“Clothes are torn and tattered

Narantsetseg Tsedendorj

Narantsetseg Tsedendorj says it’s hard to find a particular item to buy

She has to withstand the winter temperatures dropping to -30 ° C (-22F), so it’s understandable why Narantseg Zedendorge was worried that she couldn’t buy new gloves.

“The clothes are torn, tattered, and no work gloves can be found,” she says.

Tsedendorj is a wild goatherd in Mongolia and has helped maintain his position as the world’s second largest exporter of cashmere hair after China.

You may think that her life is a world far from you, but in many ways you are right. But what Tsedendorj has in common with most of us is that even one corner of the globe is suffering from a product shortage caused by a coronavirus pandemic.

Most of us saw supermarket shelves empty at the beginning of the outbreak last year, but in inland Mongolia food, fuel and clothing (although apparently cashmere is not included). The situation is more serious given that we are importing a lot of.

The Mongolian government’s prioritization of food imports has created shortages in other regions, followed by price increases.

“Mongolia is overly dependent on foreign markets, which is now clear,” says Tsedendorj. “All prices are soaring and I can’t find what to buy”

Empty shelves in a supermarket in Sainsbury's, London, March 2020

Many items fell off the shelves of British supermarkets last March.

Global supply chain management is not something most of us think of unless things go wrong and result in shortages. This is because lockdowns restricted the movement of goods and people at the same time that people panicked during the pandemic.

What can you do to strengthen your chain and not run out in the future?

“Many companies were caught up in a pandemic and couldn’t cope with the massive shock,” said Dr. Laura Purvis, who specializes in supply chain management at Cardiff University.

She gives an example of a British supermarket that stocks goods according to projected demand. “These forecasts have been made for quite some time and are tightly controlled to maximize shelf availability and minimize product obsolescence.”

The pandemic has boosted demand for certain products, such as canned foods and toilet paper. Other products, such as ready-made sandwiches, were significantly reduced because people weren’t out. Some supply chains have collapsed due to reduced transportation.

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Dr. Purvis says supermarkets and other retailers need to add suppliers to their broader, more digital supply chain monitoring and feedback systems. That way, data about changing demand is returned to the supplier much faster.

She says this increases “transparency,” but warns that some retailers are resisting this idea. “While the importance of transparency throughout the supply chain is well recognized, it is not always easy to implement.

“Companies may hesitate to share information with their suppliers, worried that they may lose their competitive advantage, and between cultural differences, work practices and the different computer platforms adopted. Incompatibilities, especially in essentially global supply chains, everything can be impacted as a barrier to transparency.

“This can make organizations unaware of supply chain risks or remain vulnerable late.”

Now, companies can use barcodes and wireless identification to know the exact location of everything in the supply chain where digital data is encoded in tags and smart labels. “Digitalization is at the heart of a successful supply chain.”

Global sportswear giant Nike has already invested heavily in the digitization of its supply chain and was able to respond quickly in the event of a pandemic.

We knew exactly where our products were and quickly transferred them from the physical store ready to sell online to the warehouse.

Nike trainer

Nike has moved inventory out of the store and made it available for sale online instead

More and more companies are trying to follow in the footsteps of Nike. According to a February survey by accounting group Ernst & Young. It turns out that many people are paying attention to the use of robots in distribution centers and drones for delivery, in addition to artificial intelligence computer systems.

But technology doesn’t have to be that advanced to strengthen the supply chain. For example, when plant and gardening sales surged last spring and summer, the UK gardening center Squire’s made regular video calls to its suppliers.

“The Microsoft Teams meeting allowed us to make direct updates with our suppliers and make faster decisions,” said Darran Oakley, Squire’s Director of Purchasing. “Virtual meetings have enabled closer contact with our suppliers and strengthened our relationships.”

Sarah Squire, chairman of Squire, adds that the company is also trying to shorten its supply chain. “80% of our plants are grown in the UK, and many are very locally grown,” she says. “For other products, we know we need to shorten our supply lines and reduce imports in the future.”

Sarah Land, a think tank at the McKinsey Global Institute and principal investigator on trade and globalization, said Covid allowed companies to “look through the entire supply chain from start to finish to get a complete picture of their vulnerabilities.” Stated.

Sarah Squire

Sarah Squire says her family-owned garden center is working to further shorten the supply chain

The chocolate giant Mars is doing exactly this. “We have been working with NGOs for many years. [non-government organisation] Partner, [global poverty charity] “Care,” said Lisa Manly, vice president of sustainability on Mars.

“We deploy personal protective equipment, health and safety messages, food rations and, in some cases, cash to vulnerable supply chain regions in Africa, Thailand, India and Latin America.

“[And] We interviewed agribusiness leaders and their NGO partners to produce a report on procurement practices that help build the resilience of the supply chain. “

Gelato, a Norwegian company, wants to improve supply chain resilience by significantly shortening its supply chain. The software makes it easy for e-commerce manufacturers of physical products such as clothing, murals and books to connect with manufacturers around the world.

For example, if a UK art print seller receives an order from a Brazilian, he or she does not have to ship the item thousands of miles from the UK and prints and delivers the artwork to a Brazilian company. You can get it.

Henrik Müller-Hansen, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gelato, said:

A child staring at a cashmere goat pen in southern Mongolia

Mongolia also had to deal with the slump in global demand for cashmere.

Returning to Mongolia, nomads like Mr. Tsedendorji have witnessed a pandemic damaging cashmere exports. Global demand has fallen due to the closure of fashion stores, and people at home are refraining from buying luxury goods.

She wants wool sales and domestic and international supply chains to return to normal soon. “The standard of living is declining and nomads are in a difficult situation.”

Additional report by Will Smale.

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