Supply drain

Oct. 25, 2021

If only the cure for the current global pandemic-afflicted supply chain woes were something as simple as ordering more stuff and then storing more stuff.

Overlook the fact that doing both tactics likely will bloat budgets as you’ll be paying more to purchase more product, paying more to have more product delivered and then paying more to store more product – including ensuring the storage facility is safe and sterile when needed and workflow-efficient.

Some may embrace the inspirational words of Mick Jagger who was quoted as saying, “Too much … is nehvuh … enough!” That may not represent sheer joy for hoarders, but it can spark a twinkle in the eye of the “safety stockers” and those clever enough to finagle consignment deals for backup caches.

If the pandemic effects on supply chain taught us anything it’s that we’ve fully rebounded from the just-in-time/stockless era with the urge to purge to the just-in-case/just-enough stockpiling era with the urge to surge.

Still, no matter what the majority may say, the supply chain technically isn’t broken. It seems to be surrendering to its own sense of fragility as bent, perhaps a bit misshapen, but still malleable enough to relocate its way after a nearly two-year derailing.

So why isn’t it enough just to buy more stuff? Manufacturing isn’t the sole problem. It’s not even the biggest problem. What’s bigger? The multifaceted, multi-sourced, multitasking logistics morass.

Among the challenges? Stuff leaves factories from across either pond on the west and the east. Ships then arrive at domestic ports but remain stalled there (as opposed to being mired in the Suez Canal). Why? Considerable labor shortages on the docks. Factor in the escalating costs of fuel for ships as well as airplanes, the tariffs designed to prop up and protect economies, followed by the high cost of gas for trucking and the labor shortages in domestic transportation … insert overdramatic exasperated sigh here … and you should be able to deduce that we’re facing less of a “make” problem, and more of a “get” problem.

Thank goodness all of those dark brown and slate blue-with-a-light-blue-smile delivery vans are making such a difference on a daily basis – sometimes more frequently than daily! Let’s go domestic! Let’s go local! That’s the answer!

Yet without effective use of reliable automation, electronics, accurate data and supply data standards to facilitate authentic demand planning and consumption pattern identification, the organizational comfort food of chicken pot pie becomes more like Cajun crawdad gumbo.

We’ve endured decades of seemingly endless debates and discussions about how to improve the “get.” But somehow a global pandemic distracts us to focus for a spell on the “make.”

The supply chain can’t afford that. It’s high time to refocus on the process. There’s still so much work to do. To borrow a phrase from TV’s Dr. Phil McGraw, it’s time to “get” real.