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Coronavirus continues to impact supply chain 

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Mar 27, 2020

As COVID-19 starts to shape a new normal, supply chains are responding to new demands and ways to keep essential items stocked, providing industry and consumers with key needs.  

The recent rush to stock up on groceries, something CLC students studying supply chain management called “pantry stuffing,” sparked an inefficiency. Supply chain management and business instructor Pam Janson referred to this as the classic bullwhip effect, where increasing swings in demand at the final consumer in the supply chain causes all partners in the supply chain to react.

“Many businesses have worked toward the philosophy of maintaining ‘just in time’ inventory levels and lean manufacturing,” Janson said. “Companies that kept inventory levels low are having to quickly rely on often very erratic supply chains. Suddenly, those companies that had excess inventory in their warehouses are better able to ride out the current fluctuations in demand.”  

Janson introduces this concept in her introduction to supply chain management classes using the traditional Beer Game Simulation, conveniently available online as CLC moves to an alternative delivery model of teaching. In this exercise, students learn how to navigate the system dynamics of manufacturing, distribution, wholesale and retail in a friendly game where they decide how much beer to order to meet their customer demands. It teaches a lesson in coordinating the supply chain and the importance of sharing information with suppliers and customers. 

Supply chains managers are realizing where the breakdowns and bottlenecks are in their processes. New systems will arise as they recognize where weaknesses are and work to improve operations and enhance contingency plans.

“While keeping inventory levels and overhead low requires careful management, it also involves a lot of efficient business philosophies,” Janson explains. “You develop deep relationships with a narrow number of strong suppliers and logistics providers.”

While businesses work to meet changing demands and order quantities, they must also make sure employees feel safe; setting up procedures for distancing personnel, cleaning, and reacting to employee illness if it occurs.  

The students in the supply chain classes at CLC have their own stories to share, as many work in supply chain roles in local industry. “We recognize this unique point in time and are reflecting on the challenges and changes in all our supply chain courses,” Janson commented. “We always provide an opportunity to learn more about the breadth of supply chains and many techniques such as procurement strategies, demand forecasting, and managing reverse logistics (returns), but these lessons are playing out in industry at warp speed right now.”

CLC’s supply chain management introduction and advanced certificates and associate degree are now entirely online, providing more flexibility for working professionals and all students. Online summer classes start June 8.

About College of Lake County:

The College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation. Learn more at or call (847) 543-2000.