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ASCM Insights

Supply Chain Takes Its Place in (Editorial) History

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Earlier this week, I received an email from ASCM’s resident editor-in-chief. She pointed out a small but significant detail from an article in The New York Times: The media outlet — iconic for its exacting editorial style and usage — had introduced a new proper noun: the Great Supply Chain Disruption.

Later that day, the content team discussed the event during our weekly meeting. We imagined a group of New York Times editors sitting around a conference table — all right, a Zoom call — discussing supply chain events and deciding whether our current situation warrants the prominence of a proper noun. (Our editor-in-chief assures me that these professionals would care deeply about capitalization.) Evidently, the answer is yes.

If you need a quick grammar refresher, a proper noun is the name of a particular person, place or thing, and it’s almost always capitalized in English. In The New York Times article, Peter S. Goodman and Keith Bradsher write: “The Great Supply Chain Disruption is a central element of the extraordinary uncertainty that continues to frame economic prospects worldwide.”

The pervasiveness of product delays, shortages and price increases is affecting people everywhere. Businesses and consumers alike are finding that the items they want and need are out of stock, and nobody is sure when they’ll be available again. While industry experts once thought — or at least hoped — that the recent supply chain disruptions were temporary, global networks have not been rebounding as anticipated. As a Wall Street Journal article notes, “Executives expect the shortages and delivery bottlenecks, exacerbated by overwhelmed transportation networks and a lack of workers, to stretch into the fall.”

This is the Great Supply Chain Disruption. And with that moniker, the impact of supply chain is being equated to other exceptional periods of record:

  • The Great Depression from 1929 to 1939 was the worst economic collapse in the history of the industrialized world.
  • The Great War, one of the original names for World War I, was enormous in scale and the first pan-European war since the days of Napoleon.
  • During the Great Migration, 6 million Black Americans fled the rural U.S. South’s racial oppression and unjust economic conditions. At its onset in 1916, 90% of Black people lived in the South; by 1970, nearly half of them had settled in Northern cities. 
  • The Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009 was the longest and deepest downturn since the Great Depression.

These events changed our world. By the same token, the Great Supply Chain Disruption is changing the way plans are made; information flows; components are sourced; materials are managed; and products are made, sold and delivered. “The delays are costing manufacturers sales and pushing some companies to revamp the way they put together their product,” The Journal states.

Capitalizing on the moment

Of course, ASCM has been stressing the magnitude of our global networks for years. As I wrote when the organization officially launched back in 2018, its goal is to “transform how organizations do business.” Turns out, that’s happening anyway — and supply chain professionals far and wide are now confronting problems that only they can solve.

Supply chain is remarkable, and these times are pivotal. Every day, ASCM members put in the work, applying their supply chain expertise by tapping into industry-leading research, the latest supply chain insights, and a connected community of more than 45,000 professionals who are dedicated to creating a better world through supply chain.

If you’re not already a member, join ASCM today. And if you are a member, please share this email with a colleague. Great collaboration can conquer great disruption.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer at ASCM, the largest nonprofit association for supply chain and the global leader in supply chain organizational transformation and innovation. Prior to this, he was the managing director for the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. His leadership roles have included project management, business process redesign, and individual and organizational alignment. Eshkenazi may be contacted through editorial@ascm.org.

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