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New study published on supply chain challenges and lessons during COVID-19 pandemic

Understanding the supply chain vulnerabilities that emerged during lockdown will help us to prepare for future shocks, including a potential second wave of COVID-19, according to a National Engineering Policy Centre paper published today. Critical supply chains with immediate impacts on daily life demonstrated considerable resilience and adaptability during the disruption and the solutions adopted may also help address some of the key challenges in distributing a vaccine against the virus.

Supply chain challenges, lessons learned and opportunities looks at how UK supply chains were disrupted during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and assesses the success of mitigation measures from procurement to logistics and skills in the food, electronics, telecommunications, transport and energy sectors. The results, including spotlights on each of these sectors in the report, are based on evidence gathered from 60 different organisations, ranging from large companies to SMEs and micro-organisations.

Read the paper here

Industry was found to have responded well to the challenge, reducing uncertainty, developing networks for components and skills and sharing good practice. For example, electronics companies have been able to share information within their network, using it not only to source materials that were in short supply, but also to help to address future challenges such as skills shortages.

Sharing data and information across different sectors could also help to inform other areas of the COVID-19 response, particularly the l distribution of the vaccines currently being developed. This will require significant efforts in procurement, logistics, storage and delivery. Lessons learned from the food sector’s cold chain, for example, could be valuable in future deployment of a vaccine. Globally the cold chain is underdeveloped (only about 10% of the required cold chain capacity exists in some developing nations and up to a quarter of temperature-sensitive foods are lost). Vaccine cold chains are by no means comprehensive and up to 25% of vaccines in the developing economy are wasted owing to the lack of a suitable cold chain. The critical need to distribute large quantities of vaccine and test kits may require the requisition of cold chain assets from the food/pharma supply chain.

Organisations by size (number of employees) and sector

The paper makes recommendations for the engineering profession to prepare supply chains to weather future disruptions, including:

  1. Communication across the supply chain network needs to be effective and capable of addressing the questions of future capacity and resilience;
  2. Regulators have a critical role as stakeholders whose influence could drive innovation in both products and processes;
  3. Knowledge sharing within and between different sectors is vital to facilitate innovation and adoption of automation and new technologies and to support companies in future resilience planning.

Notes for Editors

  1. Supply chain challenges, lessons learned and opportunities

The report is available here. The recommendations form part of a paper prepared for the government and will inform future work by the Academy on strategic capabilities.

  1. About the National Engineering Policy Centre

We are a unified voice for 43 professional engineering organisations, representing 450,000 engineers, a partnership led by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

We give policymakers a single route to advice from across the engineering profession.

We inform and respond to policy issues of national importance, for the benefit of society.

  1. The Royal Academy of Engineering

The Royal Academy of Engineering is harnessing the power of engineering to build a sustainable society and an inclusive economy that works for everyone.

In collaboration with our Fellows and partners, we’re growing talent and developing skills for the future, driving innovation and building global partnerships, and influencing policy and engaging the public.

Together we’re working to tackle the greatest challenges of our age.

For more information please contact: Victoria Runcie at the Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. 0207 766 0620; email: [email protected]

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