For supply chains, the pandemic has brought unprecedented levels of disruption. The specific confluence of events was beyond anybody’s ability to foresee. But, at least in a general sense, everyone should have expected something like the year that just passed to happen.
Risks of severe stress and even failure are built into modern supply chains — unintentionally, but they were there, for decades, for everyone to see. The very idea of a globalized “supply chain” is at least in part defined by risk.
When linking up dozens or even hundreds of firms, with thousands of workers among them, all trying to move in coordination across continents to complete the task of of getting products on shelves — all sorts of things can go wrong. And there was never any reason why a whole bunch of things couldn’t go wrong at the same time.
For all the talk of crisis and collapse, the system largely held through the holiday period. But the past two years have laid bare vulnerabilities that have long existed in the system. To name a few: lack of capacity, manufacturing concentration by geography, length and complexity of supply chains, and scale mismatches among links in the chain.