Crisis? What crisis?

A global supply chain lesson for everyone.

PRODUCTS DON’T grow on shelves, but viruses do. Ships and trucks are essential and need to be moving while full. Economies, like people, can go bust. This COVID-19 war has taught us all something.

Government learning from the COVID-19 experience

“Don’t panic, a vaccine is on the way. Well, it was, or is, but we changed our minds regarding the product selection. Actually, we’ve ordered it, but distribution plans are not finalised – tenders are out but not adjudicated.” Just as well, perhaps, as the cold chain di ers with each product. It is laudable that government wants to manage and control national supply and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine to the population, but good intentions have highlighted governments’ collective lack of understanding of the supply chain. If your procurement department is called ‘supply chain’, that is what you get – supplier selection and ordering. The government is learning that it is a chain with many links and the most difficult links to synchronise come after procurement.

Vaccinating a country is a global process – buy a few di erent products from a couple of suppliers, import and store in bulk. Then plan hundreds of loads to thousands of vaccination points – all in vehicles and equipment that maintain appropriate temperature conditions (cold chain) – so the right quantity arrives at the right place at the right time. Meanwhile, others coordinate millions of people to register online and arrive at these points at the correct date/ time in an orderly fashion to be vaccinated. And then there are the medical sta  to organize. This is surely a teaching government that public private partnerships (PPP) are essential to raise fair planning intentions to e ective execution.

Private sector learning from lockdown

Retailers expected and planned for a rise in online shopping, but most were not ready for the huge uptake of e-commerce exposing the raptor (rapid adaptor) from the sloth (slow thinker).

All businesses are being forced into learning more about e ective inventory and storage management, and seeing that proper application of business IT shows its value in managed change and execution to customer preferences. For many of us, lockdown meant getting to be at home and remote meetings. For business, lockdown was like a visit to the gym after a long break – some fit, some not so fit and many realising it too late. But luckily for our economies, new skills are emerging and understanding of inventory management is growing.

Individual learning

With the COVID-19 vaccine sagas filling the news, we all understand that what we consume must travel first – through a supply chain. Product selection has forced us to think about essential versus non-essential, and local versus import. We learned about di erentiation between promise and deliver (a pet topic for me), plans versus execution (we need both but often have only one), chaotic execution (because there is no plan) or chaotic plan to confuse our markets. Emerging into a post-COVID-19 world, nations are coming out of a new-economy war. There is destruction throughout, the walking wounded are limping forward, and a are few reaping new rewards. And that’s just business and government – what about you and me?