Monday, November 5, 2012

Sustaining Supply Chains in Disasters and Post Hurricane Sandy

One week after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the mid-Atlantic states of the United States there are still over a million electric power outages.

With cold temperatures, shortages of fuel for both vehicles and generators, and now a shelter crisis, due to so many homes being destroyed in parts of  New York and New Jersey, and major impacts on transportation infrastructure from bridges to subways, plus a nor'easter storm forecast for mid-week, I am wondering why more was not done and is not being done to help those in the recovery process.

Our relatives in New Jersey are still without power one week after losing it and friends have had to seek shelter since they are now homeless.

Clearly,  there are issues of serious resource misallocations as well as information shortages, among other shortages. Trained personnel are needed to restore power where it is needed and fuel needs to be transported and people informed as to where they can obtain it. Information needs to be provided to those who have lost their abilities to receive news and to receive communications electronically.

There are also questions, in certain communities,  surrounding how, if any, prioritization was done, in terms of restoring electric power, delivering fuel and other resources.

Commercial supply chains are different from humanitarian ones  and  we need to learn from previous disasters.

Different organizations can accomplish much more through synergistic teaming.  and it is good to see the military, including the National Guard, making extraordinary efforts to assist after this extraordinary disaster.

I was interviewed by Mr. Michael Breen for an AMS podcast on Sustaining the Supply Chain and the podcast can be accessed here.

There was also a recent special issue of the journal Transportation Research A on Network Vulnerability of Large-Scale Transport Networks in which Patrick Qiang and I published the paper, A bi-criteria indicator to assess supply chain network performance for critical needs under capacity and demand disruptions.

In this paper,  we constructed  a performance indicator in the case that demands for critical needs products (water, food, medicines, etc.) can be satis fied. We then considered the case when not all the demands can be satis fied and de fined another performance indicator. In order to assist cognizant organizations, such as governments, relevant corporations, and NGOs, to better manage critical needs supply chains, a bi-criteria performance indicator was, subsequently, proposed in this paper. This indicator synthesizes the preceding two in that it considers the following factors:

  • Supply chain capacities may be a ffected by disruptions;
  • Demands may be a ffected by disruptions; and
  • Disruption scenarios are categorized into two types.
We also showed how our supply chain performance indicators could be applied in practice and now we are seeing yet another disaster. More severe scenarios can be expected, given climate change, which is upon us and our communities. 

Time to harness all of our energies and expertise to minimize the damages, the pain, and the suffering.