Supply chain amid COVID-19: When will shelves be fully restocked?

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — If you’ve been to the store lately, you know there’s a shortage of many items.

Patrick Penfield, Supply Chain Management Professor of Practice at Syracuse University, has been in the industry for more than 15 years, and he said he’s never seen anything like this.

“We call this a ‘black swan event.’ A black swan event is something that just never happened before. It’s just one of those once in a lifetime situations, but we’ve never ever ever encountered anything like this in our lifetimes,” Penfield explained.

Ever since COVID-19 made its way to the United States, the country has seen a significant uptick in panic buying, especially for items like toilet paper and disinfectant wipes. This has ultimately caused stress on the manufacturers.

“I don’t really see them [disinfectant wipes/cleaning supplies] being on the shelves until the summer and I would say late summer, maybe July, August. That’s because the demand is so great,” Penfield explained.

And this all depends on when and if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall.

If it happens, we should hopefully have some plans in place that we’re able to adjust and make sure that we get through the situation, and not have it may be as painful as right now. That’s hopefully my expectation, that companies are looking and trying to understand, ‘okay how can we make sure that we’re in better shape.

Patrick Penfield, Professor of Practice, Supply Chain Management, Syracuse University

When the COVID-19 pandemic first came to be, there were only slight disruptions to the supply chain, but as the virus made its way from country to country, as a whole, the global economy has taken a hit.

The Unites States’ three largest trading partners are Canada, China and Mexico.

When the initial outbreak of COVID-19 happened in China, Penfield said we started to see disruptions in our supply chain right after around the Chinese New Year.

However, to speak to where the United States stands now, the country is trying to deal with these disruptions. One of those, coming from Mexico, our biggest supplier according to Penfield.

“It could be quite the concern, again, if Mexico is hit as severely as we’re hit. So hopefully that won’t happen but it’ll cause some major disruptions in the supply chain. I think the first to feel it would probably be the automotive industry.”

However, the main industry that has been impacted is retail.

Clothes, toys, basic chemicals and electronics are all mass-produced in China, which then the United States experienced a halt in receiving those items when China was at their peak of the pandemic.

Penfield said China is a barometer we can use for insight as to what a restart and economic recovery can look like here in the United States.

In the meantime, Penfield said we all play a role and we can help ease the demand on the supply chain. He suggests we only buy what we need.

There will be more. We have a very good supply chain system, even though it’s very stressed right now within the United States, but I think if you could look out for your neighbor and help them by just buying what you need, we’ll all be in better shape for that.

Patrick Penfield, Professor of Practice, Supply Chain Management, Syracuse University

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