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COVID-19 and The Supply Chain

Keeping New Jersey moving forward in a crisis.

Supply Chain works to keep shelves stocked and packages moving to arrive at your door. What it takes to make this happen, is not something the average person usually thinks about.  Even people that have worked in this industry for years probably never realized the full scope of our dependency on them.

Over the past few weeks, we have all heard about how essential our supply chain is to food, medicine, toiletries and all the other items we use in our daily lives.  This is a topic that much of the world never took into consideration until now.  The Supply Chain affects everyone, and yet very few are familiar with the term and how it relates to their daily lives. The convenience of going to the store or clicking a mouse to receive whatever you desire, is the result of a vast network of people and machinery working seamlessly together.

Products from around the world travel to factory floors, warehouses and distribution centers. Some products are then manufactured while others move quickly, like food, from a farm to a network of warehouses and then to your local grocer. Items like produce, meat and fish are moved by trucks, boats and even planes to warehouses and distribution centers where forklifts race to receive and breakdown orders in just the right quantities for your local store. Buyers use software to track usage, predict sales, and stock the shelves. The reason shelves go empty in times of crisis is because the normal buying patterns spike and the supply chain needs time to react. In the short term, the supply is disrupted. During a snowstorm or tropical storm, the disruption is as little as a day. This pandemic is taking a herculean effort to not only meet the needs of our daily lives, but to also support our health care system. Companies like Wakefern, headquartered in Keasby, NJ are working hard to meet the increased demands while aiding the Governor’s office to move hospital equipment.  Some companies have pledged to produce new equipment in their factories, fly planes to move products quicker and share technology to produce equipment faster.

Other items like clothing and consumer goods have longer lead times. Orders for clothing, TVs and seasonal items are predicted and created months in advance.  As these items arrive at the warehousing and distribution facilities, they need to have space to store them until we return to normal levels of use.  These facilities cannot leave the items on their docks clogging up their ability to ship the items that are needed to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic.  Many consumers have moved to ordering personal care, pharmacy, and food on-line. This shift has created tremendous demand within these warehouses.

On-line powerhouses like Walmart and Amazon have been shipping at record levels as the buying habits of many have shifted. The web of manufacturing facilities, shipping, distribution centers, and delivery vehicles have been relatively quick to react in the short term. There will be a review of our dependence on critical items that are manufactured outside the U.S. This pandemic will likely lead to a resurgence of American-made, and in many cases, NJ-made products that will shorten the supply chain and eliminate uncertainty. The Harvard Business review reports that the U.S. supply chain contains 37% of all jobs, employing 44 million people.  These 44 million people are working harder than ever to keep New Jersey and our country moving forward.

With all this additional strain being placed on our supply chain it is imperative that companies that support them continue to do so.  From the mechanic that keeps the trucks running, the planes flying and the trains moving to the maintenance person that troubleshoots and repairs a conveyor system in the middle of the night. It is this support structure that ensures these items are getting to where they need to be. Companies like ABCO Systems, located in Belleville, have teams of service technicians repairing conveyors and automation equipment, keeping essential businesses up and running.  Their engineers have even sourced and designed temporary systems to meet the spike in demand.