This morning I read a commentary in my local newspaper, the Boston Globe, titled "Remember When We Thought 2016 Was Bad?" Author Nestor Ramos' premise was that although 2016 seemed like it could not have been worse—Zika and the tail end of the Ebola epidemic, terrorist attacks in Europe, the Syrian refugee crisis, the U.S. presidential elections and the U.K.'s Brexit vote upending long-accepted norms—2017 topped it in terms of disruption, destruction, and violence. The shooting in Las Vegas, an unprecedented series of destructive hurricanes and floods in the U.S. and Caribbean, earthquakes in Mexico and fires in California, North Korea's missile launches, widespread starvation in countries as diverse as Venezuela and Yemen, and cyber attacks that harmed businesses, individuals, and the exercise of democracy were just a few of the developments that rattled just about everyone's sense of security.
Have I thoroughly depressed you? Undoubtedly—but that's not my point. That long list of terrible events serves to remind us that no country, company, or supply chain is immune from disaster and disruption. We cannot know what the coming year will bring, but as supply chain professionals, we can prepare our organizations to anticipate, detect, and respond to disruptions large and small. It behooves us to learn from what we've already experienced, identifying what worked and what didn't, and taking steps to improve where needed. This may involve applying technology, such as control towers, predictive analytics, and risk management software; working closely with your insurance company, consultants, and supply chain services providers; and devoting sufficient resources—both human and financial—to supply chain planning and risk management.
It can be tempting, though, to do nothing. As Sue Welch, CEO of the software company Bamboo Rose, notes in her article "Planning for the unexpected: How 'what-if' costing reduces global risk," in the current issue of CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly, "even with all the variables in play that could impact a company, it's possible that none of them will happen. A chief executive who plans for the best-case scenario will be very successful if everything plays out exactly as expected."
Yet as the events of 2016 and 2017 make clear, the chances of everything playing out exactly as expected are small indeed. That's why, after all the holiday presents have been opened and the champagne toasts have been made, supply chain leaders' thoughts will turn to the future, including how to be ready for whatever 2018 may hold.
Editor's note: While we're talking about disaster response ... allow me to suggest that you consider supporting the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN). This fine organization, formed by a number of supply chain and logistics associations following Hurricane Katrina, matches offers of logistics services with humanitarian and relief organizations' needs. Under the leadership of Executive Director Kathy Fulton and a team of highly experienced and dedicated volunteers, ALAN has been instrumental in delivering critical supplies to victims of fires, floods, and hurricanes. The events of the past year have tested the group's capabilities beyond anything in its history, and it has met challenge after challenge. Supporting ALAN is an eminently appropriate way for logistics and supply chain professionals to give back. I hope you'll review the wealth of information on ALAN's website, and that it will inspire you and your company to step up and help out.