"Reading between the supply chain lines" offers a look at the news through the lens of a supply chain professional. There is often more to a headline than meets the eye. The commentary below illustrates the impact of major news headlines on procurement professionals and supply chain leaders.
Competitors cooperate on vaccine manufacturing
When I read that Merck was going to help Johnson & Johnson produce COVID-19 vaccines, it reminded me of the great dry cleaning collaboration of 1972.
My uncle and my father owned competing dry-cleaning stores in an urban New Jersey city. When a piece of my uncle's equipment broke down, my father was urged by my mother do her brother's pressing until his equipment was fixed. When Dad, looking for a competitive advantage, asked why, Mom replied in no uncertain times. "Because we are all getting together for Thanksgiving next week, that's why."
It seems that the White House played Mom and Dad in some recent conversations to make sure long-time competitors worked together for the good of the American people. If they didn't agree, the Defense Production Act would have compelled the collaboration. "Volunteering" looks a lot better in the press than the alternative.
Competitors work together in formal or informal ways. I once hosted a bidder's conference where I brought four competitors together to review a bid package. I was nervous about their relationship, until I heard them all laughing in the lobby. Not only did they all know each other, they belonged to the same trade association, played golf together and vacationed together.
In these times of COVID-related supply chain constraints, it is not unreasonable to check to see if your suppliers can work within their competitor network to help you out. Just ask Mom and Dad.
MIT, Walmart collaborate on supply chain education
Walmart has partnered the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics to create a custom course in supply chain management for 80 of Walmart's supply chain associates.
According to a release from MIT, this program is targeted at an underrepresented community, not only at Walmart but in the supply chain management profession in general. It is funded by Women of Supply Chain and People of Color, two Walmart associate groups. Those participating in the program are in the company's leadership track.
Employee development programs and tuition reimbursement are often the first casualties of the economic uncertainty in times like now. So, it is heartening to see Walmart investing in supply chain employees. This program is large enough that Walmart can work with MIT to focus the curriculum on Walmart's needs.
There are many winners here: Walmart, MIT and the employees. And let's not forget customers and suppliers who will benefit from supply chain efficiencies.
These sponsored programs are not the only way procurement and supply chain employees can seek professional development. Join virtual associations, seek professional credentials through certification and become subject matter experts. Apply for a slot in a degree program. Network and stay current.
I've seen too many employees wait around for their companies to pay for their training; some waiting forever. Invest in yourself, even if your company won't. It's the professionally responsible thing to do.
Mission to Mars
In between Zoom meetings, home-schooling, pandemic dangers, political turmoil and spending hours jockeying for a COVID-19 vaccine, you may have missed NASA's spectacular success in landing an autonomous vehicle, including a helicopter, on Mars. You can check out some of the pictures from Mars here.
These massive missions are a culmination of science, technology, engineering and a large and dedicated supply chain. The spacecraft was launched on July 30, 2020 and landed on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. But the actual planning and manufacturing started many, many years ago.
We call them missions because of their complexity and grandeur. Missions denote a shared experience. But like any other manufacturing project, I'm sure there were cost constraints, quality issues and expediting late supplier deliveries. Just maybe, the products manufactured by your company, or your suppliers, may have found themselves involved in some way in this mission. They may even be on Percy, the name of the autonomous vehicle.
We tend to get lost in the weeds. Sometimes we need to look at the sky for perspective.