One thing that has become abundantly clear over the last year is just how fragile our global supply chain is.
- Covid lockdowns froze up the train yards and docks creating a shipping backlog, spiking costs and adding delays on all imports
- hoarding of toilet paper made it a scarse resource
- Snow in Texas disrupted all vehicle traffic for weeks
- National first interests restricted availability of PPE and vaccines
- ransomware on gas pipeline triggered a run on gas stations and fuel outages
- Suez blockage prevented $9.6B worth of trade
- Chip shortages are causing car factories to furlough workers waiting for parts
- Lumber prices spiked 4x
We discovered that our globalized marketplace based on finding the best prices for things wherever in the world they can be done is more fragile than it should be. Instead of being globally distributed and efficient it is focused centralization and adds dependence on a lot of risk factors. Clearly we should be finding solutions to add resiliancy to global supply chains.
Resiliancy comes from having multiple options available and the flexibility to quickly change suppliers that are located in different countries. The closer businesses can be to their suppliers the lower the logistical risk. For many decades the focus on local commerce has been on food (at least here where I live). “Buy local” often refers the farmers markets for fresh locally grown produce and for artisan produced wares.
Much more needs to be done and it is something I’d like to find a way to play a part in.
There is a real need to fill in the gaps on the production of products where we rely heavily on imports. But that’s such a wide open problem that it’s hard to know what actionable things any of us could do to help. Some areas I’m trying to brainstorm on:
- Is there something that could be done to make adding robots to factories, quick, easy and less daunting?
- Could something be built to help find suppliers and lower the barrier to getting deals done?
- Are there any industrial machines I could buy to scale up my own manufacturing business?
Over the next few years I think and hope that investment money will allocate to solidifying local supply chains for the critical goods that have been off-shored. Bring that critical stuff back while remaining competitive through the use of more automation. It’s a wave I’m looking for a way to participate in.