It’s amazing what humans can achieve during times of crisis

It’s amazing what humans can achieve during times of crisis

Over the past few weeks, it’s hard not to have been touched by the many stories of incredible human qualities we’ve seen in the news – compassion, empathy, loyalty, kindness, humility and many more. Just last week, I spoke with a senior pharmaceutical operations executive who had been truly humbled by his plant workers in India. They’d stayed close to the plant, and didn’t go home to their families, for 21 days straight to ensure that the business’ vital medicinal products made it out of the factory. 

Similarly, there have also been stories of manufacturers repurposing their facilities and personnel to assist with the manufacturing of much-needed ventilators. We’ve read about supply chain directors in pharmaceutical seeking spare capacity in other businesses’ distribution networks via personal posts on social media platforms such as LinkedIn. And, of course, there’s the incredible people in our NHS who put themselves in harm’s way to ensure patients get those vital medicines.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there would’ve been many examples of supply chain leaders in B2B industries such as pharmaceutical, biopharma or medical device manufacturing organizations having to deal with extraordinary circumstances and pull out all the stops to get a result. For example, this could’ve been… 

  • A one-off exercise (mandated by a CEO) to reduce inventory by 10% across the entire operation
  • A multi-year project to improve logistics efficiency by 15% 
  • Guaranteeing that ‘important” customers continue to get a premium service, and ensuring weekly stock outs don’t impact them

All of these things we humans can often achieve as a one-off, but at what cost? There are often financial and environmental costs to getting these results – but what about the human cost? Tired and exhausted supply chain teams and neglected personal priorities come to mind. What happens to our people, when we are not living in extraordinary times, and when we’re not at that heightened level of focus?  

Returning to work at Peak after the recent four day Easter holiday weekend, it quickly became apparent that there was a collective feeling of relief from the entire team after the break. The view from the team was that we were all in need of some time off after the events of the past several weeks and I’m sure we weren’t alone in thinking that way. The conversations at Peak went something along the lines of  “I didn’t realize I needed that break as much as I did.”  The truth, is we’d all been at a heightened level of focus for many weeks, and we were all feeling the effect.

After the current coronavirus pandemic has passed, we will no doubt be very proud of many of the amazing things we humans were able to achieve.  We will also feel the effects of this sustained heightened level of human focus, and there will be many questions that we will need to ask ourselves. 

Questions like the value (and therefore resources) we dedicate to our healthcare workers and to mental health services. Supply chain executives will also want to know how they can better use technology to sustain the kind of human performance that we have seen in recent weeks. How can supply chain leaders and their teams continue to make optimal use of scarce resources and deliver for their customers and end consumers, like they have during the current crisis?

This is where technology and artificial intelligence (AI) can, and is, playing a role today. It can alleviate a lot of the stress and risk that comes from trying to rapidly make sense of a lot of data (quickly) and make difficult decisions that will have far reaching consequences. Working for Peak, a UK-based AI company that is delivering rapid actionable insights to our clients throughout this crisis, fills me with immense pride – as I know we are playing our own small part.

 

The opinions in this piece are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Peak.

 

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