Hurricane Wit

Oct. 26, 2022

Historians and observers alike remain flummoxed about the origin of a famous but profound saying. They attribute it to a number of folks, but famous and relatively obscure.

Paraphrased, it reads something like this: History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.

Perhaps a more classic interpretation should be: History doesn’t repeat itself but it’s rife with synonyms.

After Hurricanes Fiona and Ian ripped through the Caribbean and Southeast (mainly Florida) and their sibling Julia was whipping herself up across Central America at press time, it may be high tide and time for the annual hurricane season to be taken more seriously. Exacerbating the impact on the supply chain? Two years and still counting of a pandemic that crippled labor levels, supply flow and transportation routes.

Some might call these last two years the “perfect storm” creating a massive clot in need of a serious four-way bypass.

If anything, this brief two-year era of accountability should serve as a wake-up call – strategically and tactically – that business and financial operations may be nearing, if not at, wit’s end.

Certainly, planning and prepping for disasters shouldn’t be a shocking surprise to the healthcare community. Healthcare Purchasing News has been covering it for decades – from natural disasters to terrorist attacks to weather-related environmental trauma.

The crux of the matter continues to be how providers and suppliers react to the aftermath of each encounter. Arguably, such reactions should be business-as-usual or standard operating procedures by now. Why? Because the concentration should focus on “proaction” – how to prep for and prevent problems.

During the last two years as just-in-time and stockless distribution models faltered, a passionate movement emerged to pursue domestic sourcing. Clamoring for manufacturers and distributors to relocate plants and warehouses deep inside the confines of the United States may be unrealistic in the short term as so much would need to be untangled, but not necessarily unreasonable in the long term.

Going forward, rather than issuing price hikes as a knee-jerk but now nominal reaction to climate-damaged facilities, clogged transportation arteries or convenient and routine access to raw materials and other resources, it may make sense to use a portion of the profits earned in past years to fortify production and distribution footprints into formidable fortresses that can withstand what nature’s and nurture’s furies foists upon them.

During and following major crises, the last thing a citizenry and an economy need are price hikes stemming from dubious motivations. At this point, disasters should come as no surprise because we’ve seen just about every conceivable example and model short of an alien invasion or asteroids pummeling the surface.

No, this doesn’t mean companies create fortified secret lairs worthy of a James Bond archnemesis or villain or move production off-world to a space facility subjected to errant orbiting junk and operational satellites – including Elon Musk’s floating Tesla Roadster (since February 2018).

Whether off-shore or on-shore, product manufacturers and distributors should use the collection of crises in the 21st century so far – arguably a notable increase in frequency from the prior centuries – to craft and develop improvements that prepare us for a progressive future.

There’s no time like the present.