What seemed like science fiction a few short weeks ago is now very real. Movies such as Outbreak, Contagion and Virus are looking more like documentaries every day. As we battle COVID-19, a major issue that will only increase is disruption to supply chains.
This disruption has been as devastating as it has been swift. There is unprecedented demand for some products (hand sanitiser has never been so popular), just as production of other products grinds to a halt due to lack of parts.
Our research concerns managing supply chains in a crisis and using technologies such as Artificial Intelligence , 3D Printing and blockchain. These technologies, which also seemed like science fiction just a short time ago, can help the world recover from one crisis and be better prepared for the next one.
Supply and demand
There are a number of challenges these technologies can address. One of these is predicting how people respond to unprecedented events. Unexpected surges in demand for hand sanitisers, for example, have led to perfume factories in France switching to the production of hand gels for hospitals to increase supply.
Decision makers struggle to predict where and when the demand will come, as well as how much of it there will be. It is here where AI can help by identifying patterns and predicting what will happen next. It helps decision makers cope with information overload by capturing and aggregating data from a variety of sources. These techniques are helping to identify high-risk patients in Chicago, even when testing is limited.
Another challenge is maintaining supply, especially when supply chains are reliant on one source that is affected by unexpected disruption. Italy’s battle with the pandemic naturally means supplies of pasta are disrupted elsewhere. This is where 3D printing comes in. 3D printing involves making things layer by layer, directly from digital files. It allows things to be made where and when they are…