Much like almost everything else in life and business these days, the supply chain has been experiencing some wild swings between positive and negative news in recent weeks. Some experts believe the industry has been extremely responsive to the coronavirus crisis, while others note that there are signs of stress - and while both are certainly true depending upon the angle from which it's being viewed, that has nonetheless led to some uneven performance.
For instance, after initially taking a hit in many parts of the country, stores large and small are now seeing their shipment levels return to normal, according to Austin, Texas, television station KXAN. When the downturn first hit and supply chain businesses were having trouble meeting staffing goals, that wasn't always the case, and even big-name stores like the grocer H-E-B had to scale back hours and offerings simply because they couldn't keep up with shifting consumer demands.
While some may still limit the quantities of certain items that individual customers can buy, most are more or less back to where they were before the crisis hit, the report said. Of course, most stores are still following all reasonable protocols around consumer and employee safety and hygiene, and many larger chains are also offering extended hours for senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems, all of which helps keep them responsive to current and emerging trends alike.
While many stores are now able to get back to normal operations, the producers on which they rely may not have been so lucky in some cases, according to The Washington Post. Meat processors, for instance, have been receiving a lot of negative attention in recent weeks because some - among the largest producers in the nation - have become hotspots for spreading coronavirus, understandably leading to plant closures and severe slowdowns in operations.
Indeed, some industry estimates project that the national meat supply has declined "by at least 25%," The Post noted, and these disruptions have hit numerous locales, including in Washington, Colorado, Iowa, Texas, Indiana, Georgia and more. These trends could also continue as more testing is completed and potentially hundreds of workers test positive for the novel coronavirus.
The big picture
Perhaps most problematically for the supply chain sector is that the major disruptions at many steps of the chain have been thrown into chaos, according to The Verge. The analytics and data that feed complex algorithms used by the largest members of the supply chain simply aren't built to respond to current conditions and that information, at some point, began to become so unreliable as to be more or less useless.
"When you have something like COVID-19, it's just a total outlier," Joel Beal, the co-founder of the consumer goods analytics company Alloy," told the site. "No model can predict that."
With all this in mind, companies can only do so much to prepare for each unique circumstance, but should nonetheless strive to be reactive to whatever comes their way as the pandemic continues.