Factors Affecting Supply Chain Resilience

Factors Affecting Supply Chain Resilience

COVID-19 has exposed many vulnerabilities in our supply chains.  Of particular note are supply chains for food and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Most people take for granted that we can walk into a grocery store, and leave with a wide variety of food items.  However, in Spring 2020, this was not the case.  Many store shelves were bare, including some essentials such as flour and pasta.  Many farmers destroyed milk, eggs, and chickens, while other crops rotted in the field.

Similar problems have occurred across almost every supply chain.  Shortages of PPE occurred during the early stage of the pandemic. Most PPE production was concentrated in China.  The combination of disrupted production and transportation and increased demand created shortages.

Shipping containers have made worldwide transportation more efficient and reliable.  As a result, organizations have spread their supply chains throughout the world to increase their efficiencies.  This has also led to concentration of production, a reduction in the number of suppliers, and added a bottleneck, as seen in the recent blockage of the Suez Canal.

The food supply chain illustrates many problems brought on by a search for efficiencies.  To increase Continue reading

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La-Z-Boy’s Raw Material Shortage Illustrates Supply Risk

La-Z-Boy’s Raw Material Shortage Illustrates Supply Risk

January 26, 2021

La-Z-Boy, which operates its own factories, laid off 70% of its workforce in April 2020, when the pandemic hit. However, furniture sales rebounded quicker than expected.

When the company attempted to ramp up production, they ran into delays due to a shortage across the furniture industry of a key chemical in upholstery manufacturing.


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This post is based on the Supply Chain Dive article, La-Z-Boy manufacturing comeback stunted by raw materials shortage, by Emma Cosgrove, November 19, 2020; the Quartz article, Americans are running out of high-end furniture to buy, by Karen Ho, December 10, 2020; and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: (c) gerenme/Getty Images

Discussion Questions:

1. Why did the supply shortage not impact Casper as it did La-Z-Boy?

Guidance: La-Z-Boy owns its factories and is dealing with a few key suppliers.  Casper is using contract manufacturing and multiple suppliers.  This allows Casper to scale as demand warrants more easily.  La-Z-Boy Continue reading

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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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