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Panic buying of toilet paper has had unintended consequences, not only emptying Auckland’s supermarket shelves, but also the city’s water reservoir

Editorial – June / July’20

Just two months ago I wrote in this column (April/May) that much of the information within the magazine’s pages would be out of date by the time it landed in readers’ mailboxes. In the last eight weeks the entire world has changed.

Nowhere has this been felt the most perhaps than in the logistics sector. Name an industry – any industry – and its business planning systems will have been turned upside-down by the Covid-19 pandemic. Be it sourcing raw materials, transport between points A and B, warehousing, or the delivery of finished goods, the coronavirus has disrupted supply chains like nothing else before.

Organisations close to home have felt this disruption severely, discovering that systems they had in place for procurement, storage and distribution were no match for the demands of lockdown. 

As the alert levels ramped up, consumers took to panic buying, and FMCG companies found their shelves emptying at an alarming rate and no means to restock them overnight in time for the store reopening the next day. The incredible demand for toilet paper has not helped Auckland’s water shortage situation, with Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram telling Auckland Council that a well-known toilet paper manufacturer was using four times the normal amount of water due to production demands.

Our district health boards certainly struggled to get PPE out the door fast enough in the early weeks of lockdown, and the Ministry of Health is now working with the DHBs to improve their distribution systems. 

Now that we are (hopefully) out the other side of the pandemic, perhaps business leaders can finally take a breather and review their performances over the last couple of months. Did we deliver our products/services in a timely manner? Did we sacrifice efficiency for productivity? Was ‘just in time’ really ‘just too late’? What needs to happen within our supply chains to protect us next time there is an event like this?

One thing is certain. If it’s not a virus, it’ll be something else – an earthquake, tsunami or volcanic eruption, a global economic recession, 5G – that turns your business model on its head. Will you be ready next time?

Until next time … 
Lynne Richardson, editor

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