COVID-19 Experiences and Perspectives

I reached out to the Board of Advisors (and other corporate connections) of the SCM Center to share their experiences during the last couple of months. As you will observe, we can learn a lot from such shared experiences from multi-dimensional perspectives. Insights into the status of consumer product, education, grocery store, health-care, and transportation supply chains are offered and in addition, shared personal perspectives illustrate how all of us are coping withe stay-at-home/lock-down orders.

Amiya Basu, Founder and Managing Member, Cognitive Investments LLC

I was visiting my parents in Kolkata, India as part of my yearly ritual. This time the visit was a little longer since my next supply chain project was about to get started in Saudi Arabia. And now I got stuck in Kolkata, India due to this COVID-19 pandemic.

I have been speaking with my colleagues and a few clients regarding their businesses focused around supply chain planning. Some observations:

· For most of the companies the supply chain planning activities are no longer following traditional S&OP process with monthly cadence.

· The monthly S&OP meetings are being substituted by ad hoc planning sessions on daily basis.

Interestingly, business transformation programs (big time ERP implementation programs) are continuing as per pre pandemic project plan while allowing the implementation consultants to be 100% off site including functional program managers. In 20 years of my professional experience, I have never witnessed a business transformation program where the functional program managers (not the implementation technical consultants) are operating in 100% off site model. Some companies are thinking of overhauling their supply chain via a supply chain transformation program. As a matter of fact, I just submitted one proposal and awaiting their decision.

Some personal experiences:

· An extension of my parents’ condo in Kolkata, India was in progress when Indian Government declared country wide total lockdown. This lockdown is very different than the one imposed in US. Most US lockdowns are mandated as “Shelter-In-Place” lockdown where you are allowed to go out for physical activities while maintaining social distances but in India you are not allowed to go out at all except for groceries, that too once a day.

· The construction project related to the extension of my parents’ condo got halted right after pouring concrete in foundation pit. Thus, we are living with a 15’ X 10’ X 4’ hole right in front of my parents’ condo since no workers are allowed working on this project during lockdown.

· Interestingly, this lockdown is going on for 36 days straight and we are still living with that big hole in front of my parents’ condo building with no visible solutions for another couple of weeks.

I have never believed in the concept of entire world being stopped due to a pandemic spreading virus. I always thought that this can only be the imaginations of some brilliant Hollywood script writers but this will never happen in reality. I was gravely mistaken.

There is no question that this pandemic will propagate some structural shift in both supply chain planning and existing supply chain network via a thorough redesign. Question is how much will be the shift and how quickly that will be implemented.

Tedd Comerford, AVP Supply Chain Services, UF&Shands

I dislike using the word surreal but that is how this feels. I walk outside my house and everything seems normal until you go somewhere people are gathered (grocery store, home improvement) and you have to wait in line six feet apart with both masked and unmasked strangers for permission to be approved to enter.

Professionally, there was an immediate need to evaluate supplies at UF Health, specifically personal protective equipment (PPE). We knew for sure that procedural masks, N95 masks and face/eye protection was immediately needed for team members, and eventually visitors, at a usage rate never before seen. Procuring sufficient PPE was complicated by the fact that all normal medical/surgical suppliers were already placing health systems on very restricted allocation. I felt we may be in trouble. But then three things happened:

A professional colleague of 35 years called me and said he had access to 200K procedural masks form China and he could have it here in 4 days if I was interested. I trusted him and we bought them. They were great quality and gave us time to plan. Secondly, the local county Emergency Management had a stockpile of N95 masks and gave us 3 months’ worth at our new, increased utilization rate.

The UF Community began to donate PPE and invent appropriate PPE items using their own intelligent and innovative minds (masks, face shields, protective shrouds, COVID-19 Test Kit Components) (I will gladly bring some for show and tell)!

Personally, it is very difficult not being able to visit your friends and family, go camping or visit the beach. I definitely took this for granted. My daughter was supposed to have a big wedding in Nashville, TN this past Saturday, April 25. Instead we have a Zoom wedding with about 25 people. It was nice but nothing like what we planned. But that is okay. I will say It is awkward meeting critical people at work who are positively impacting our organization and not honoring them by shaking hands. Lastly, my wife said she has heard two words said on the news more than any other time – Supply Chain : )

Dr. Susan D’Costa, Head of Process and Analytical Development for Viral Vector Services, Thermo Fisher Scientific

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a singular trigger that has brought the entire world together to join forces in understanding the gaps in the biology of the virus, pandemic preparedness, health care, supply chain logistics and so much more. Professionally, as part of an industry focused on manufacturing drug products for genetic and rare diseases, it has been an unprecedented experience ensuring business continuity to provide therapeutic drugs for our customers and their patients while still balancing the safety of our staff. To this end, we have focused on ensuring our staff essential to manufacturing can work on site in a safe manner while our non-essential staff continue to work from home. Additionally, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s diagnostics team has quickly and effectively supplied a rapid diagnostics test for COVID-19 detection. Over 5 million of these kits have been produced and supplied not only to FDA approved laboratories but to laboratories across the globe. Finally, the Pharma services group at Thermo Fisher continues to partner with other industry leaders to manufacture therapeutics and vaccines to combat this pandemic.

On a personal front, we are very fortunate and blessed to have amenities and staples that allow us to Shelter in Place effectively. My husband and I are able to work from home for the most part and our daughters have been able to continue learning through the virtual program put in place by the Alachua county school board. We have continued to bond as a family and have used this time to take walks and work in the yard making it the best it has ever been! There is a lot to learn from this pandemic especially for me as a scientist but also as a citizen of this world. We need to continue funding science to help understand emerging infections. Also, I hope we fill work toward shoring up the gaps identified here in terms of health care, preparedness and logistics. On a positive note, someone somewhere is collecting data for a virtual world in the future especially for the way we work and the way we learn!

Walter Garvin, Professor of Practice, Clemson University

Fortunately, I have not had any of the COVID-19 symptoms nor do I know anyone that has had the symptoms. So my knowledge is based off the news and various press conferences from the President and various Governors. With that said, we all understand the gravity of the situation on our fellow citizens. I see everyone doing their part to through this period.

For the past 1.5 years, I have been teaching Industrial Engineering at Clemson University, but for 20 years before I worked at Jabil Inc in a global role. As Universities have gone to online teaching, this method of instruction is very similar from a communication standpoint to working in a global company. When working for a large multinational company, I was faced daily with communicating to people all over the world. However, I have found that many students are just experiencing this for the first time. I find this interesting as I always think of students being light years ahead of me from a technology standpoint and they probably are, but when faced with the current COVID-19 situation they are experiencing challenges like the rest of us. One item that really surprised me was that some students went home, which meant different time zones. So an 8am class is now 5am or 6am. This is a shocker, but welcome to the rest of your life!

While working at Jabil, I worked in China over 2 decades and actually lived in China for 2.5 years. I also worked in Wuhan, which is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. Although I worked all over China, I was based at a medical device facility. With this experience with China, I have been extremely interested the impact of the trade war and now the COVID-19 on our supply chain. I am convinced that there is already a major shift in global supply chains, so this is going to be fascinating to watch this happen and what that will mean to the world.

From a personal standpoint, I was interested in the hoarding of toilet paper. I never heard that COVID-19 caused diarrhea, but seriously this is interesting that the supply chain has not been able to resupply the store shelves. I have also been interested in some of the social distancing rules, so I think that some of these rules will continue or become part of our lives going forward. It will be very interesting to see how our lives change after this has fully passed. I am sure it will, but not totally clear on the full impact.

I wish all at UF and beyond all the best health and safety!

Kevin Kenney, VP-Business Performance, Florida Blue, Medicare Division

On March 11, 2020, the world of health care changed overnight. I was driving to the mountains of North Georgia to spend spring break with my family when I received a call from a co-worker informing me that the World Health Organization had just declared a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

Immediately, one begins to think of the safety of family, co-workers, and the people your business serves. Overnight, everyone’s world changes and you must adapt quickly to the changing environment.

As a health care professional at Florida Blue focused on the Medicare population, I am keenly aware of the challenges facing seniors during the pandemic. The CDC reports that 8 out of 10 COVID-related deaths reported in the U.S. have been adults 65 years old and older. Seniors are afraid to leave the security of their homes and are deeply in need of in-home services. Two of the most important needs are access to food and medical treatment.

Organizations that provide meal delivery services to seniors are stretched to the limit as demand has increased and the supply of volunteers has decreased. The Nassau County Council on Aging (, led by Janice Ancrum, has seen a 350% increase in the number of seniors requesting help. She and her team are now providing 3,300 meals per week to over 650 seniors.

Additionally, many primary care providers have shifted their capacity from in-person visits to telehealth. This provides another challenge to seniors, whose access to the technology used to support telehealth visits and social interactions is limited. To help solve this problem, Florida Blue is partnering with health care providers to equip our health insurance members with iPads so that they can access care from the safety of their home.

There are significant stressors on the health care system as it tries to support the aging population during this pandemic. But there are organizations and people that are working hard to meet the increased demands and needs of these at-risk individuals, and I’m proud of the innovative approach Florida Blue is taking to ensure our members have access to the care they need.

The uncertainty and lack of definition around COVID, especially as a husband and father, is a cause for concern. Compounding the issue for us, my youngest son has asthma, which puts him in a higher risk category. In an effort to keep everyone safe, we have chosen to tightly quarantine at home. While this has the upside of closeness and time spent together, it has also led to cabin fever and less fresh air and exercise for everyone. We constantly question whether we are doing the right thing and wonder when we will feel secure enough to start venturing out again.

My family is choosing to navigate this pandemic with positivity and to take care of ourselves, our loved ones, friends and neighbors. And my organization is stepping up in inspiring ways – and made an initial investment of more than $2 million to address urgent health and safety needs – to ensure that every community we serve feels supported. Through both regular (virtual) contact with each other as well as charitable donations and support for our local nonprofits wherever possible, we can –and are – making a difference.

Ram Marupudi, Enterprise Technologist & Digital Transformation Evangelist, Southeastern Grocers

The COVID-19, a global health emergency changed the way we live and we think, forcing individuals, governments and businesses to spring into action to protect themselves and others. As essential retailers, supermarket grocers continue to play an important role and make an impact on society, ensuring consumers are able to get the essential supplies.

With restaurants across the nation closed their doors, more meals are being eaten at home, further increasing the market share & demand on supermarket grocers. Anyone who has visited a grocery store over the past few weeks knows the coronavirus crisis has become an unprecedented challenge for food retailers. Consumers, fearing they might face lockdown orders at any time, have been stocking up on essentials at a time when retailers face supply chain disruptions resulting empty shelves. And as the COVID-19 crisis continues, the rituals of grocery shopping is changing. As more people stay at home to work, with kids to take care of, having groceries delivered become a lifesaver. An increasing number of consumers are turning to delivery, curbside and buy online pickup at store (BOPIS) options to meet their needs during a time of social distancing. In particular, those retailers who have viewed digital unified commerce as a secondary channel now need to reorient every aspect of their of their business towards a digital unified commerce mindset. There exists an opportunity to double-down on digital unified commerce, augmenting existing offerings and creating new lines of service. While this represents an opportunity to grow revenue, attract new customers and drive channel shift, it depends on digital channels and capabilities having appropriate scale to handle the rush.

During this pandemic, there are many valuable lessons we have learned on priorities of life, the need of empathy and compassion. Disrupting one’s usual routine for the benefit of others may not be everyone’s liking, but humans have been willing to make sacrifices to protect the health of others. The willingness to do so seems to be part of human nature and it is important that we do not lose hope and confidence in the constructive efforts so many are making. I hope and pray that after the world puts an end to COVID-19, let this journey be more humble, bring an end to hatred and prejudice that affects more humanity than anything.

Sam Nimah, CEO, Special Care Providers

Our company is currently treating COVID-19 patients, but only after they have been deemed no longer contagious. At Special Care Unit, we work within hospitals to liberate patients off the ventilator. As such, we are now seeing those patients who are recovering from their COVID-19 infection.

From a personal perspective, I have not had anyone in my family or friend group become sick with COVID-19. It does seem, however, that political lines have been drawn around the federal response to this crisis. As such, it has impacted friendships and relationships. It occurs to me that we should be banding together, instead of drifting apart.

From a business perspective, we have seen multiple impacts. First, one of our staff tested positive after become symptomatic at work. He was sent home, treated, recovered and is now back at work and healthy. Second, this scared many of our other employees. Several were concerned they had been exposed, subsequently were tested and were negative. Finally, one of our unit managers is also an Air Force reserve flight nurse who was called up to active duty with 72 hours notice. This left us with a significant void in leadership, with which we were forced to deal.

Overall, it has been a unique learning experience. We will study this event for decades.

Steve Strachota, COO, Ja-Ru Toys

COVID-19 has disrupted supply chains from factory to shelf edge as well as consumer purchasing patterns. Bearing the current test requires agility, effort and some good fortune. Ja-Ru is the leading impulse toy provider within the US (think super market aisle toys). Over 95% of our 1,000 products are sourced and manufactured in East Asia. COVID-19 began its disruption for Ja-Ru in January 2020 when Chinese workers were not allowed to return after their New Year celebrations. Factories shuttered and product flow violently stopped. US consumer demand outpaced supply capacity. The balance quickly shifted as the virus gained a foothold in the US and retailers closed or significantly curtailed their operations. Because of the Chinese efforts to contain the virus and re-open factories, supply capability now outpaces US consumer demand.

The situation highlights the unequal distribution of the virus’s impact depending on the disease lifecycle . A global supply chain requires adaptation based on the local situations. It is ironic China now prohibits travelers from the US and Europe to prevent reinfection – as opposed to 2 months ago the US banning travel into the States. Having dealt with the crisis, China’s factories are now the engine providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and they are on standby for a re-emergence of consumer demand from clothing, industrial products and yes.. toys.

On a personal note, COVID-19 has impacted mostly impacted routines and challenged ways of working. Thankfully the virus has not infected anyone close to me. My family and I are quickly learning what is really, really essential. We have found substitutes for eating out (take-away) , going to the gym (lifting buckets filled with sand), social gatherings (Zoom birthdays calls and Easter egg hunts), and toilet paper (no short term solution found). Hoping everyone stays safe and healthy as we stretch ourselves in new and innovative ways.

Dawn Watkins, Director of Strategic Sourcing, UF&Shands

Thank you for the opportunity to connect with others during this season. Like so many, I serve in multiple roles for my family, community, and employer. Each has been impacted differently by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have worked in various facets of supply chain over the past 24 years. In my current role, I serve alongside an amazing team that is responsible for the procurement of supplies and services for a large academic medical center. Although the circumstances we all face are difficult, the resulting collaboration and innovation has been awe-inspiring. Much of our energy has been focused on planning demand and assessing supply levels based on a wide spectrum of patient surge calculations. We are essentially preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.

My family consists of essential workers and most of us are working more hours. Although there has been a change in our schedules and social experiences, we are all healthy and adapting well to social distancing. In many ways, the pandemic has reset previous habits and increased our overall sense of social responsibility.

When I reflect on the past month, there are two emerging themes. First and foremost, humans are incredibly resilient and compassionate. Every person has a different roster of experience and these combined experiences make us stronger together. Second, our economies and supply chains are fragile. My hope is that we recognize vulnerabilities and work towards strengthening these areas in the future.