Teaching Materials

Supply Chain Management
Dr Sarah Schiffling, Senior Lecturer in Supply Chain Management, Liverpool John Moores University

Overview

Introduction

Everything around us — cars and computers, fashion and food — is the product of sometimes local, but often complex global supply chains. Yet supply chain management, the behind the scenes work of many people around the world to keep the shelves stocked, often goes unnoticed. Recent events such as the run on toilet paper during the early days of the pandemic, the changing border procedures due to Brexit, and the huge effort to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, have highlighted how dependent we are on supply chains and how fragile they can be.

This teaching resource explores a range of different topics from supply chain strategy to ethics. It highlights diverse industries, taking a look at both the difficult past of global trade and the exciting technologies for the future. Each activity focuses on a particular industry ranging from pharma to fishing, from the automotive sector to supermarkets. Questions and short exercises encourage a deeper engagement with the clips and a brief reading list is provided.

  • The UK fisheries came to the public's attention recently when they were a key point of debate in the Brexit negotiations. This is a supply chain that is often overlooked, but is both a key import and a key export in the UK. Seafood is a commodity the UK buys and sells in huge quantities. The fish caught off British shores is largely dispatched abroad as exports, whereas the fish we eat here tends to be imported. This documentary shows how seafood is transported by sea and by air and looks at the challenges of delivering very sensitive products to our plates in prime condition.

    Activity 1:

    As you watch the video, try to draft a supply chain map and take notes on the dynamics in this supply chain.

    Question 1:

    What are the international links in the UK seafood supply chain?

    Question 2:

    Who holds the power in this supply chain?

    Question 3:

    What are the future issues this supply chain is likely to face?

    Sign-in to BoB once and then refresh the page; this will make all the clips on this page watchable

    Further Reading:

    Symes, D., & Phillipson, J. (2019). 'A sea of troubles'(2): Brexit and the UK seafood supply chain. (Links to an external site.) Marine Policy, 102, 5-9.

  • The coronavirus crisis has created intense pressure on many of our nation’s factories - in just one week in March, British families spent an extra billion pounds on their grocery shopping. This put extraordinary pressure on supply chains, especially those that usually operate based on a very stable demand such as the toilet paper supply chain.

    Activity 2:

    While you are watching the clip below, consider the following questions:

    Question 1:

    How would the toilet paper supply chain usually be classified in the Fisher framework (see Further reading below)?

    Question 2:

    Which inherent factors of its design have resulted in this supply chain's inability to keep up with demand in spring 2020?

    Question 3:

    Does this apply to other products as well?

    Question 4:

    How can future shortages be avoided?

    Further Reading:

    Fisher, M. L. (1997). What is the right supply chain for your product? (Links to an external site.). Harvard business review, 75, 105-117.

  • Global supply chains have been major drivers of colonialisation for centuries. Many wars have been fought over access to rare resources and cheap labour. Supply chains have linked diverse parts of the world, but they have also resulted in untold suffering. And the problems are far from over.

    One product with an old global supply chain that has shaped the lives of many and continues to influence the fate of whole nations is tea.

    Activity 3:

    Watch the documentary The Tea Trail and reflect on the impact of this supply chain now and in the past.

    Question 1:

    What should consumers know about the provenance of the products they eat and drink?

    Question 2:

    How are our current supply chains still linked to colonialism?

    Further Reading:

    Mzembe, A. N., Lindgreen, A., Maon, F., & Vanhamme, J. (2016). Investigating the drivers of corporate social responsibility in the global tea supply chain: A case study of Eastern Produce Limited in Malawi. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 23(3), 165-178.

  • With many countries setting ambitious targets for the end of petrol-powered vehicles, electric vehicles are a growing market. Lithium is a key raw material for their batteries.

    Activity 4:

    With vehicle manufacturers often choosing to co-locate with battery makers for logistical reasons, developing lithium mines is the key to become a part of this expanding supply chain. Cornwall might hold the key to Europe’s demand for lithium.

    Question 1:

    What are the political changes the electric vehicle supply chain faces?

    Question 2:

    How could countries like the UK and battery makers work together?

    Tesla’s gigafactory in the Nevada desert manufactures lithium-ion batteries for its electric cars, part of a highly political supply chain that is also focused on being sustainable.

    Question 3:

    Which supply chain strategies is Tesla applying?

    Question 4:

    How does it work with political decision makers?

    Further Reading:

    Bonsu, N. O. (2020). Towards a circular and low-carbon economy: Insights from the transitioning to electric vehicles and net zero economy. (Links to an external site.) Journal of Cleaner Production, 256, 120659.

  • The fast fashion industry creates an insatiable demand for new products. Bangladesh is one of the largest exporters of garments in the world, mainly because of cheap labour cost. Now advances in automation technology could impact the lives of millions of garment factory workers in the next few years.

    Activity 5:

    The first clip in this section aired on TV in February 2020. The second was a follow up filmed in December 2020. Bangladesh has the world’s second largest garment manufacturing industry, which for decades fuelled Europe and America’s appetite for fast fashion. But as coronavirus spread around the world, over two billion pounds’ worth of clothing orders were cancelled and many factories were shut. It was a devastating blow to the sector on which many livelihoods depend.

    Watch the first clip and reflect:

    Question 1:

    How have fashion supply chains shaped Bangladesh?

    Question 2:

    What are the risks and opportunities that automation brings?

    Now watch the second clip and consider:

    Question 3:

    How has the sudden downturn in fashion demand affected Bangladesh?

    Question 4:

    How can fashion supply chains be run in a more responsible manner?

    Further Reading:

    Niinimäki, K., Peters, G., Dahlbo, H., Perry, P., Rissanen, T., & Gwilt, A. (2020). The environmental price of fast fashion. (Links to an external site.) Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, 1(4), 189-200.

  • The COVID-19 vaccine supply chain was of global high importance in early 2021, with the hopes of many around the world resting on a swift rollout. However, such a vast and complex supply chain is not without its issues. There are reports of waste in the vaccine supply chain in rich countries while poorer nations fear missing out for years to come.

    Activity 6:

    Whilst you watch the video Outside Source: Waste in the Vaccine Supply Chain try to answer the following questions:

    Question 1:

    What are the main sources of waste in the Covid-19 vaccine supply chain?

    Question 2:

    How can the risk of waste be minimised?

    Further Reading:

    Schiffling, S. & Breen, L. (2021). COVID vaccine: some waste is normal – but here’s how it is being kept to a minimum. The Conversation, 11th January 2021.

  • Over the last decade there has been a coffee revolution, led by giants like Starbucks with global revenues of £20 billion. Starbucks has 1000 UK cafes with £4 Billion in UK sales since 1998 launch. Even Amazon has its own coffee brands now (Consuelo and Solimo). Nespresso (owned by Nestle) has transformed how we drink coffee at home and now has UK sales of £2 Billion and sales of 20 Billion capsules worldwide.

    Starbucks and Nespresso both emphasise their sustainability and social responsibility credentials and have signed up to the Sustainable Coffee Challenge. However, both companies were criticised in 2020 when child labour was identified in their supply chains.

    Activity 7:

    Watch the documentary on some of these accusations, and consider:

    Question 1:

    Should Starbucks and Nespresso be held responsible?

    Question 2:

    How do ethical issues in the supply chain affect companies?

    Further Reading:

    Benstead, A. V., Hendry, L. C., & Stevenson, M. (2020). Detecting and remediating modern slavery in supply chains: A targeted audit approach (Links to an external site.). Production Planning & Control, 1-22.

  • Supply chain management is all about matching demand and supply. Some organisations have very stable demand patterns, but others see major spikes in demand like supermarkets at Christmas and Easter. There is pressure on supply chain teams to get the planning exactly right so stock will not be wasted, but the shelves won’t be empty either.

    Activity 8:

    Watch as Sainsbury’s supply chain team plan for traditional lamb roast or maybe picnic food depending on an ever-changing weather report.

    Question 1:

    What are the main factors that influence Sainsbury’s supply chain planning for Easter?

    Question 2:

    What are the key risks if the planning teams gets it wrong?

    Question 3:

    How are these risks being managed?

    Further Reading:

    Fan, Y., & Stevenson, M. (2018). A review of supply chain risk management: definition, theory, and research agenda. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management. 48 (3), pp. 205-230

  • Christmas put an incredible strain on supermarket supply chains. But even the Christmas peak was no adequate preparation for supermarkets to weather the rush on their stores at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tesco had engaged in a “Doomsday” planning exercise a few years earlier to prepare for a major crisis. When the crisis arrived, retailers were challenged in many regards and supply chains stretched to breaking point.

    Activity 9:

    Watch the clip and consider:

    Question 1:

    How has TESCO’s changing strategy over time challenged its supply chain?

    Question 2:

    How did TESCO benefit from their doomsday planning exercise?

    Question 3:

    How will TESCO’s supply chain have to change in the future?

    Further Reading:

    Nikolopoulos, K., Punia, S., Schäfers, A., Tsinopoulos, C., & Vasilakis, C. (2021). Forecasting and planning during a pandemic: COVID-19 growth rates, supply chain disruptions, and governmental decisions. European Journal of Operational Research, 290(1), 99-115.

  • Rumours of Amazon drone delivery have been around for many years. In some parts of the world, drones are already delivering essential supplies. The first commercial drone delivery service was launched in Rwanda to deliver blood supplies.

    Activity 10:

    As you watch the video on Zipline’s operations in Rwanda, consider the following questions:

    Question 1:

    What are the advantages of using drones for delivery?

    Question 2:

    What are the challenges and how does Zipline meet them?

    Do some research of your own to find out more about current drone operations and the issues that they help to solve. How do you see the future of drone delivery? Will they play a major role in the supply chains of the future?