Sunday, May 3, 2009

Supply chain risk management and the swine flu

Given the escalating news about the swine flu, I thought that, as a researcher in supply chains and risk management, it would be wise to step back and to think about the major issues. Already in our town of Amherst, Massachusetts, stores have sold out of face masks and hand sanitizers and the demand for these products is, obviously, great. We are reading about travelers from Mexico being isolated as they arrive in China and a hotel in Hong Kong essentially quarantined along with its guests. Clearly, corporations as well as governments will be faced with how best to deliver needed supplies, in the case of an escalating health crisis, while, at the same time, trying to minimize risk. Here we can think of risk in a broad sense and even include the risk of contagion and spreading the disease.

In 2005, we published a paper in the European Journal of Operational Research, which developed a framework that captured the interactions of decision-makers in multitiered supply chains under risk and uncertainty and also allowed for electronic commerce. I suspect, given the reality of the swine flu and its spread, that we will be seeing more electronic transactions and communications, since "social distancing" is one way of stemming the dissemination of contagious illnesses. The spread of the swine flu is now global in nature and the impact on supply chains, hence, can also be expected to be global. Here you can read about our global supply chain network research and risk management where we also discussed SARS. Clearly, the issues are dynamic in nature, and it will be very interesting to see how this latest global health crisis affects the production of goods and supply chains, including humanitarian ones. In a study on the dynamics of global supply chains and risk management we track the evolution over time of decision-makers' optimal decisions under risk and uncertainty.