Wash Your Hands and Brush Up Your (Cyber) Hygiene

How to mitigate supply chain disruption with technology in the age of COVID-19.

By Nicole Nelson

Once upon a time—yet merely weeks ago—chasing technological trends and making investments in innovation were considered discretionary to attaining a competitive edge in business.

How times have changed—in rapid fashion, no less. In a matter of days, once elective technology practices are seemingly trending to be more and more compulsory to attain viability in light of the novel coronavirus and its far-reaching impacts.

“Such investments may now become necessities for businesses to survive in a new world—not necessarily the world we are familiar with or like, but the world we will be having,” said Dr. Tinglong Dai, associate professor of operations management and business analytics at Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School.

In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dai said now is the time for firms to start redefining their physical and virtual infrastructures to fit into a world that is less dominated by narratives such as globalization and political stability.

Dai acknowledges big data and artificial intelligence as integral parts of the supply chain risk management vehicle.

“The field has always been rich in data, but has only become rich in data-driven decision-making in recent years,” Dai said. “These innovations provide more targeted, flexible and responsive solutions in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

“Anticipating what is next is crucial for firms in this dynamic decision-making environment.”

In the case of a global supply chain, firms have been monitoring disruptions happening to their overseas and domestic suppliers and forecasting development of the COVID-19 pandemic near their suppliers. Equally importantly, they have been monitoring demand shocks and understanding consumer behavior in the age of coronavirus. Increasingly, lockdowns around the globe have posed a major challenge to firms› logistics and limit how fast they can respond to disruptions; firms have to use more inventory or longer lead-times to buffer lack of mobility.

“The ongoing mitigation of supply chain disruption needs to be guided by the development of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been watched closely in a fine-grained level,” Dai said. “I cannot think of any unfolding, worldwide epidemic of this scale that was being watched as closely by a global audience. We have incredibly detailed data and a diverse range of modeling efforts and expert opinions. Technology, especially big data and artificial intelligence, is crucial in reconciling various sources of data, models and views in supporting business decisions in response to disruptions and in anticipation to future developments in such a fluid situation.”

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