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For the past year, our attention has been locked on the gi- gantic, world-changing struggles of COVID- 19. Though certainly (and objectively) awful, therewere some perks to this kind ofconcern. It was universal, after all,putting every industry in every part of the world basically in the same position, fighting the same battles,and facing the same challenges. It was also fairly predictable—after a few months of scrambling chaos, mostbusinesses knew what they were up against and wereable to plan accordingly (though of course no one couldpredict how long it would all last).
And now we’re facing a totally normal challenge—arandom catastrophe in some far-flung region of theworld that epically screws up the global supply chain,hitting different businesses in different markets inwildly different ways.
I’m referring, of course, to the log jam in the SuezCanal—which is finally starting to clear as I write this.In less than a week, this accident has raised gas prices, has shredded global delivery schedules, and hasincreased costs across this industry. All from one shipstuck way out in Egypt.
And this seems about as normal as it gets.
It is a sharp reminder of just how fragile our globalsupply system really is, exposing the critical bottlenecks all over the world that can so easily ruin eventhe most carefully plotted plans through no fault ofour own. One big storm, one successful hack, one badpilot and chaos reigns again.
It’s an important reminder, I think. The industry’seyes have been locked down on COVID- 19 concernsand all of the supply, technological, and health challenges the pandemic carries that many have reportedlosing sight of these far more common catastrophes.
Consider this the wakeup call.
Though this situation will surely be resolved longbefore this book reaches you, the overall lesson shouldhold through. COVID- 19 isn’t the only bad guy here,and neither is the Suez Canal.
The manufacturing business is maintained througha seemingly infinite stream of contingent factors, fromthe macro-level logistics of international supplying,down to the plant-level processes and equipment, anddown again to the individual tools and components atwork in each cell. Any piece of this falls through andthe whole system crashes to a halt.
So, as we return to normal, it’s time to start shiftingour eyes again to these normal concerns. It means,as we detail through this magazine, taking a fresh lookat global sourcing schemes, it means shoring up maintenance practices, it means updating critical tools andequipment. Because the end of COVID- 19 doesn’t meanthe end of our troubles,
it only means we shiftour attention to others.
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