Towards responsible production and consumption: A disruptive quantitative and qualitative Supply chain approach

Efficient Supply chain practices such as lean systems, Just in time technologies which were developed and implemented by various companies in the world to ensure scarce resources are used to satisfy customers demands is proving incapable of continuously meeting customers’ demands because of disruptions and vulnerabilities of supply points such as plants and distribution centers.
 Some reasons that led to these are:

  • Sudden natural disasters at production sites e.g flood, earthquakes.
  • volatile currency exchange rates for companies. Thus, planning becomes erratic and forecasting models ( which often are incorrect) have to be used.
  • struggle for resources have led to various groups in developing countries agitating for ownership of production platforms leading to acts of terrorism on supply points.
  • Sporadic social unrest e.g. labour unrest by disgruntled persons which are very typical of developing countries which leads to riots and wilful damage of existing infrastructures of companies. Thus affecting supply
  • infrastructural decays and sudden change in technologies
Facility disruptions

The above instances given are among many reasons that lead to the disruptions.

Academicians have been able to propose numerous analytical, reliable, sustainable, and risk based expected costs models to ensure disruptions are taken into account. For example, in the field of Supply chain management and Engineering, numerous risk based optimization models with uncertainty at the supply, distribution, and demand points while considering social and environmental vulnerabilities have been developed. Furthermore, the idea of facility hardening, fortification and robust supply chain modelling being developed at the strategic levels of supply chains are all in a bid to ensure sustainability in production and consumption. The above discussions are the quantitative approaches propounded by academicians. A great deal of the approaches comes with assumptions and high level of abstractions that make their general use pretty difficult and for experts in the field. Moreover, the solutions are developed into computer optimization software which are often not free and come with expensive licence. As a result, there is a need to have, practicable, scalable and implementable model solutions for general use.

As a contrast to the above Ivory tower models, several proposed best practices have been developed with scalable and implementable ideas for general use, though optimality may not be guaranteed as is often the case for quantitative models. The qualitative practices involve developing efficient supplier processes and plans against supply risks. Some companies engage in frequent conversations with suppliers, others train their personnel to be quick to foresee processes, setups that can likely, constitute into disruptions of their supply. Lastly, when the disruptions have occurred some companies put measures in place to ensure lessons learnt are well documented to prevent repeat of the disruptions.

Conclusively, there should be a balance on when and to what extent the qualitative and quantitative approaches should be used.