COVID-19: A Story of Two Supply Chains
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the fragility of the global supply chain
The supply chain chaos that precipitated because of the COVID-19 pandemic began with people hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, and more. Supply chains weren’t able to react quickly enough to these sudden surges of demand; businesses hadn't predicted or planned for these disruptions, so many found themselves in a sticky situation where shelves were empty or where they lacked the resources to speed up production. Low supply of stock and high demand caused prices to skyrocket - for example, $8 for a single roll of toilet paper.
Not long into the pandemic, there was already a glimmer of hope for normality. Research institutions were learning all they could about the COVID-19 virus. Pharmaceutical companies were racing to create a vaccine. They entered the testing stage within a few months, but it took an entire year to accomplish a nationwide vaccine rollout.
Why did it take so long for the COVID19 vaccines to be available?
The answer has to do with how there are two disconnected sides to the supply chain: a physical side and a digital side. The disconnect between these two sides contributes to slow, inefficient processes and a lack of resilience when faced with disruption.
The digital side of the supply chain deals with information. This side of the supply chain flows smoothly, allowing product information to be sent in mere seconds. In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, information like medical research and specific attributes associated with vaccines were digitally exchanged to help with their production and distribution.
Meanwhile, the physical side of the supply chain deals with the acquisition of the materials needed to make the vaccines and their packing, as well as their distribution. The physical supply chain isn’t as fast. This partially stems from the challenges that come with moving a physical item around: it could get delayed, broken, or lost in transit. But it also stems from the disconnect between the digital and physical supply chains, with a heavy reliance on the latter.
What’s even worse is that there is an even bigger disconnect between the US supply chain and the global supply chain, which is evident from how countries - such as India - are still struggling to obtain basic hospital supplies.
So should we simply accept the disconnect and the way things are? No. The gaps within the supply chain can be closed with a few steps.
1. Stop governing on a physical supply chain
Currently, a good is considered "received" only when it touches a recipient’s dock. If a storm hits and the good is lost at sea, the ownership still belongs to the sender. In the case of brands, they are prone to losing a lot of money, rather than shipping companies or retailers, despite the fact that there is technology to keep track of these goods.
2. Implement aspects of digital supply chain into physical supply chains
Many companies are realizing that they need to keep track of many more product attributes - such as temperature and movement, not just location - and many have been doing so with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. This is a prime example of intersecting the digital supply chain with the physical supply chain.
3. Automate supply chain
Although many companies have been embracing technology, simply switching from clipboards to spreadsheets is not enough. Data input and transformation is unnecessarily manual and can and should be automated.
4. Learn about Mesh Connector™ Technology and Syndication Solutions
Mesh Connectors™ utilize AI and machine learning to automate the process in which companies send product information to retailers. With a few clicks on SyndicationSolutions.com, brands can effortlessly send their products to hundreds of retailers to sell.