With Greece in flames after passing an austerity measure to avoid fiscal insolvency yesterday, I naturally thought, “What lessons can be learned from this example that we can apply to supply chain management?”

At first, it appeared that nothing could be learned, but then CNBC noted that the law enforcement agencies in Greece are running out of tear gas and are currently considering where they can get more, or what can be used as a replacement. The fact that Greece is running out of the primary ingredient for combating civil unrest should be a wakeup call to leaders in other parts of the world, including the U.S. So how can countries ensure a steady supply of tear gas, not to mention pepper spray, rubber bullets, and other ammo used to calm a rowdy electorate tired of their leader’s gross negligence?

First, the Greece debacle makes it evidently clear that all the interested parties need to be at the table when dealing with supply chain issues. Once leaders in Greek parliament knew the austerity measure was going to pass, they should have given a heads up to the riot police. With some advanced notice, the riot team could have snapped into action, ordering additional supplies without having to deal with expedited fees. Given the financial trouble this country is having, a little extra time could have cut those costs significantly.

Second, plan ahead – Greek leaders must have known for months that there was going to be a lot of negative feedback associated with their severe fiscal mismanagement. They could have setup a vendor managed inventory or consignment program, ensuring more than enough tear gas was readily available to combat the consequences of their policies, and only paying for the inventory once it is used! Heck, they even could have gotten some unit price concessions or bulk discounts based on the expected increase in volume.

Third, consider the total cost of ownership. How much is the austerity measure really going to save Greece? Did parliament factor in the cost associated to all that extra tear gas (plus expedited fees), not to mention the riot cleanup, when they put the plan together? Based on their recent history in this area, I am betting they didn’t.

If Obama does one thing right over the course of his four years in office, it will be to start planning for civil unrest now. After all, no leader wants to be forced into listening to their own people, simply because they didn’t have enough ammunition to keep them quiet.
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Joe Payne

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  1. Ok, well done. My first take was that you had written a serious piece about how police states should be better prepared to crush their people. (Really?!!) But you actually have done a nice job of alluding to the absurdity of it all, from a details/logistics viewpoint. Bravo…