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Your Life Science Supply Chain After COVID-19: Improve Your Crisis Response

By Stephen Meyer | April 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

Spring is finally coming to upstate New York (despite the fact that we’ve had snow flurries on and off for the last week).  As I watch my yard slowly turn green through the window of my home office, I’m reminded of a similar renewal that supply chains will face as we emerge from the social distancing mandates necessitated by the COVID-19 virus.

Certainly, a recovery must come before any renewal can occur, as our businesses take steps to return to a normal state – and I will be conducting interviews with supply chain leaders over the next week to understand what that recovery will look like.  But I think what is really interesting is how supply chains will fundamentally change based on their experiences reacting to and recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.  What shortcomings will need to be addressed?  What strengths were discovered that organizations didn’t realize they had?

Here’s one area that you should consider as you renew your supply chain:  risk management vs. crisis response.

I observed in my last blog post that the widely-used, classic risk management approach didn’t adequately prepare life science supply chains for this pandemic.  The process of compiling risks, evaluating them based on likelihood and impact, and then taking steps to remediate those risks that have the highest combination of the two factors is as standardized as CAPA processes for most life science supply chains.

But global pandemics don’t rate highly on the “likelihood” scale, and as a result, many supply chains didn’t take specific actions to address them.  

To address the limitations of a risk management program, something else is needed. I think that the best complement is something that healthcare providers already excel at… crisis response.   Healthcare providers have well-established plans for both specific and general scenarios, and have put them to use, notably in the 2014 Ebola outbreak and now with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crisis response plans describe the steps required to limit the current and future impacts of an adverse event, after it occurs.  These plans include how to:

  • Ensure staff can continue to perform their roles safely and effectively
  • Communicate (both internally and externally)
  • Take actions that address the disruption and mitigate future impact
  • Procure supplies and services

Crisis plans are frameworks that describe how to hold update meetings, build activity checklists, and establish communication protocols.  To test the effectiveness of these plans, ‘tabletop’ modeling is frequently used.  But right now that’s not necessary… our crisis response plans are being tested real-time.

Crisis response plans are essential for addressing the gaps that risk management programs inevitably have.  Don’t think of it as choosing between one approach or the other… make sure your supply chain has both.

Stay healthy!

Further reading for Gartner clients:

Crisis Response Plans: How to Spot Issues and Make Fixes

Aligned Assurance: Coordinating Your Crisis Response Plan

COVID-19: Take These Steps Now to Improve the Agility of Your Life Science Supply Chain

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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