President Biden’s White House Council on Supply Chain Resilience is a welcome step, but its focus solely on boosting supply misses a crucial element: demand flexibility. A comprehensive approach addressing both sides of the equation is essential for a truly resilient supply chain.

The Myopia of Supply-Side Solutions:

While Biden’s initiative acknowledges the pandemic’s impact, it overlooks pre-existing vulnerabilities in global logistics. These include:

  • Misaligned pricing: “Just-in-time” expectations often clash with pricing models, leading to congestion and inefficiencies.
  • Underinvestment: Modernization of ports, warehouses, and digital infrastructure lags behind demand.
  • Knowledge gaps: Many lack a deep understanding of complex, tiered supply chains.

Demand-Side Solutions for Resilience:

Focusing solely on supply misses opportunities to manage demand and build resilience:

  • Differential pricing: Offer discounts for slower delivery, incentivizing consumers to make conscious choices.
  • Transparency and education: Inform consumers about the costs and trade-offs of different delivery options.
  • Innovation in pricing models: Explore subscription-based models or dynamic pricing based on real-time demand and capacity.

The Tiered Complexity of Global Supply:

Global supply chains are rarely linear; they’re intricate networks of tiered production and transportation. Policies must acknowledge this complexity:

  • Focus on efficiency, not just capacity: Building “white elephants” with excessive supply-side investments hurts sustainability.
  • Embrace digitalization: End-to-end digitalization is crucial for optimizing logistics across tiers.
  • Promote competition and innovation: Encourage new players and technologies to improve efficiency and resilience.

Beyond the Headlines: A Call for Informed Policy:

The media’s focus on “returning to normal” ignores the transformative impact of secular trends like digitalization and changing consumer preferences. Policies must:

  • Educate the public: Help consumers understand the economic tradeoffs involved in different delivery options.
  • Consider national security and sustainability: Poor supply chain management has significant consequences beyond just economic efficiency.
  • Lead with informed messaging: Avoid populist rhetoric and focus on long-term solutions that address both supply and demand.

President Biden’s initiative is a start, but it risks falling short without a balanced approach. By embracing demand-side solutions and acknowledging the complex realities of global logistics, we can build a truly resilient supply chain that serves the needs of consumers, businesses, and the planet.