products and ideas not invented here, starting with the industrial revolution and most currently demonstrated by the smartphone, Americans improved and mass marketed better products in smoother supply chains.

How else could Walmart serve 200 million customers a year across 11,000 stores?

Even the remarkable performance of Amazon is enabled by Google mapping of the earth.

The much maligned U.S. postal service delivers more letters per employee than any other country in the Group of 20 (per this 2012 Oxford study).  The historical success of the public-private partnership that landed a man on the moon 51 summers ago is now struggling to deliver testing kits despite a much publicized appearance of industry leaders with the President in the Rose Garden.

The Continue reading

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Possible Meat Shortages Due to Plant Closures

Possible Meat Shortages Due to Plant Closures

Three of the United State’s largest pork processing plants, namely Tyson Foods, Smithfield, and JBS, were closed because employees their tested positive for the coronavirus.

The plant closures reduce the production of meat by 25% and may result in meat shortages in grocery stores.  In addition, farmers are impacted as they cannot sell their livestock to be processed, leading to a serious food waste issue that exacerbates disruptions to the meat supply chain.


Video Spotlight:


This post is based on the Eco Watch article, Tyson Foods Warns of Meat Shortage Following Coronavirus Slaughterhouse Closures, by Olivia Rosane, April 28, 2020, and the YouTube videos in the Video Spotlight. Image source: John A. Rizzo/Digital Vision/Getty Images.

Discussion Questions:

1. How does the COVID-19 pandemic affect the meat supply chain?

Guidance: The pandemic affects  the downstream and upstream meat supply chain.  The production of meat is reduced by 25% because meat processing plants are closed as workers are sickened with the coronavirus.  Continue reading

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Despite Empty Shelves, Supply Chain Is Still Strong

Despite Empty Shelves, Supply Chain Is Still Strong

April 15, 2020

The pandemic has spotlighted several issues in the food supply chain.

The hallmark of a good supply chain is to plan on disruptions and build in redundancies in the network.  The current spike in demand could lead grocery stores to increase capacity that may not be needed when the pandemic ends.  Without careful management and communication, it’s a potential example of the bullwhip effect.

In addition, the health of farm workers upstream in the supply chain is a major concern, the longer the pandemic lasts.


Video Spotlight: 


This post is based on the CNN article, How grocery stores restock shelves in the age of coronavirus, by Danielle Wiener-Bronner, March 20, 2020, and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: Getty Images/iStockphoto.

Discussion Questions:

1. How would you mitigate the bullwhip effect for paper towels?

Guidance: This is a good time to review the bullwhip effect.  Students likely have been to a grocery store where certain items may Continue reading

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