A Perspective – The Impact of COVID-19 on U.S. Manufacturing Supply Chains

A fictionalized movie version of today’s reality, “Outbreak” begins with a quote by molecular biologist Nobel laurate Joshua Ledberg (1958) that has always resonated with me: “The single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on the planet is the virus. When this sinks in, all of us must now ask ourselves what we are doing in this moment and preparing for the next one.

Our collective response to COVID-19 has forced a new paradigm in how we see the world and God’s planet Earth. I would love to be talking about the success of DMSCA2020 – “The Manufacturing Supplier Development Conference – Resiliency-Sustainability-Technology” held in Scottsdale, AZ this past March 26-28th, but waited to do so until people could re-focus their attention beyond COVID-19. But that isn’t going to happen — not for me, not for anyone. COVID-19 will change us forever and is more than our “9-11” moment, it’s about our perspectives on survival.

Pandemics have been with us before, but COVID-19 is more impactful on our daily lives and presents a challenge to leadership at all levels and shines the light on how we respond, not just today, but tomorrow — and there will be a tomorrow, as COVID-19 could possibly be just a dry run. Within this larger context, never has the world’s reliance on manufacturing and the supply chains within which they operate been more evident and necessary. Nature’s gauntlet has been thrown down and the opportunity for small and medium sized manufacturers to demonstrate their competitiveness, value, and resiliency has never been greater. According to The National Law Review, the collective wisdom of researchers from all corners is that manufacturing will according to become the “life-line of our country for two reasons. First, manufacturers will be relied upon to produce much needed supplies, both medical and home-essential supplies. Second, manufacturers will be critical to keeping the supply chains from grinding to a standstill”.

For our collective defense against COVID-19, the U.S. Government has declared that essential industries include: health care and public health, including hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, pharmacies, testing facilities, and those that work to build, invent, manufacture, or distribute the tools, devices, and equipment that these industries need, such as medical and cleaning equipment; contracted vendors; food and agriculture, including grocery stores, restaurants with delivery, food manufacturers, farms, veterinarians, and those that manufacture products used in the creation, planting, distributing, testing and growing, of food and food distribution supplies; those in the energy industry, including natural gas, nuclear, petroleum workers; transportation and logistics; hazardous materials; chemical production; the defense base industry; and those involved in the critical manufacturing of materials and products needed in the supply chains of the already identified industries. Critically for businesses and manufacturers, if they sell, manufacture, deliver, distribute, or otherwise provide goods or services for these industries or for a component of the supply chains that service these “essential business” industries, such entities are also considered “essential businesses.”

When the need for access to these products and services is “now,” supply chains unencumbered by the limitations of reliance on non-domestic sources is essential. The bottom line is that supply chains in the U.S. will

place more reliance on domestic manufacturing

increase mandates on resilient trading partners

require the rapid fusion of data and information

make performance transparency and risk detection a must

The opportunity for domestic small and mid-sized suppliers is immense. The opportunity for performance-driven and performance=managed manufacturing suppliers that just happen to be diverse may be even greater when playing fields are leveled through their strategic engagement with the support of serious-minded major corporations. Suppliers must compete not just on “who” they are, but “what” they are. Such is the mission of the Diverse Manufacturing Supply Chain Alliance through its Corporate Mentoring Program (CMP).

David J. Burton AICP, MCRP

Founder and President

Diverse Manufacturing Supply Chain Alliance (DMSCA)

For information about DMSCA and the Corporate Mentoring Program (CMP) Supplier Development and Supply Chain Excellence training program, contact David Burton at dburton@dmsca.us or send an inquiry to info@dmsca.us