Is Your Supply Chain Ready for a Natural Disaster?

Andrea Charles

Is your supply chain prepared for a natural disaster?

Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis continue to have a devastating effect on communities and businesses. Due to their uncertainty companies are often ill- prepared to deal with the widespread disruption they can cause to the supply chain.

Getting pharmaceuticals to the right patient at the right time is a complex task, at best. This is even more daunting in the face of a natural disaster, where roads and other routes transport may be unreliable, unavailable, or even unsafe.

Dave Alberts, Director at Crimson & Co, commented on how recent ongoing adverse weather conditions and natural disasters on a global scale are affecting supply chains across a variety of industries. He said:  

“Last year’s Tsunami in Japan wreaked havoc on businesses and supply chains alike, with widespread affects across the globe. Now the floods in Thailand have caused two-thirds of the country to be affected, initiating factories and supply chains to face disruption as the severe flooding impacts Thailand's economy. Companies such as Western Digital and Honda Motor have been forced to stop production in central Thailand due to disruptions to local supply chains and some Japanese car manufacturers such as Toyota and Nissan are also experiencing production disruptions. Sony temporarily closed its facility in Ayutthaya and Seagate Technology has also said its production of hard drives in this quarter will be effected by supply chain disruptions, and that supply will be constrained until at least Q4."  

Global supply chain is now back on the agendas of corporate management as they try to maintain the integrity of the supply chain, reduce product loss and rising costs.

“Unfortunately, there is no way in which to fully prepare for such natural disasters as they are unexpected. However, the frequency at which these occur validate that contingency plans must be put in place wherever possible and organisations must attempt to protect product supply through efficient, planned out strategies and best practices. Research into the affects is a good start and companies participating in this are clearly at the forefront of successful and adaptive supply chains," said Alberts.
One of the first challenges for health information executives and emergency preparedness experts is to protect the pharmaceutical supply chain, as a broken supply chain will have a direct impact on the death toll.

In an article for Health management Technology, Synthia Laura Molina managing partner and Helen L. Figge, consultant at Central IQ, said: “The risk of lost lives is exacerbated in times of disaster by (1) individuals’ physical separation from their medications and inadequate medicine cabinet inventories, (2) inaccessible medication histories and medical records, and (3) the absence of community-centric demand forecasts that could identify needed types and volumes of medications pending distributions from the Strategic National Stockpile. Physically, socio-economically, and geographically-challenged populations are especially susceptible to breached medication access."

They said emergency preparedness experts have a moral duty to protect access to a nation’s available prescription medicine resources in the wake of a natural disaster:

“Health information executives have a moral imperative to lead our nation in ensuring individuals have access to essential prescription drugs in the aftermath of catastrophes. The potential disaster-related death toll from predicted breaches in the pharmaceutical supply chain is staggering. Tens of millions of lives could be lost as vulnerable populations are cut off from their life-sustaining medications.”

5 steps to ensuring the pharmaceutical supply chain during a natural disaster:  

  • Prioritising high-risk subpopulations and drugs that will be in high demand
  • Creating community-centric and catastrophe-specific formularies
  • Rapid deployment of essential medicines
  • Agreeing unique identifiers for supply chains in disaster planning
  • Creating a flexible and robust supply chain

To find out more watch Effectively Developing Cold Chain Contingency Plans

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