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Wednesday
Apr122006

Supply Chain Management and the Pandemic

In an interesting 'blog entry at InfoWorld's Tech Watch, Paul Roberts describes a session at MIT. When/If H5N1 "jumps the fence" and becomes communicable directly between humans, one of the less considered and potentially most disruptive results of the pandemic is the disruption in commerce and particularly the traffic in staple goods.

We're so dependent on lean supply chains, and playing in the international/global markets, that minor disruptions take on the trappings of a commercial disaster. I'm concerned that when human travel or the transport of goods is curtailed, the "work-arounds" have not been considered and certainly the contingency planning is very scanty. It's important that the CTL exercise gets publicity, if for no other reason than to raise visibility and get some of the right folks focused on addressing these contingencies.


Supply Chain Management and the end of the world



For most of the last decade, "virus" has meant one thing to those of us who cover the IT sector: computer viruses -- malicious programs that propagate between machines connected on a LAN or, more recently, on the Internet. You know what I'm talking about -- all the dudes with the funky names: W32.Blaster, W32.Slammer, W32.Sobig. But the folks over at MIT's Center for Transportation and Logistics have some new letters to wrap your brain around: H5N1. H5N1, as you know, is the specific strain of the influence virus that responsible for the recent Avian Influenza outbreaks that have killed untold numbers of our feathered friends in Asia, Africa and Europe, as well as some humans -- mostly among farmers and those who work with poultry in countries like Vietnam, China, and Turkey.



Why are a bunch of academics who study logistics interested in influenza, you ask? Well, if you think H5N1 is tough on chickens, you should see what it will do to your supply chain! At least, that was the message from the CTL's event today in Cambridge, MA, entitled "At the Crossroads of Supply Chain and Strategy: Simulating Disruption to Business Recovery.



In a fascinating session moderated by Mary Pimm, who runs Intel Corp.'s Corporate Emergency Operations Center, executives from Intel, EMC and Arnold Communications war gamed a simulated H5N1 and its impact on an imaginary mobile phone company, Vaxxon Corp., which gets sucked into an media-epidemiological (explitive) storm after workers at a Vaxxon supplier in mainland China begin dying from H5N1.



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