We must raise the bar and improve supply chain resilience
29 July 2022
From medicine shortages to a lack of bourbon. Professor Tava Olsen takes a look at what's going on with the world's supply chains as part of Raising the Bar.
Improving our supply chains should be a top priority as massive disruptions continue to be felt, says University of Auckland Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management Tava Olsen.
"It's dangerous to assume supply chains will always work," she says. "We need to know the basic fundamentals and to plan for the future, including for what we would do if our borders closed."
Olsen says that while it's great that the Government is currently working to develop the country's first freight and supply chain strategy, the current plan has a number of flaws.
Led by the Ministry of Transport, the New Zealand freight and supply chain strategy seeks to make a national-level strategic plan for the coming decades.
Submissions on the Ministry's issues paper, which details the current situation, challenges, and a variety of solutions, are due to be published in the next few days.
Olsen says her feedback speaks to the need for not just a single national strategy, but rather, multiple strategies.
"It's good that the Government is starting to think about this, but I'm not sure they're thinking enough about it. For example, the issues paper frequently references 'our supply chain', but we don't have one supply chain – we have many.
"Indeed, learning how to target the right supply chain strategy for a given product is 'Supply Chain 101'. You can't talk about having a national supply chain strategy – you actually need different strategies depending on what you're exporting," says Olsen, who will share expert insight on supply chains as part of the University of Auckland's Raising the Bar series, which sees academics deliver 20 lectures in ten of Tāmaki Makaurau's favourite watering holes on 2 August.
"Supply chains affect all of us and have become especially visible since 2020 as we have experienced the global pandemic and more recently the war in Ukraine. But as someone who teaches supply chains, I've been trying to point out that they matter for years."
Olsen's 8pm talk at Le Zeppa will explore what went wrong during the pandemic, what companies are doing in the face of supply chain issues and why we should care as consumers.
The professor will draw on decades of teaching, research and advising on supply chains to discuss what she thinks has changed for good and what hasn’t.
In addition, she will address some of the unique situations global logistics create for Aotearoa New Zealand, such as why we export so many raw logs rather than creating value-added products such as construction materials and furniture.