The chance for change

From the August 2020 print edition

It’s hard to look at events throughout 2020 and not conclude that supply chains, at least in some ways, have been altered permanently. Global supply chains have transformed and will continue to change in the coming years, due to the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19. That statement now seems fairly obvious.
But while the pandemic has changed the way supply chains must operate, it’s not the only recent event to do so. Businesses faced other challenges this year even before the pandemic began.

Rail blockades protesting the building of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline through Wet’suwet’en First Nation territory in British Columbia shut down CNR’s Eastern Canadian network, halting freight traffic from Halifax to Toronto. The US’s trade tensions not only with China, but also with Canada and the EU, continue to disrupt supply chains while affecting business continuity.

Developments in technology, the need to address the climate crisis and other issues also create pressure to transform supply chains. It’s a constantly evolving endeavour. In many respects, the pandemic has simply accelerated trends that were already underway.

Resiliency in supply chain, for example, while always important, has moved front and centre. Just-in-time inventories have also appeared more vulnerable during the pandemic.

At the same time, reshoring has become a hot topic – it remains to be seen, however, the extent to which it’s possible. Many supply chains are entrenched after decades in China and simply packing up and moving elsewhere may not always be possible. For an in-depth discussion of nearshoring, see our article on page 14.

For some practitioners, a career in the field as we know it may also transform along with actual, physical supply chains. Many professionals who have been working from home during the past few months will continue to do so as organizations and employees realize that they can perform their jobs just as well, if not better in some cases, from home. Not everyone can, but many will continue to work remotely.

Others will use the pandemic to reshape their entire supply chain careers. That’s what this issue’s profile subject, Katrina Daaca of Winnipeg, has done. Daaca used the lockdown to rethink and reshape her career, taking an entrepreneurial approach – a view that she says is often lacking in the supply chain management world. You can read about Daaca’s supply chain and career journey on page 10.

Pandemics and other major disruptions may not always be easy to predict, but such events may carry with them hidden advantages. They can be opportunities to reassess how things are done, or the direction that your organization, or even your career, is headed. They can allow you to build resiliency so that next time something happens you and your supply chains are that much better prepared.

Michael Power is editor of Supply Professional magazine.