Unbroken Supply Chains - The People Vs. Pestilence

What a difference a quarter makes!

As we entered 2020, the idea that we would find ourselves in one of the great fights of the new millennium was certainly not on our mind. Nor was it a discussion around the boardroom or kitchen table. Yet, here we are, living a new - albeit strange existence.

Through the couple of decades that I’ve had the privilege to be working in the supply chain business, we often spoke of diversification of risk. With the majority of production in our particular industry and many others moving overseas, the need for mitigation of geo-political risk was a real concern. The manufacturing and distribution business put a lot of thought into how and where they would develop their supply chain.


Top of mind in making these decisions were things like capability, infrastructure, sustainability and social responsibility. As it turns out, the decisions made to have a diverse and capable supply chain years ago have proven valuable in our present circumstances. As companies throughout the world strive to keep essential products and services moving, such as ensuring food supplies are constant, we can be happy to know this wasn’t just about geo-political risk mitigation. It’s also about being ready to respond in an unpredictable environment, with potential threats from unconsidered sources.

With all this being said, no level of planning, capability, or infrastructure is possible without the great effort of people on the back end, in the field and the front lines. This is even more evident when the world is facing a crisis.


I wanted to spend a few minutes sharing some positive observations about these people in our communities that have put in the effort to ensure our supply chains are able to carry on.

The “Back End” People

In our organization, we serve essential industries with materials needed to bring intermediate products to market. The people that oversee our operations tend to sit in the back, while making sure the show runs smootly. Many of these people are working mothers and fathers, who in this time, are working two jobs at once. Kids are home, needing attention, and so do the constant chimes, blips, beeps of the email inbox or messaging app. I think we owe a debt of gratitude to these folks who are burning the candle at both ends to ensure what we consider to be essential keeps on coming.

The ”In The Field” People

To keep the complex systems and networks we use to do everything in supply chain working, we need power. We also need water, other municipal services and fuel production. Admittedly, there have not been many days in my life when I have thought about the appreciation I should have for the local waterworks or electric services personnel. Without their efforts, supply chain continuity would not be possible.

The “Front Line” People

For the first time ever, maybe we realize that the person standing on the other side of the aisle or cash register at the local supermarket deserves a big hug, or at least a high-five! Isn’t it ironic that this is the one time when that is clearly not allowed, with the need for physical distancing. For someone to put their health (and possibly their life) at risk so that we can get what we need to feed our families becomes pretty much heroic. The cynic could say they do it because they need the money. My local experience says otherwise. To be greeted with cheerfulness amid a complicated situation makes us feel a bit more calm and normal. So, if we appreciate that these folks, on the front-line, are essential for our supply chain of essential goods and services, we can and should offer them the “Hug” that comes from kind words.


So, as we ponder the fact that much of what we need to keep life moving in a somewhat normal manner, we see that supply chains are healthy, robust and adaptive. But behind it all is… People, real heroes, that carry out their roles to the benefit of the local and global community. They too are adaptive, but also courageous, dedicated and essential.