Peak Season 2021: Flying Blind into a Snowstorm
For supply chain executives, the worker vax rate question is a classic visibility problem—we need to know exactly who is and who is not vaccinated so we can plan and ramp capacity in factories and networks.
Politics is set to ruin the holiday season because too many people are still drunk on twisted ideas about “freedom”. It's not just whether we can safely host the grandparents for Christmas dinner – it's about the supply chain's ability to deliver while flying blind into a snowstorm.
For any supply chain executive who wants to avoid surprises (100% of them), the worker vax rate question is a classic visibility problem – we need to know exactly who is and who is not vaccinated so we can plan and ramp capacity in factories, warehouses and delivery networks for “peak” season. I personally know half a dozen C-Level supply chain execs who are trying everything they can think of right now to get people vaxed, or even just to say whether they are vaxed. Too many are tiptoeing through the politics and that's bad.
Big names like Apple, Ford and Walmart are asking nicely, but still not mandating. Understandable from a PR perspective, but maybe it's better to bite the political bullet now so you can move on to modeling your network risks before it's too late. Who is freaked out enough to just do it? Try Tyson Foods:
Is this possibly due to PTSD after last year's meat packing plant outbreaks? I think so. And this from a company that's not exactly associated in the public mind with urban, liberal values.
People, Pandemics and Politics
Meanwhile, inventories are piling up as work-in-process (WIP) because supply chains already lack the visibility and confidence to operate anywhere near the reliability levels we've all come to expect. This and partly due to global supply chain shortages, but also because they can't hire enough people into terrible frontline jobs that are even worse in a pandemic. The worker problem is so serious that Amazon just upped its national minimum wage from $15 to $18/hour and companies like Chewy.com double-down on robots who can't get COVID.
Interesting data from a recent AP/NORC poll says that 73% of Black people favor mask mandates at work. For Latinx people its 59%, and White people 42%. Similarly for Vax mandates at work: Black and Latinx people are both 53% in favor vs. White people, 44%. This is despite an understandable reluctance among Black people to trust government mandates. Could this be because they do much of the frontline work and have a good reason to fear the mystery mask-less redneck across the cutting table?
Also, of course, the WFH crowd overwhelmingly supports vax mandates at work even though they're safe at home. These folks are generally educated, urban, well-to-do and white. In other words, a vocal minority of Americans is holding the whole US supply chain hostage with the threat that any given facility might get shut down by a surprise COVID-outbreak because of their wild-eyed need for "freedom". How different is this from the “freedom” to drive drunk, or go deer hunting in the park? Vax "freedom", and its lesser cousin, Mask "freedom" are about to take us into the cold weather and peak holiday season playing a dangerous game of supply chain roulette.
There may be legit reasons to worry about getting vaccinated, but that doesn't make it okay to court disaster by keeping us all blind to the risk. We don't fly planes without navigational controls; we don't invest money without due diligence; we don't go on road trips without a fuel gauge. Why is it reasonable to expect our supply chain to play Santa without knowing which of his elves are potential capacity killers?
It's time to mandate the vax, or at least know the facts.
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