5 minute read

More than two months have passed since Nulogy began a quarantine to combat the spread of COVID-19. It is clear at this point that the pandemic has affected us all on an unprecedented scale. What may not be so obvious is that while COVID-19 affects all of us, it affects some more acutely than others.

Over the past few weeks, news outlets have reported findings of disproportionately high levels of COVID-19 infections within low-income neighborhoods. It’s an unfortunate and stark reminder of how COVID-19 exposes asymmetry in our society: because of social and economical disparities within our populations, some of us are more vulnerable than others. Your financial status, your access to health care, and how both affect your diet and lifestyle—all are critical underlying factors when determining our vulnerability or resilience to COVID-19.

What is a weak-link sport?

What does this statistical trend have to do with supply chain? A lot, actually. In thinking of how COVID-19 disproportionately impacts our population, I realized how the same phenomenon applies to supply chain and the concept of “weak-link” sports, coined by Chris Anderson and David Sally in their book, “The Numbers Game”:

“It is easy…to think of soccer as a game of superstars. They provide the glamour […] But they do not decide who wins games and who wins championships. That honour falls to the incompetents at the heart of the defense or the miscommunicating clowns in midfield. Soccer is a weak-link game.”

In a sport like basketball, a superstar can lift up an entire team. On the other hand, a soccer (or European football) team is only as good as its weakest players. Superstar strikers mean nothing when your defenders allow the opposing team to score at will.

Supply chain as a weak-link sport

Simply put, supply chain is a weak-link sport. COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in how our supply chains have previously operated—precise inventory levels and stringent order deadlines leave little buffer for sudden disruptions. As a result, many service providers in the industry are unfortunately struggling to manage the disruptions and surges in demand that have characterized our quarantined world.

The performance of one supplier in a network has a ripple effect upon the entire network—positive or negative. For consumer brands, it would be ideal for each of its suppliers to operate on a common standard of software sophistication. Doing so allows them to connect, collaborate, and respond at the same speed amongst each other as well as with you—establishing consistency and reliability in a supply chain network.

Begin your base training

Now that we have seen firsthand the ability of an unforeseen global event to drastically disrupt supply chain operations, it is more important than ever to build safeguards and resilience in these same operations. How? By digitally enabling operations to adapt more quickly and easily to ever-changing demands.

Agility through technology builds resilience.

A common pitfall, however, is for businesses to be attracted to the flashy tech that’s the talk of the town. They create plans to implement cutting-edge, AI-driven, Industry 4.0 buzzword technology—before even upgrading from spreadsheets, essentially putting the cart before the horse. Technological evolution must be gradual and realistic.

As a competitive runner, an analogy that resonates with me is the idea of base training: establishing a comfortable pace, schedule and exertion level that you build from through training sessions of increasing mileage and intensity. Just as preparing for a marathon can take months, establishing your technological baseline and upgrading is a gradual but consistent process. Running 42 kilometres on a day’s notice won’t get you the results you’re looking for!

In Summary

I would summarize my main thoughts as follows:

Supply chains are a weak-link sport. We are only as strong as our weakest link, and the performance of one supply chain partner impacts the entire network.

Supply chains build resilience to disruption through digitally enabled agility and flexibility - to respond faster and more easily to unforeseen shifts in demand and inventory.

Begin base training your software sophistication level - you can’t run a marathon in a day!

As supply chain providers collectively evolve their technological baseline, the community as a whole becomes more resilient to future disruption, whether it’s an inventory shortage or an ongoing pandemic. When we become more resilient, we can better serve our customers and each other.

Read more about Nulogy’s COVID-19 preparedness efforts here.

Written By
May 15, 2020

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