By Grant Anderson, VP of Supply Chain, Jabil
Most supply chain problems have relatively obvious answers. For example, if an earthquake puts a facility out of commission, then supply chain managers find other supply sources to tap into or a facility to manufacture what they need. This isn’t saying it’s quick or easy to do…but it’s obvious what needs to be done.
However, fixing the problems caused by COVID-19 requires a different way of thinking. The global supply chain lessons from COVID-19 are different than any we learned during previous disruptions for one reason: this pandemic is unlike any other crisis in our lifetime.
Disruptions can usually be contained. They happen. Then companies focus their efforts on recovery and improvement. Supply chain issues require some degree of understanding as to how they affect people, buildings and logistics, but typically the situation only improves from the initial moment of disruption.
On the other hand, COVID-19 is a unique situation, and its impact has unfurled in successive waves; we still don’t know if we’re past all the worst of it or if there will be further setbacks.
There has never been a disruption as severe, widespread and unpredictable from a supply chain standpoint. To complicate the situation even more, it was well within our abilities to make it worse. If we opened factories too quickly or failed to take proper safety measures, the problem could escalate, which is atypical of the geopolitical problems we’ve had to contend with in the past.