A Supply Chain is Only as Strong as its Weakest Link
An earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear meltdown in Japan—affecting everything from iPad to auto sales. A hurricane pummeled Puerto Rico—home to dozens of manufacturing sites for pharmaceuticals and life-saving medical equipment.
Both disasters disrupted global supply chains, but the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic is even more profound. Now, as more countries lift their lockdowns, professionals in supply chain management are becoming ever more important and in demand.
That’s why Dr. Thomas Craig believes it’s the perfect time for students to explore the supply chain major. In recent years, the Lehigh Valley has become a national hub for supply chain management activities. Recognizing its importance, DeSales introduced an undergraduate major several years ago.
“It’s very rare these days to find any final product that is produced entirely in one country,” says Craig, assistant professor in the Division of Business. “Most products involve hundreds of activities which take place all around the world. These ‘global value chains’ are like a big ballet that is being choreographed by the supply chain managers to make sure that all of these activities occur at the right time in the right place for efficient production.”
Supply chain managers are responsible for planning, coordinating, and organizing the movement of raw materials and components that go into their companies’ final products. They work with manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors around the world to ensure that quality products can be made at the lowest possible cost.
Because manufacturers have become so dependent on suppliers from across the globe, a major shock in one area of the world can have ripple effects on the entire supply chain.
“There were shocks to the system before but nothing on the scale of what’s happening now,” Craig says. “Nobody really expected the whole world to shut down for four months. This was totally unprecedented, and now we’re learning some very important lessons for the future.”
Perhaps the biggest lesson of all—companies cannot rely on just one supplier or be too dependent on one area of the world. Now, they’ll be forced to rethink and reorganize their supply chains.
“The resiliency that companies build into their systems is what’s going to save them when these shocks inevitably happen again. Supply chain management professionals are going to become even more important moving forward as firms recognize how vulnerable they are and begin to correct the deficiencies in their supply chains.”
In addition to the undergraduate major, DeSales also offers supply chain management as an MBA concentration and graduate certificate, and undergrads have the option to complete an accelerated BS to MBA, which can be finished in as little as four-and-a-half years.
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