Supply Chain 1

Ahhhhh Supply Chain. A buzz-phrase that has presented itself to many Americans for the first time in the past few years. Even so, many think of this “chain” as a mythical force that is the reason why they can spoil themselves so hard with Amazon boxes two days after a delivery was placed.

In its rawest state, a supply chain is a system people and machines (AKA technology) that work to deliver a goods or service in the most efficient manner possible. I think it would be easier to explain through an example.

Imagine you work at a company that sells beer and you are in charge of making sure the beer bottles are filled, packaged, and eventually end up on a shelf for someone to enjoy on a Friday. First you have to think about what materials you need to actually make a bottle of beer. You would need to source water, wheat, barley and whatever the hell else goes into beer. You would also need to purchase your bottles and cardboard from a different supplier in order to package your beer. All of this raw material will have to find its way to your facility through different transportation methods (i.e. trucking, big boats, sometimes planes).  Once you’ve sourced all of your raw materials, your company will need a place to mix all of the ingredients and eventually bottle the product. This is the manufacturing / packaging stage that most companies will own themselves. After the beer is all put together and packaged (not a simple process when you think about the scale of some companies producing millions of bottles a day) it will have to be properly stored somewhere until the finished product finds it’s way onto another truck or plane to be shipped to a customer. Bigger companies usually do not ship directly to a company’s storefront, so the beer will probably be shipped initially to a distribution center before finding its way onto another truck to be shipped to a store.

This is the supply chain – a linked network that is tasked with making sure water turns into beer while also ensuring the beer company also makes mucho $$. When laid out this way, one may be more appreciative of all of the product available to them on a grocery store shelf because pretty much every product goes through a similar process like the example provided, the uniqueness comes in what is actually required to make the product.

This system is robust and not built to take extreme “shock”, which is what we saw in the lockdowns of 2020. The supply chain needs humans to show up and play their part, trucks do not drive themselves (yet). Factories are not fully automated to the point where it can be totally independent from human input (yet). In some of these factories, it is a requirement for workers to work in close proximity, which is a problem during any “wave” of the pandemic. This is the main reason why Walmart is now offering truck drivers a starting salary of $100,000+. HELL YEAH.

“I don’t like work, no man does, but I like what is in the work, the chance to find yourself. Your own reality, for yourself, not for others, what no other man can ever know.” – Joseph Conrad


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