University at Buffalo (UB) scientists have developed a new model to help supply chains combat the ill-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the UB School of Management study, the new framework is a combination of company-focused and big picture supply chain management techniques, along with existing supply chain risk management strategies.
Recent incidents of consumer panic buying and hoarding – leading to shortages of items like sanitizing wipes and toilet paper – show why it is important to make supply chains more resilient during catastrophes.
“The challenges of pandemics and other catastrophic events demand new strategies for addressing supply chain failures that can cripple an entire world,” says UB Distinguished Professor Nallan Suresh.
“Our method provides a valuable structure for ensuring supply chain resilience, identifying risks, developing recovery tactics and continuous learning and improvement.”
UB’s proposed framework consists of six phases, combining business continuity management standards as well as the flexibility, agility and resilience needed to cope with increasingly volatile business situations.
The authors opine that managers need to first follow a ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’ (PDCA) cycle: They have to examine the organizational context of the supply chain, then ensure leadership commitment, identify risk, plan for disruptions, test procedures and continuously improve by documenting lessons learned.
“Business continuity management approaches don’t sufficiently address the inter-organizational processes involved in supply chain management,” says UB professor Lawrence Sanders.
“But the risk management approaches by scholars and practitioners have been fragmented, resulting in a lack of structure and ability to cope with unexpected demand volatility. Our framework draws on the strengths of both.”
The UB team contends that the new framework could as well benefit supply chains dealing with groceries and medicine:
“The grocery industry has become too lean in recent years, operating with low inventory levels and sacrificing resilience for leanness,” says UB assistant professor Michael Braunscheidel.
“Meanwhile, production of medical devices and personal protective equipment relies on suppliers around the world – who all were also affected by the virus.”
“Our approach would help identify risk in both of these situations.”
Image and content: UNICEF-Choufany/University at Buffalo