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Supply Chain Planners are the unsung heroes of disruption, tasked with picking up the pieces and keeping the world sane.

They keep food in our pantries and health equipment stocked in our hospitals. They ship building supplies to our communities and create mitigation plans so we can look forward to toasting our friends—in a group of more than 20!—in the restaurants and bars we love.

Supply Chain Planning for Volatility

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In fact, every disaster (and triumph) has its own unique fingerprint. Flooding in Louisiana or Houston, wildfires of Australia, the tsunamis of Japan or Thailand—each crisis has distinct regional impacts and results in thousands of shifts in the way we make, move, and consume particular goods and services.

While every disaster is unique, there are similarities to the patterns of disruption and the questions planners will face at every turn.

COVID-19 feels exceptional, and it is.

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Spikes and Declines follow common patterns. Planners have typical questions at each stage

Are you seeing demand spike or decline?

AI / Supply Chain

Recovery

sustained Middle

Beginning

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How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

How much of the increase in demand is consumed versus simply delaying future purchases?

Answering these questions in the midst of a crisis is incredibly challenging. There are the obvious disruptions to your business and employees, and rules-based forecasting systems go haywire during periods of rapid change. Too often planners' only option is to turn these systems off and make best guesses for their most crucial categories with spreadsheets and phone calls.

While an experienced planner can bring years of intuition and subtle context to planning their most important categories and SKUs, machine learning models excel at the long-tail. As patterns emerge from this, and prior disasters, machine learning models learn how to apply rapidly emerging signals coherently across all relevant categories.

Supply Chain Planners: thank you for everything you’re doing for us right now. We’d like to return the favor soon.