The Covid-19 outbreak has revealed new levels of weakness in America’s supply chains. From missing medical equipment to a strain on trans-Pacific trade, our supply chains are being hit in ways that put public safety at risk. As a result, we are all reassessing what we thought were the best practices in supply chain management. We’re also seeing great heroic acts from an army of people that help move our necessary supplies every single day.
In fact, our supply chains are riddled with vulnerabilities, including:
Loss: A shipment of half a million face masks on its way to a Minneapolis warehouse was recently broken into, and half of the product stolen off the truck.
Counterfeit: In Los Angeles, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents discovered counterfeit Covid-19 tests concealed in a shipment that claimed to be purified water vials. The LAX facility handles mail packages from 180 countries, so finding this shipment was like finding a needle in a haystack.
At the same time, however, we’re also seeing heroic, innovative approaches to managing the healthcare supply lines. In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker collaborated with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and other private individuals to send the Patriots’ team plane to China where it was loaded up with one million N95 masks for medical professionals in Massachusetts. Robert Kraft personally purchased another 300,000 masks to supply front-line medical workers in New York.
You can read the Boston Globe story: Kraft family used Patriots team plane to shuttle protective masks from China to Boston, to get the real deal on the Patriot’s biggest post-season touchdown ever.
No days off. Thanks to some serious teamwork, Massachusetts is set to receive over 1 million N95 masks for our front-line workers. Huge thanks to the Krafts and several dedicated partners for making this happen. pic.twitter.com/ieV6XMC5Ow— Charlie Baker (@MassGovernor) April 2, 2020
5 Supply Chain Priorities
As America fights back against the Covid-19 pandemic, supply chain professionals are reexamining their traditional practices. Here are five (5) priorities we need to see in our supply chains in response to the current pandemic.
More Visibility: Everyone from the manufacturer to the logistics company to U.S. Customs officials needs real-time visibility into shipments as they move from their place of origin to their eventual destination. In the case of the counterfeit Covid-19 test kits, a scannable bill of lading would enable federal agents to see exactly what is in each shipment and help them identify suspicious and potentially illegal shipments more quickly and effectively.
More Traceability: Surgical masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are essential to our front-line medical professionals. They have become the new hot commodity, the products most likely to demand high prices on the black market. It’s essential that these PPEs quickly get to where they are most needed as soon as possible. In a supply chain where all parties track shipments in real-time, you’ve reduced the possibility for even a portion of a shipment to go missing.
More Flexibility: Pressing a private jet into service to delivery emergency medical supplies is an example of how people are circumventing traditional supply lines in an emergency situation. This sort of creative thinking is imperative in times of crisis.
More Diversification: Look, we all want to be able to purchase toilet paper and other essential goods when we need it. The shock to the supply chain with panic buying is real and we have to learn to deal with irrational herd behavior. However, as the grocery distribution systems consolidate, brands have fewer options for sourcing. They are receiving only a portion of the quantities that are ordering.
Shorter Supply Chains: As this Boston Globe story, The end of the global supply chain, points out. Extended trans-Pacific supply chains are letting us down now. For many companies, it’s possible to shift manufacturing back to North America without taking a hit on their bottom lines. This article calls out two companies, Stanley Black and Decker and Avid Technologies as examples of companies who successfully brought manufacturing back to North America.
As America enters month two of the Covid-19 pandemic, supply chain managers should consider installing tracking technologies that give them real-time visibility into shipments that they need. At Tive, we offer real-time tracking solutions like the Tive Solo 5G™ tracker, which eliminates data and coverage challenges across the United States and the globe to deliver full real-time visibility (location and condition: temperature, humidity, light, and more) into every shipment.