Nothing like a global crisis – or even a series of global crises – to emphasize the criticality, the essentialness, the interoperability of supply chain operations within our economy, lifestyle and overall success.
To gain a decisive advantage over an opponent during war-time, the one sure-fire strategy is to hamper, if not sever, the opponent’s supply chain. Lacking stuff leads to discombobulation and ultimately chaos amid the absence of leadership and understanding.
Unfortunately, during the last two years, the global supply chain has been battered, bombarded and burned by a series of unfortunate events that not even the fictional Lemony Snicket could conjure up. The COVID-19 pandemic created a tipping point that knocked over a daisy chain of dominos that led to labor shortages; manufacturing, logistics and distribution challenges; transportation delays and interruptions; fuel cost increases and the like.
Add a mammoth cargo container ship clogging the Suez Canal into the mix and then a world power striving to overtake a neighboring country to stretch an already strained global supply chain as geopolitical tensions around the globe detonate sanctions that drive up prices via import tariffs.
All it takes to suspend a pandemic-stricken global economy struggling to energize a feeble recovery is a world power, perhaps joined by another world power, each with its own borderline agendas, where many products are manufactured and transportation resources are mined and distributed, to use that production capacity and engine as a bargaining chip, a trump card.
Meanwhile, in healthcare, supply chain leaders and professionals continue to debate and dicker over the same old routines – shaving pennies, nickels and dimes off contract pricing, switching to lower-cost products to pad balance sheets and budgets, quarreling with physicians and surgeons over preferred products as well as a host of other “trending,” pop culture-motivated issues that distract from The Big Picture.
Let’s face it. If you’re a patient with serious health problems like blood clots straining the aortic valve, you’re likely not going to give higher priority to Botox injections, liposuction or varicose vein removals over, say, stent implantation.
Just like the body’s engine – the heart – requires unrestricted blood flow to operate, the world’s engine – the global supply chain – requires energized product development, manufacturing and distribution to operate. The human body needs access to blood; the healthcare (and all) enterprise needs access to stuff.
Please don’t misunderstand the message here or propel darts at the messenger. Many of the cultural, ethical, geopolitical and moral issues of the day must be addressed and eventually solved. But it’s important to shore up the fundamental internal framework … first.
We have yet to do that after five decades of awareness.
It’s not unlike the unscrupulous contractor and real estate agent who simply conspire to slap a fresh coat of paint on the drywall and install laminate flooring to flip a house quickly without addressing the dry rot, and mold- and termite-infested framing underneath.
In healthcare, the fundamentals still need attention and repair. Those are rooted in data accuracy and standards, and process accountability and transparency.
It’s time to get real. And soon.