While consumers might be sick of hearing “it’s the supply chain” when facing empty shelves while shopping, it is a real problem in business right now. During the pandemic, demand for virtually everything has expanded. Consumers want more. They want it now. But they can’t get it and are getting frustrated. Marketing professionals need to keep a critical eye on distribution and logistics systems to stay ahead.
While it’s seldom that we would recommend a longer film for a class, the Wall Street Journal recently produced a 54-minute video that illustrates the entire length and breadth of the supply chain – as well as the issues faced today by businesses at each step of the journey.
Because consumers are now used to one-click shopping, it is easy to forget that millions of products are touched by millions of hands every single day. This video explains the various steps of distribution and how an action at one point begets a chain reaction of events down the line:
- Container ships
- Sea conditions
- Small crews on massive ships
- Bottlenecks (remember the Evergreen ship disaster?)
- Crowded ports
- Dock workers
- Long-haul truck drivers
- Road conditions
- Laws and regulations
- Inventory tracking
- Last-mile delivery
- Off-shore manufacturing
- And the list goes on….
Watch the documentary and consider what is happening – and what will have to be done differently in the future.
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Poll students before video: Have students select a few common products. What are the steps in distribution – from manufacturing to sales?
- What are potential issues throughout the supply chain?
- Block out an hour to show the entire video. If that isn’t possible, segments can be shown a few minutes at a time with discussion following.
- Video: https://youtu.be/1KtTAb9Tl6E
- Work this video into supply chain chapter discussion.
- What are suggested improvements?
- Alternative idea: Students ca be assigned to watch the video and provide a synopsis of the documentary.
Source: Wall Street Journal documentary. Why global supply chains may never be the same. (23 March 2022).