Supply chain shortages due to COVID-19, what consumers need to know
March 26, 2020
As the delivery of goods like food and household supplies makes headlines in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, professionals from the logistics and supply chain management industry are trying to assure Americans that there is, in fact, enough to go around.
For Ronnie Brannon, lead instructor for the Logistics and Supply Chain Management program at Palo Alto College, one thing is evident: "A vast number of Americans do not understand how their stores get stocked and stay stocked with the food and supplies needed for everyday life."
Logistics is the management of the flow of supplies, equipment, energy, and information from the point of origin to the point of consumption.
Brannon explained that inventory systems are automated and can track every transaction that goes through every store. When a product is sold, it is deducted from the store's inventory. The computer then decides if it has hit the reorder point – which is when inventory hits a certain threshold, and a purchase is triggered to replenish the stock of that particular item.
"We call this 'just-in-time logistics.' It works," said Brannon. "Your favorite cereal and coffee are always there when you need them. Under normal circumstances, there isn't a lack of products because consumers are coming in at different times and only buying what they need. Again, they are only buying what they need."
Despite assurances from major corporations and local grocery chains, many people are still concerned about adequate supplies in stores.
"The problem is that fear has grasped our community, and people think that they need five or six weeks of inventory on-hand. Then there is nothing for the family that is just trying to get through the week," Brannon said. "These actions have forced stores to put limits on purchase quantities of certain items until this period of crisis is over."
Brannon said, locally, steps are being taken to ensure the supply chain can keep up with the demand. Workers are putting in more hours. Warehouses and distribution facilities are hiring to help keep the shelves stocked. Consumers can do their part by only purchasing what is needed to allow stores to catch up.
"Our [Logistics] program prepares students for a time like this when knowledge of how the supply chain works is so essential," said Brannon. "Supply chain simulations foster all-important critical skills as students come up with innovative solutions that will get the right products, in the right quantity, to the right place, at the right time, and in the proper condition."
Palo Alto College’s Logistics and Supply Chain Management program was recently named one of the top logistics programs in the nation by Intelligent.com, a student-focused comprehensive research guide. To learn more about the program and other Professional Technical Education degrees available, visit alamo.edu/pac/pte.