The coronavirus announcement by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has the country reeling. He declared a national state of disaster and announced radical measures that will be implemented. These include a travel ban and visa cancellations for visitors from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China, the closure of schools from Wednesday, the closure of 37 of SA’s 72 ports of entry, and a prohibition of gatherings of over 100 people.
“Even the most VUCA-ready leaders – those prepared for the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of today’s world – were unprepared for this,” comments SAPICS business development executive Tonya Lamb.
Time for supply chain professionals to step up
SAPICS, The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management, believes that this is the time for supply chain professionals to step up and demonstrate how supply chain management makes the world go around, even in the midst of a global pandemic.
“Covid-19 – or novel coronavirus – has put supply chains and supply chain management smack bang in the spotlight! Supply chain management is front and centre and has the opportunity to be the hero,” contends Lamb. “Coronavirus is forcing us, as supply chain professionals, to surpass agile, adaptive and innovative. It is vital that supply chains keep moving, and new thinking is the order of the day.”
In his announcement to South Africa, President Ramaphosa stressed that in addition to the impact that this pandemic will have on people’s health and wellbeing and our day-to-day lives, Covid-19 will also have a significant and potentially lasting impact on our economy.
Supply chain proficiency and competence
Supply chain proficiency and competence can mitigate this economic impact, states SAPICS president Kea Mpane. “It is critical that we up our game now, and show why effective supply chain management is widely regarded as a catalyst for economic growth. This crisis represents an opportunity and a responsibility for the supply chain profession. Working together, we can keep goods moving, including life-saving medicines, and help to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the people of South Africa.
“Right now, we need qualified, certified, professionally designated and ethically accountable supply chain professionals more than ever before. I am proud to be associated with SAPICS’s work to professionalise and regulate supply chain management, which has a vital role to play in fighting Covid-19.”
It’s not going to be easy. Sean Culey, a globally recognised business transformation expert, author and award-winning SAPICS Conference speaker, noted in a social media post that it's hard enough to predict and risk assess a “black swan” event (pandemic), let alone know what the “black swan” impacts are likely to be. He pondered toilet paper panic buying when this virus is not gastroenteric; as well as the “black swan” side effects such as shortages of surgical masks causing sales of dust masks to rocket, impacting contractors’ ability to work. When paper towels are used instead of impossible-to-find toilet paper, blocked toilets and sewerage systems and extra pressure on municipal services and plumbing service providers are the side effects. “We are currently seeing a bevy of black swans all at once. It’s hard to respond to as supply chains are more connected than ever, while human behaviour is more random,” Culey said.
Suggestions for supply chain leaders
Lora Cecere, founder at Supply Chain Insights, offered some suggestions to supply chain leaders in an article that she wrote in response to the novel coronavirus crisis. With demand for healthcare gear surging, she urges suppliers of this gear to actively work with government emergency teams to allocate N95 masks, and to actively bring capacity online.
Cecere recommends retail data sharing, to deal with shortages of things like toilet paper, which is flying off shelves in South Africa today. To align retail and manufacturing signals through this pandemic, Cecere asks all retailers to share daily shelf-level data weekly with manufacturers. “This pandemic has fundamentally altered demand and we need to streamline data across the supply chain.”
It’s more critical than ever that we build safe and secure food supply chains, Cecere stresses. “My ask is for food and pharmaceutical supply chains to step up and invest now to build effective networks. The food safety and health are intertwined, and we need to recognise the need for a higher standard to deliver safe and secure supply chains.”
Keep truck drivers safe
Collaborative logistics is Cecere’s recommendation to help keep truck drivers safe. “The health of truck drivers is a concern. We need to keep trucks moving. Today, 40% of trucks move empty and supply chains are not truck friendly for loading and unloading times. As the virus impacts escalate, I anticipate a shortage of drivers. Now is a time for supply chain leaders to work together to minimise wait times and maximise backhauls.”
Internationally acclaimed supply chain guru and SAPICS 2020 speaker Dr John Gattorna says that organisations aiming to survive current and future supply chain disruptions like coronavirus must ensure that their supply chains are designed with dynamic rather than static capabilities. “What we now have to focus on is designing a portfolio of supply chain configurations within the enterprise that are capable of servicing a large part of our target market, under conditions that can vary from stable through to extremely disruptive. At the same time, we also have to be able to cater for customers that change their normal buying behaviours because of the changing situation they find themselves in.” He believes that the future will belong to those enterprises with supply chains that can deliver reliably under all operating conditions, rather than those with simply great marketing, good products and extensive sales forces.