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Supply Chain Industry Updates

4 Lessons to Consider Before the Next Major Disruption


Early during the pandemic, governments scrambled to get personal protective equipment (PPE) to the people and organizations that needed it. As you probably know, it did not always go smoothly, and delays, scams and other problems were not uncommon.

“The overwhelming demand for PPE in particular could not be met with stockpiles or well-established medical supply chains with large medical equipment vendors,” writes Rebecca Liao, co-founder and executive vice president of SKUChain. “Rather, pockets of available PPE had to be sourced, vetted, tracked, financed and, in many cases, imported from overseas. In other words, governments had to build new international supply chains.”

Blogging for the World Economic Forum, Liao says four lessons can be distilled from that chaotic experience. “These lessons can be applied not just to COVID-19 supply chains, but to any supply chain that is scrambling to get its operations back on track after massive disruption,” she wrote. They are:

  • Incentivize data sharing — “Suppliers are reluctant to send their data because they are concerned that commercially sensitive information will become available to others in the supply chain ecosystem who shouldn’t see it,” Liao said. “We need to reduce the infrastructure burden and allow suppliers to independently audit what information is being shared and with whom. A decentralized blockchain network, where each supplier can participate without owning a node, accomplishes this goal.”
  • Build relationships with key suppliers quickly — Liao opined that “suppliers should not have to go through a discrete vetting process every time they are selling to a new buyer or obtaining a new line of financing. That adds crucial weeks that an emergency supply chain cannot afford.”
  • Set up program buying — This involves arranging quotas of goods from suppliers to be automatically replenished when inventory stocks are running low.
  • Inject liquidity into the system — Small and mid-size suppliers might struggle with financing. Liao noted that her firm is working with Florida’s Miami-Dade County on a blockchain solution to provide additional liquidity to local small businesses involved with PPE.

“New innovations will make the supply chain more efficient, less risky and increase the velocity of goods running through the system,” Liao wrote.