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The Biggest Supply Chain Blunders of 2017

Michael Wilson | Dec 6, 2017

As 2017 reaches its final weeks, we reflect back on this year's blunders in supply chain planning. While basking in the afterglow of our successes brings joy, we learn the most ...

2017-supply-chain-planning-faliures.jpgAs 2017 reaches its final weeks, we reflect back on this year's blunders in supply chain planning. While basking in the afterglow of our successes brings joy, we learn the most from shortcomings, hiccups, and downright disasters in the global community. So, it's time to contemplate our less-than-shining moments.

Indeed, 2017 was plagued by problems within international supply chains, ranging from logistical to unethical. Here we’ll explore three of the biggest failures in supply chain planning.

Puerto Rico Aid

One of the year's most devastating failures in supply chain planning happened in Puerto Rico after catastrophic Hurricane Maria. Confronted with a lack of food, clean water, and medicine, this American territory was afflicted with a humanitarian crisis. While aid and supplies were crucially necessary, thousands of shipping containers from mainland United States and other countries became trapped at Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico's main port. Post-hurricane, the island simply didn't have the manpower to run an effective supply chain able to deliver timely relief to its citizens. 

The biggest impediment to Puerto Rico's supply chain was a lack of available diesel fuel. The island's food industry relies on fuel to carry food, water, and other supplies throughout the cities. Local companies, such as Méndez & Co, were reporting a distribution drop of 75%. Non-perishable food items, like granola bars and cereal, were sitting on Méndez & Co's warehouse shelves throughout October when they could have been driven to Puerto Rico's citizens in need. Talk about a bottleneck.

Apple's iPhone X 

At Apple, their supply chain woes will be long from over as 2017 closes. Indeed, many reputable sources like Motley Fool are predicting that 2018 will bring more hardships for this technology giant. As the Wall Street Journal reported in September 2017, Apple's supply chain planning hit a major roadblock with its iPhone X. This brand new phone was heralded for its state-of-art facial recognition technology, which allowed users to unlock their phones with a simple face scan.

The only problem? Apple couldn't develop the two modules for this technology at equal speed. Their facial recognition software relies on a pair of parts, known as Romeo and Juliet. The Juliet modules are faster to create, leaving an unequal amount of Romeos to couple off with. This issue led to a diminished number of iPhone X models available for the November launch.

Unfortunately, the Romeo and Juliet tragedy of 2017 wasn't the last of the iPhone X's sorrows. Apple's most ambitious model yet, the iPhone X, uses an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen. Past iPhone models use LED displays, which are easier to manufacture and many suppliers provide parts to Apple. However, Apple's supply chain for the iPhone X's OLED screen is arguably flawed. They only have one supplier... and it's Samsung, their fiercest competitor. Unless Apple finds other suppliers, they're looking at increased costs and limited supplies for their OLED displays.

Human Rights Violations

Lastly, let's move away from logistical hiccups and discuss an ethical supply chain failure Within the UK this year, outrage surges over major companies that use unethical methods to source and manufacture their products. These unethical methods include modern slavery, trafficking, and child labor.

The Guardian reports that a 2017 study carried out by CORE revealed some troubling statistics. Within Britain, all companies grossing over £36 million per year must create a report to document their supply chain's efforts against modern slavery. These risk reports are given in compliance with the UK's Modern Slavery Act of 2015

However, within their study of 50 major companies, CORE indicates that many reports were sparse on details and transparency. Infact, five companies hadn't even filed their reports. CORE points a finger at Lindt and Ferrero, who failed to address their cocoa production, and Estée Lauder and L'Oréal, who didn't acknowledge the risks associated with using mica in their cosmetics. 

2017 has been a doozey but there’s always a silver lining. Even in the midst of errors, as an international community, we should consider the bigger picture when strategizing our supply chain planning efforts. If a natural disaster strikes, will your supply chain stay intact if other countries can't intervene quickly? As a popular company, do you have enough suppliers to fulfill orders? Or, are you following ethical sourcing and manufacturing methods? The global shortcomings of 2017 must be fully scrutinized so that 2018 brings greater levels of success and our past mistakes aren't repeated.

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