The Coronavirus' Impact On Global Supply Chains

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This photo taken on April 6, 2020 shows employees working at a photoelectric production line at a factory in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)
This photo taken on April 6, 2020 shows employees working at a photoelectric production line at a factory in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Does the coronavirus spell the end of the global supply chain? Some manufacturing experts say supply chains have to get shorter in order to be stronger.


Ravi Anupindi, professor of operations research and management and technology and operations; faculty director at the Center for Value Chain Innovation at the University of Michigan. (@RAnupindi)

Daniel Heller, professor of global management at Chuo University in Tokyo, Japan. (@Chuo_PR)

Bindiya Vakil, CEO and founder of Resilinc, a provider of supply chain mapping services and risk-monitoring data.  Founding member of the Global Supply Chain Resiliency Council. Advisory Board member for the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics. (@BindiyaVakil)

From The Reading List

Harvard Business Review: "It’s Up To Manufacturers to Keep Their Suppliers Afloat" — "In recent weeks, many governments around the world have created stimulus and relief programs to address the economic collapse caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But they will be too little or arrive too late to save tens of thousands of suppliers. Their ultimate customers — major manufacturers — must come to their rescue. Some are already doing so. Others should follow their lead. It’s in their own best interest. This article offers ways they can help."

University of Michigan: "COVID-19 shocks food supply chain, spurs creativity and search for resiliency" — "The global food supply chain has been rocked by the pandemic, leading to disruptions and shortages and adding to the problem of waste. There’s also the human cost, such as the economic harm to the laborers whose jobs or hours are cut and the growing problem of food insecurity for millions. Still, there are signs of hope, such as the success of smaller grocers in maintaining supply lines with local sources."

MarketWatch: "Here’s why companies won’t move their supply chains out of China, says Morgan Stanley" — "As the coronavirus pandemic reveals vulnerabilities in global supply chains, businesses have learned the dangers of over-relying on a single manufacturing hub."

Harvard Business Review: "We Need a Stress Test for Critical Supply Chains" — "The global pandemic has exposed serious flaws in supply chains, including critical ones for industries such as pharma and medical supplies. Shortages of personal protective equipment for health workers and ventilators in hospitals are the most prominent ones."

Washington Post: "America’s coming meat shortage shows how vulnerable all of our supply chains are" — "A month ago, it was already clear that one of the most urgent reasons for the rest of us to stay home was to protect the food supply chain. Supply chains are like the plumbing of an economy: We don’t notice them except when they break, and when they do, it rapidly becomes catastrophic."

The Verge: "The algorithms big companies use to manage their supply chains don’t work during pandemics" — "Even during a pandemic, Walmart’s supply chain managers have to make sure stores and warehouses are stocked with the things customers want and need. COVID-19, though, has thrown off the digital program that helps them predict how many diapers and garden hoses they need to keep on the shelves."

CBS 12: "The New Us: Coronavirus prompts debate over U.S. reliance on overseas manufacturing" — "For the first clear period in decades, coronavirus demonstrated firsthand the United States’ reliance on foreign manufacturing of medical equipment, leading to shortages that concerned disaster experts for years."

Wall Street Journal: "Fewer Products, Localized Production—Companies Seek Supply-Chain Solutions" — "Companies have spent much of 2020 racing to shore up supply chains as the coronavirus shut down much of the world, but business leaders say they expect problems to remain even as countries start to reopen their economies."

Waco Tribune-Herald: "Art Markman: Pandemic only highlights America's troubling income inequality" — "Economic policy and business process are focused on two goals — protecting individual wealth and improving business efficiency. Recent changes in our tax structure have allowed wealthy individuals and families to lower their tax burden relative to the rates in place 30 years ago. Businesses have used global supply chains and just-in-time manufacturing to reduce production costs and keep prices low for consumers."

Supply Chain Management Review: "Are You Prepared to Manage a Whack-A-Mole Recovery?" — "Pressure to reopen the world’s economies is intensifying. However, hasty reopenings will likely spur waves of resurging infections in location after location, followed by more closures and quarantines."

Harvard Business Review: "Coronavirus Is a Wake-Up Call for Supply Chain Management" — "As procurement teams struggle to cope with the Covid-19 global pandemic, most have been trying to keep up with the news about global response measures and have been working diligently to secure raw materials and components and protect supply lines. However, vital information is often not available or accessible across their global teams. As a result, their response to the disruption has been reactive and uncoordinated, and the impact of the crisis is hitting many of their companies full force."

Foreign Policy: "How the World Will Look After the Coronavirus Pandemic" — "Like the fall of the Berlin Wall or the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the coronavirus pandemic is a world-shattering event whose far-ranging consequences we can only begin to imagine today."

This program aired on May 5, 2020.


Brittany Knotts Freelance Producer
Brittany Knotts is a freelance producer for On Point.


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Meghna Chakrabarti Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.



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