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Industry Updates

Researchers Suggest Way to Keep Shelves Stocked During Crises


Sectors ranging from groceries to PPE could better weather future disruptions by adopting a new supply chain management framework, suggest researchers at the University of Buffalo School of Management, N.Y.

The academics’ paper, “Business Continuity Management for Supply Chains Facing Catastrophic Events,” appears on the website of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. They suggest their method would address the problems encountered earlier this year by consumers who could not find some essential goods or medical professionals who had to hunt for basic PPE supplies.

“The grocery industry has become too lean in recent years, operating with low inventory levels and sacrificing resilience for leanness,” said Michael Braunscheidel, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of operations management and strategy. “Meanwhile, production of medical devices and personal protective equipment relies on suppliers around the world — who all were also affected by the virus. Our approach would help identify risk in both of these situations.”

The UB team explained that their approach “consists of six phases combining business continuity management standards as well as the flexibility, agility and resilience needed to cope with increasingly volatile business situations.” They recommend supply chain managers follow a “plan-do-check-act” cycle to:

  • Examine the organizational context of the supply chain;
  • Ensure leadership commitment;
  • Identify risk;
  • Plan for disruptions;
  • Test procedures; and
  • Continuously improve by documenting lessons learned.

“The challenges of pandemics and other catastrophic events demand new strategies for addressing supply chain failures that can cripple an entire world,” said Nallan Suresh, Ph.D., UB distinguished professor of operations management and strategy. “Our method provides a valuable structure for ensuring supply chain resilience, identifying risks, developing recovery tactics, and continuous learning and improvement.”

The UB team said its approach corrects shortfalls in common business continuity management practices as well as fragmentation of risk management approaches. By contrast, “Our framework draws on the strengths of both,” said Lawrence Sanders, Ph.D., professor of management science and systems.