Epidemiologist Dr. Michael T. Osterholm wrote in Foreign Affairs Magazine in 2005 that, “The arrival of a pandemic influenza would trigger a reaction that would change the world overnight.” In hindsight, how true these words are now that we are still experiencing the effects of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Dr. Osterholm further noted that we cannot avoid a pandemic or disaster, but we can lessen its impact on our supply chain operations. Here are four areas that Dr. Osterholm believes supply chain professionals need to invest time, effort, and preparation to avoid being blindsided by the next pandemic or disaster that you will face in the future:
1. Mitigate risks by having a flexible supplier network: As you have already experienced, your current prime vendor wasn’t as nimble as you might have hoped for in this pandemic. In fact, a recent survey showed that only 27% of vendors were ready for this pandemic. That’s why having a flexible (local, regional, and national) supplier network is the ideal situation to avoid supply chain interruptions. To put it bluntly, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
2. Plan for a homebound or mobile workforce: We now know that our supply chain business can continue with some of our staff being homebound which decreases cost, provides for continuity, and ensures redundant operations. This should be your operations plan for any emergency that requires you to rationalize your supply chain operations.
3. Minimize human intervention: Plan for as much “self-service” supply chain operations as possible. Exchange carts, cabinets, or storage locations are the ideal ways to restock your customers’ products without human intervention. Maybe you should expand this service to more departments in the future.
4. Continue to function as a viable business with little disruption: “Collaboration between employees will spur innovation,” says Dr. Osterholm, if you train them to be creative, and not treat them as robots. This training starts way before a pandemic or disaster hits your supply chain operations.
No matter what your experience was during the current pandemic, you must now look to the future and prepare for a new pandemic (maybe in the Fall) or a similar disaster (hurricane, tornado, earthquake, etc.) that will test the agility, flexibility, and strength of your supply chain operations. Hopefully, these four insights by Dr. Osterholm will give you insight into what you can control and help to lessen the impact during the next perfect storm to hit your healthcare organization.
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