Last week, we hosted an experts’ roundtable to explore the impact of COVID-19 on the global supply chain. Joining the conversation were:
- Santosh Sankar, founding partner of Dynamo Ventures, a venture fund that invests in building startups in supply chain and mobility;
- Umair Ahmed, Vice President of Products at FABRIC, a startup creating innovative e-commerce solutions, and he’s the former Senior Director of Product Management of Supply Chain at Lowe’s; and
- Dr. Shawn Bhimani, visiting Assistant Professor of Supply Chain Management at Northeastern University’s School of Business where he specializes in analyzing supply chain disruptions.
In the course of the hour, the panelists covered a tremendous amount of ground, starting with their respective views on what’s happening in supply chain right now.
With a finance-driven view, Santosh predicts an ‘L-shaped recovery’ and an eventual slowdown in panic buying. He also expects to see an increased focus on antifragility initiatives in supply chain (Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s theory that some businesses grow stronger and more resilient in stressful environments) and variations in inventory build ups across sectors as businesses trade off working capital for the health of supply chain. His long-term outlook is that supply chains will emerge stronger in the wake of the global pandemic, despite near-term turbulence.
Umair focused on e-commerce, the pressure on retailers to up their games, and a recognition of the influx of new e-commerce customers — driven virtually overnight. Those new customers have joined the world of e-commerce as a result of the current health crisis, but the questions are what percentage of them are here to stay going forward and how will technology and innovation shape e-commerce and supply chain going forward?
Shawn reflected on the rapid decrease in sea freight, increasing unemployment, and the reduction in imports, as well as liquidity and asset utilization and how some companies are rethinking the idea of inventory after years of a just-in-time mentality. He’s also considering — geographically — how close companies need to be to clients for the last mile, as well as the implications of COVID-19 on forced labor, which is one of his research specialties.
In discussing how to maintain uptime and minimize operational disruptions, the conversation ranged from containment to the importance of transparency and trust. Those cornerstone concepts included trusting management to take care of employees, trusting employees to work from home (not always possible in supply chain), and how technology can be used for tracking and tracing — and greater transparency.
The panel covered other topics and answered several audience questions, as well. If you’re interested in hearing the conversation, watch it here.