How does supply chain shape our lives?
“Supply chain management plays a central role in the quality of life we enjoy every day, whether it be products we shop in a retail store or meals that our kids are served in school,” says Sriram Narayanan, Kesseler Family Endowed Faculty Fellow of Supply Chain Management. “It makes products and services affordable, accessible and available to every human being in the planet.”
Narayanan is working to make supply chains more efficient and human-centric, two concepts that may seem in opposition. He and colleagues are researching increasing the inclusion of employees with disabilities in the workforce and how this can benefit workplace productivity.
In addition to making supply chains more inclusive, Spartan supply chain faculty are also looking at ways to make them more resilient and secure. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shortages and supply chain breakdowns showed many of the weaknesses in distribution and logistics.
“Supply chain management is the first mile, the last mile and the middle mile of a product’s life cycle,” says Steven Melnyk, professor of supply chain and operations management. “Today, supply chain management goes beyond operations and logistics and includes sustainability, security and innovation. Supply chain managers design and manage systems that ensure a safe and desired outcome, such as considering temperature control with vaccine distribution. Without an effective supply chain, you cannot hope to succeed, and you surely will fail.”
Melnyk has examined the serious supply chain vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic and says more events of this kind are ahead.
“Global risk events are here to stay — it’s not only a supply chain issue — it’s a leadership issue,” Melnyk and co-author Simon Knowles write in a recent white paper. “Given we can expect to see more global risk events similar to the COVID-19 pandemic taking place, we cannot afford to return to the old ways of doing things — that ship has sailed. It’s time for leadership to look at the question, ‘Do we have the right supply chain model in place now?’ The answer to this question is not for supply chain managers, it is a question that must be addressed at the top management team/board level. It will influence the ability of the firm to not only compete but simply to survive.”