Perhaps many years from now, when we look back on the Great Supply Chain Disruption of 2021, hindsight may prepare us better for future disruptions by clearly showing us how certain ripples later turned into a tsunami.
A Reuters article from 2013 outlined weaknesses in certain industries after the 2009 SARS outbreak which was then mostly contained to Asia in a marginally less globally connected world than the one we live in today. In it, Dr. Dennis Carroll, director of U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) programs on new and emerging disease threats, said of the economic fallout from a pandemic, ‘“People don’t go to their jobs, and they don’t go to shopping malls. There can be a huge decrease in consumer demand, and if (a pandemic) continues long enough, it can affect manufacturing” as producers cut output to align supply with lower demand. If schools are closed, healthy workers may have to stay home with their children. People afraid of becoming infected are less likely to go out to stores, restaurants or movies.’” Sounds pretty familiar, but still…no one expected COVID-19 to be as severely damaging to both human lives and businesses as it turned out to be.
We know that society likes to keep moving forward and unfortunately often ignores the lessons of history.
Had we paid better attention to the SARS outbreak in 2009 it may have served as a crystal ball for predicting some of the business fallout. What business leaders have learned from this pandemic will fill many books, and hopefully, businesses will be better able to weather all kinds of disruptions in the global supply chain. In the meantime, here are a few major themes that brilliant minds should start tackling now.
Shifting demands can lead to crisis down the road.