woman holding farm vegetables

3 Ways to Bring Your Supply Chain Home During Quarantine

Avoid Household Shortages with these Simple Tips

Here at SCM Connections, we’ve devoted some pretty significant airtime on the challenges facing our business during quarantine, to manufacturing supply chains, and to supporting our industry colleagues.  Demand planners?  We’ve done webinars on how to deal with your quirky demand signals. My hospital friends? Check out our podcast on the state of the healthcare supply chain shortages

 I realized yesterday that the SCM Connections brain trust has been holding out on you, the people at home day in and day out!  Increasingly friends and family have been coming to me asking for help in finding household items.  Yeast, flour, hand sanitizer, eggs, milk.  Yes, even toilet paper.  This global supply scavenger hunt has become something of my quarantine hobby.  20 years of sourcing and supply chain analytics experience has given me some creative problem solving skills!  My biggest thrill of the week? Finding a two pound bag of yeast at previous market price for my Poppy.

So Poppy, this blog is for you.  Here are three tips I’ve tested and honed over the last 90 days for keeping your home supply chain happy and healthy. 

1. Keep Your Sources Local

Over the last few years as my family has grown and my procurement needs diversified, I have increasingly shifted my household buying strategy to a single source. Costco has broccoli, beef broth, baby wipes, bleach and bourbon?  Winner!  However, March and April threw my strategy into an absolute tailspin. With most of the world going under quarantine, Costco became stocked out and scary, and Instacart delivery slots became unavailable.  Same with the large grocery stores and forget about Target! If I was able to get into a store, limits on milk and eggs meant I could only get two days supply for my family of six.  Time to re-engineer.

My revised approach?  Go back to a local and diversified procurement strategy.  For a small increase in cost and a huge savings in time wasted, I have found local businesses and producers who are thrilled for the sales and provide a better product than my previous items at a comparable price.  We signed up for a local dairy delivery. Unrestricted quantities of milk, eggs AND bacon delivered weekly!   As an added benefit, they use glass bottles that are returned and sterilized, rather than single use plastic jugs to add to the the landfill.  

meme of a woman farming
Be more like Grandma.

Through my favorite local bakery, I got the name of their mill and placed a direct order for freshly milled flour and dried yeast.  They are thrilled to recover some of their lost commercial sales through the consumer market.  Our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share starts delivery on June 1.  We also found a local butcher who buys direct from farmers and butchers’ product in house…eliminating exposure to commercial slaughterhouses you’ve been seeing in the news. It’s been a win/win for both my family and my community.

All things old are new again.  Just like the household supply chain of my grandmother, I’ve moved our food purchases back to the producer to eliminate shortages due to transportation and manufacturing snags in the age of COVID-19.  We are eating better product, supporting our local businesses and my grocery budget hasn’t gone up much at all.

2. Plan Ahead. Increase your Safety Stock and Avoid Hoarding

Just in time/ JIT is dead for now. Planning ahead is the secret to success.  If your previous toilet paper safety stock was one roll, may I highly recommend upping that to three.  Lead times aren’t what they used to be.  Before March, you could wander up the street to your local drug store and grab a six pack of super squishy paper on demand.  Now?  You could wait up to a week for these hot ticket items. 

 Plan ahead…but please don’t distort the demand signal by hoarding.  Think about your neighbors, friends, and family.  There truly is no shortage of these items, but rather delays due to labor shortages and snags in transportation and distribution.  The fastest way to create a shortage is to hoard.

3. Be Flexible

Take a lesson in flexibility from our hospital operations folks. Product substitutions are a fact of life in hospital supply chains, even in the best of times.  No sour cream?  Greek yogurt works great!  We are printing front and back on paper these days.  Bleach wipes are still nearly impossible to find but spray bottles and liquid bleach are available.  And while you are moving your supply back to local producers per my #1 recommendation, stop by your local distillery to pick up a lovely bottle of spirit AND some home brewed hand sanitizer.  

woman applying hand sanitizer
Just don't try mixing it with Tonic.

Our business supply chains are doing their very best, but I’m finding its still hit and miss as to what will actually be at the store when you get in.  Last week, no ice cream.  This week?  No bananas. These are minor inconveniences fueled by the quarantine and NOT signs that the supply chain is breaking down (no matter what you read in the paper).  Be flexible and see suggestion #2 above. 

Yes, these are unprecedented times.  Don’t let your household supply chain add to the stress.  I hope my tips above help you to bring a little calm and order to your home by ensuring you have the food and supplies you need to keep on keeping on.  Interested in our more professional supply chain advice?  Visit our YouTube channel for supply chain wisdom and SAP IBP tips and tricks to entertain you on these long quarantine nights.   Have some tips I haven’t thought of?  Reach out and let me know!

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