February 2021

How COVID-19 has redefined supply chain management

Like all of you, I can’t wait to get past this Coronavirus pandemic and return to normal times. With multiple FDA-approved vaccines, the end is hopefully in sight. However, there are still certain practices we have adopted during COVID-19 that will (and should) remain, such as more frequent hand washing and increased cleaning and disinfecting.

As a result, cleaning and disinfecting products will remain in high demand. Unfortunately, there will be other product categories that have suffered from a decrease in demand and likely won’t return to their previous production levels soon enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not just product categories that will experience the impacts of the pandemic, even after it ends. The entire supply chain has been significantly affected by this public health crisis. The first shocks to the supply chain came in Asia, as distribution channels were disrupted and vulnerabilities were exposed, including shortages of chemicals and packaging materials. Manufacturers had already experienced burdens from tariffs and trade barriers, and these combined challenges forced them to rethink how they source raw materials to design and manufacture products. Manufacturers and suppliers will certainly evaluate these processes to identify challenges and opportunities in order to minimize disruptions and be better prepared for the next crisis.

At the start of the pandemic, the Household & Commercial Products Association (HCPA) was quick to provide input to the Dept. of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to help ensure that our member companies were recognized as “essential critical infrastructure” and could maintain and expand operations. HCPA also collaborated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other stakeholders to expand the availability of disinfectant products and minimize burdens for sourcing raw materials. This has helped supply chains run efficiently during a time when resources have been limited and getting products in the hands of U.S. consumers has been and continues to be imperative.

It’s critical for companies to understand their risks within the supply chain. This requires a deep dive, beyond just the first and second tiers, mapping out the entire supply chain, including various distribution centers and transportation hubs. Additionally, it’s essential that companies assess and understand the resources and capabilities of each part of the supply chain. As many companies face an evolving work environment, with many employees working from home, both internal and external procedures need to be reviewed to ensure that these changes won’t disrupt the flow of materials or products.

Managing supply has been a big issue throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding supply vulnerabilities consumes significant resources and may require an investment in new or updated technologies. While this may seem like a big undertaking, it pays off in the end to avoid shortages and future disruptions.

While many things will change as a result of the pandemic, one thing that won’t is the demand for safe and effective products at competitive prices. Due to quarantine, many consumers have shifted their purchasing behavior toward e-commerce platforms rather than traditional brick and mortar establishments. E-commerce adds another variable to the supply chain that must be managed and kept running smoothly.

As supply chains become more complicated, transportation becomes more critical. The efficient flow of materials is key, whether it be raw materials to a manufacturer or finished products to endusers. Investment in technology and procedures becomes even more important, especially for products sold through e-commerce channels since the “last mile” of logistics is even more complex. Ultimately, proper transportation management is crucial to ensure customer satisfaction.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc across supply chains, exposing vulnerabilities and weaknesses. However, if there’s a silver lining (which there usually is), COVID-19 has provided us with the opportunity to review the entire supply chain, understand its risks and take steps to improve it in order to make it more efficient and avoid disruptions in the future.

To learn more about managing the supply chain or for more information about HCPA, contact me at [email protected]. SPRAY