Rethinking Global Supply Chains in the Wake of COVID-19

An unexpected repercussion of the COVID-19 pandemic is the disruption in global supply chains. As the virus began to circulate in China in early 2020, sending large parts of the country into lockdown, other parts of the world watched with hesitancy at what this meant for supply chain disruptions. When the virus started to spread globally, countries found themselves worrying about how supplies of key necessities, including, almost ironically, medicines and medical supplies, would be affected. The pandemic has changed many countries’ outlook on how much they rely on other countries, and has highlighted instability in some structures. Previous health crises, such as Ebola and the swine and avian flus, have affected supply chains, but none ever so powerfully as COVID-19.

With the COVID-19 vaccine in early distribution and the pandemic’s end on the horizon, many countries are using this time to rethink how they operate and participate in supply chains, trying to find ways to make them more stable should another global disruption occur. The idea of supply chain resilience is on the rise, referring to the ability of any given supply chain to prepare for, react to, and adapt to an unexpected event and the disruptions it causes, as well as recover quickly once normalcy has returned. In doing this, those restructuring and redesigning supply chains must take certain things into consideration. It is important to identify any vulnerability or risk at any point in the chain, even if it may lie further along in the process and may seem insignificant at the time. By identifying these potential issues, it will help when planning backup plans or overrides that will help prevent disruptions once the supply chain reaches that point.

Finding and planning ways for quick detection and response to, as well as recovery from, any issue is also incredibly important. In the COVID-19 pandemic, many supply chains were faced with no backup plans or alternate solutions because of how unprecedented the situation was. By finding ways to detect and respond early, countries will find their supply chains will experience less or little disruption. The current health crisis also identified extreme dependencies on few countries, including China, who manufactures and distributes a significant number of necessary items for daily life but was subjected to strict widespread lockdowns. This should lead countries to rethink their dependencies on one or a small number of other countries for necessary goods. By diversifying their supply base, there will be less likelihood of potentially devastating disruptions. Many countries, as a result of the trade war between the United States and China, began using China and another country in the same area for supply needs. But, it may be a good idea to organize supply bases with other countries in other parts of the world that perhaps do not have similar risks as each other, such as health or seasonal concerns. It is also recommended that countries determine what necessary goods they require and find ways to create a safety net by developing extra stock. By determining this, it will create a safeguard should a certain supply china be disrupted without taking away from others in a time of need.

Countries are also flirting with a recommended idea of moving production and organizing supply chains around the actual locations where the items will be used. Certain goods are much more easily imported for a variety of reasons, but for items easily manufactured anywhere, countries should consider moving these closer to home. This can decrease logistical concerns, and also stimulates local economies and limits reliance on other countries. Because of the current pandemic, it is likely that many countries will return to more domestic manufacturing. While this will not bring a complete recovery from economic damage endured during the pandemic and may not be an all-encompassing solution to further disruptions, it will help countries feel more stable and prepared in case another disruptive event of global magnitude occurs.








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