Observation Deck: Making Sense of the Changes

By Graham Garrison

At the beginning of September, FedEx Corp. announced plans to hire about 70,000 seasonal workers to handle what it was anticipating to be an unprecedented level of holiday deliveries. According to a Bloomberg report:

The courier has already added thousands of workers to keep up with a jump in deliveries as consumers order more online because of coronavirus concerns. FedEx’s U.S. ground deliveries rose 20% in the quarter through May from a year earlier. The company will probably match or exceed that for its fiscal first quarter, which ended in August.

Stories like that are becoming commonplace across industries and marketplaces in America. Online commerce has exploded, while the rate of decline with traditional retail chains has accelerated. Some businesses are shuttering while others are finding it difficult to keep up with a huge spike in demand. Indeed, the U.S. healthcare system may be at the epicenter of it. I think of the quote Brent Petty said he heard during industry discussions: “We went through five years of change in 120 days.”

The positive piece of the change is the pandemic has thrust the supply chain back into the limelight in a way not seen since the Affordable Care Act launched, he said. Prior to the pandemic, when supply chain did its job well, few headlines were generated. But now? The successes and failures of supply chain teams and suppliers are front and center to not just the industry, but the public as well.

In this issue we cover some of those spotlight issues, such as the effect of delayed medical care for the public, the anticipated arrival of a vaccine, and the long-term projections of supply chain models like Just-in-Time.

We may not have all the answers yet, but based off of our conversations with supply chain leaders, we’re beginning to have the right questions being asked.