New Report Offers Recommendations to Strengthen U.S. Supply Chain

 Iowa State University
17-Mar-2021 8:00 AM EDT, by Iowa State University

Newswise — AMES, Iowa – Shortages of personal protective equipment and medical devices, dairies pouring gallons of milk down the drain and delivery delays of online purchases. All are examples of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted and changed the supply chain.

Mike Crum, a professor and Ruan Chair of Supply Chain Management in Iowa State University’s Ivy College of Business, worked with Consumer Brands Association and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals to author a new report with recommendations for government policy makers to address these challenges. Crum discusses those recommendations, which include the creation of a federal Office of Supply Chain, in the following Q&A.

The pandemic revealed several weaknesses in the supply chain. What are some of the challenges moving forward?

The pandemic not only revealed vulnerabilities and weaknesses, but it has permanently impacted the way supply chains operate. One of those impacts is e-commerce. The growth of online buying had been trending upward, but during the pandemic that accelerated greatly. More people, especially those who had not shopped online as much, saw the benefit from a health and safety standpoint and in terms of efficiency and convenience. That’s not going to change. More online purchasing and even curbside or contactless purchasing will persist and that has huge implications for the supply chain.

The pandemic also opened the eyes of business leaders as their channels of distribution changed radically. They now have greater appreciation of the need to be more flexible and resilient. Companies are reassessing their supply chain operations, so in the future if there’s disruption in the channels of distribution they can respond more quickly and efficiently.

Prior to the pandemic, many larger companies were already practicing sophisticated supply chain risk management and planning for different types of disruption. Those who planned probably came through the pandemic better than those who had not. Thus, more companies are appreciating the value and benefit of in-depth risk management. This includes the government, not just companies.

One thing that was noted in the report is our dependence on different parts of the world for critical materials and finished products, such as pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The pandemic really revealed a lot of areas where we have vulnerabilities and our ability to respond. 

The report includes several recommendations. How would you prioritize? 

What I would prioritize from the report is just my own opinion. The priorities will vary by company and different sectors of the economy. Of the recommendations, No. 1 is having an established Office of Supply Chain within the government to facilitate stronger collaboration between the public and private sector, so decisions impacting supply chains are always considered.

I think the recommendations in the area of transportation are also extremely important because transportation accounts for a very large percentage of total supply chain costs. It also accounts for a high percentage of variability in supply chain performance. Companies have done a really good job improving and controlling manufacturing and operations within their organizations. However, once you add transportation to the equation, now you have time and distance, freight mingling with passenger vehicles, weather, all these different factors that are not as easy to control as your own manufacturing systems.

Our transportation infrastructure is in very bad shape, particularly bridges and highways. Most of our ocean ports are operating near capacity and now there’s huge congestion problems because of pent-up demand.

There are several innovations coming in the transportation space, such as autonomous vehicles, drones and the internet of things being applied so that vehicles can communicate with one another and vehicles can communicate with the infrastructure. All this technology is percolating, and we’re seeing a lot of startup activity focused on supply chain – increased automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning – to do a better job of moving products throughout the supply chain.

Finally, protecting, securing and managing critical supply chains, that is the supply chains of goods and materials that are critical to national defense, the economy and health care ranks up there. I think those are the two, transportation and critical supply chains, I’d assign the highest priority.

Why establish a federal Office of Supply Chain?

Through our research we identified several federal departments and agencies that are establishing policies and passing regulations or initiatives that impact the private sector supply chains. For example, policies and regulations impacting transportation, energy, labor and the environment are managed or overseen by different parts of the federal government. The impact of individual policies and regulations and the interactions among them on total supply chain performance were usually not considered since no one government entity was accountable for overall supply chain performance.

It’s very similar to businesses 30 or 40 years ago. There were all these different supply chain components within companies that were siloed. The manufacturing was separate from the distribution, and the inbound materials and the outbound flow of product were managed separately. You didn’t always have marketing talking to the folks in logistics. What industry learned many decades ago was that too many functions tied to supply chain were separate from one another. So industry started integrating those functions to avoid making suboptimal decisions from a total supply chain perspective.

As this improved within businesses, it became clear that supply chain performance really depends on how all the different players in the supply chain perform. If you’re sharing information and planning with your partners and collaborators, you can make execution of your supply chain more efficient with higher quality service. We saw this as industry broke down internal silos and then looked externally to their supply chain partners and broke down those company-to-company silos. The one partner that really hadn’t been brought into the fold was government.  

Why is the government an important part of the supply chain?

The government, through investments, financial incentives, regulations and policies, greatly impacts supply chain performance. We felt there had to be some organizational entity or structure to break down those silos within the government, so that supply chain issues would be identified and assessed when making decisions. Given how important supply chain is to national defense, the economy and quality of life in our country, we thought there needed to be one focal point within the federal government to coordinate policies, identify best practices, share information and communicate across all agencies to have a positive impact on supply chains.

As we were working on the report, I suggested we look inside the government to see if there were good examples or models in operation that we could draw from. We found three or four examples without too much digging. One was directly related to supply chain in the federal government’s acquisition of information and communication hardware and software. They had created a focal organization within the Office of Management and Budget to coordinate efforts and identify best practices. It was very similar to what we were envisioning, but they were doing it more for cybersecurity purposes.

The organization included a representative from several government department and agencies and representatives from the private sector, including the communications industry and the information systems industry. The ratio of private sector representatives to government representatives was 2-to-1. They met on a regular basis, shared information, set standards, identified best practices and made recommendations to the different agencies for implementation. It gave us hope that an Office of Supply Chain is something that could be achieved.

Filters close

Showing results

110 of 5809
Newswise: 267646_web.jpg
Released: 11-Jun-2021 2:10 PM EDT
Saliva can be more effective than nasopharyngeal swabs for COVID-19 testing

The collection of nasopharyngeal swab (NPS) samples for COVID-19 diagnostic testing poses challenges including exposure risk to healthcare workers and supply chain constraints.

Released: 11-Jun-2021 1:25 PM EDT
Physical Activity May Curb Health Care Worker Burnout
University of Georgia

More physical activity programming could mitigate the effects of stress and improve worker mental and emotional health.

Newswise: AI Predicts How Patients with Viral Infections, Including COVID-19, Will Fare
9-Jun-2021 6:05 PM EDT
AI Predicts How Patients with Viral Infections, Including COVID-19, Will Fare
University of California San Diego Health

UC San Diego School of Medicine researchers discovered gene expression patterns associated with pandemic viral infections, providing a map to help define patients’ immune responses, measure disease severity, predict outcomes and test therapies — for current and future pandemics.

Released: 10-Jun-2021 5:35 PM EDT
Senolíticos reducen síntomas de COVID-19 en estudios preclínicos
Mayo Clinic

Los investigadores de Mayo Clinic y sus colegas de la Universidad de Minnesota demostraron que la COVID-19 exacerba las consecuencias nocivas de las células senescentes en el cuerpo. En estudios preclínicos, los fármacos senolíticos descubiertos en Mayo redujeron considerablemente la inflamación, la enfermedad y la mortalidad debida a la infección por covid en ratones ancianos. Los resultados se publican en la revista Science.

Released: 10-Jun-2021 5:30 PM EDT
Senolíticos reduzem os sintomas de COVID-19 em estudos pré-clínicos
Mayo Clinic

Os pesquisadores da Mayo Clinic e colegas da Universidade de Minnesota mostraram que o COVID-19 intensifica o impacto prejudicial das células senescentes no corpo. Em estudos pré-clínicos, os medicamentos senolíticos descobertos na Mayo reduziram significativamente a inflamação, a gravidade da doença e a mortalidade da infecção por COVID em camundongos mais velhos. Essas conclusões foram publicadas na revista Science.

Newswise: FresnoSTateVaxImage2.jpg
Released: 10-Jun-2021 5:25 PM EDT
CSU Campuses Join COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge
California State University (CSU) Chancellor's Office

The CSU pledges to be a Vaccine Champion University as part of new White House effort aimed at increasing vaccinations for younger Americans.

Released: 10-Jun-2021 5:05 PM EDT
الأدوية المحللة للشيخوخة تقلل من أعراض فيروس كورونا المستجد (كوفيد-19) في الدراسات ما قبل السريرية
Mayo Clinic

أظهر باحثو مايو كلينك وزملاؤهم في جامعة مينيسوتا أن فيروس كورونا المستجد (كوفيد-19) يفاقم التأثير الضار للخلايا الشائخة في الجسم. ففي الدراسات ما قبل السريرية، قللت الأدوية المحللة لالشيخوخة التي تم اكتشافها في مايو بشكل كبير من الالتهاب والمرض والوفيات الناجمة عن عَدوى فيروس كورونا المستجد في الفئران الأكبر سنًا. النتائج منشورة في مجلة ساينس.

7-Jun-2021 7:05 AM EDT
Study Examines the Effects of COVID-19 on Human Kidney Cells
American Society of Nephrology (ASN)

• The virus that causes COVID-19 can infect and replicate in human kidney cells, but this does not typically lead to cell death. • Kidney cells that already have features of injury may be more easily infected and develop additional injury.

Released: 10-Jun-2021 4:55 PM EDT
Mayo Clinic

妙佑医疗国际(Mayo Clinic)的研究人员和明尼苏达大学的同事表明,COVID-19(2019冠状病毒病)加剧了体内衰老细胞的破坏性影响。在临床前研究中,妙佑医疗国际研发的抗衰老药物显著降低了老年实验鼠因COVID(冠状病毒病)感染引起的炎症、疾病和死亡率。该研究结果已发表在《科学》期刊中。

Newswise: blobid0_1623274320110.jpg
Released: 10-Jun-2021 4:45 PM EDT
How does COVID-19 affect patients with cancer? Largest U.S. study shares first results
University of Alabama at Birmingham

New findings include a significant increase in risk of death among patients who had recently had chemotherapy.

Showing results

110 of 5809