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Experts explain COVID’s impact on supply chain

Arlington Public Schools provide grab-and-go meals during the COVID-19 closure at Kenmore Middle School.
Arlington Public Schools provide grab-and-go meals during the COVID-19 closure at Kenmore Middle School.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Experts from Purdue University shared their thoughts on supply chain disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic and implications for consumers.

“COVID-19 has had devastating impact on worldwide health,” said Tim Newton, director of external relations and communications at Krannert School of Management.

“It’s also provided a major challenge to the global economy. A large component of that destruction has come in the supply chain. Shoppers have felt the impact from scarcity of some items, to increased costs for others.

“These shocks, while hopefully temporary in nature, may lead to permanent changes in consumer behavior.”

Here are key takeaways from the panel:

“For the supply chain to function, every element needs to function. We need trucks, truck drivers, warehouse employees, store employees. All of these are roles with very little automation…

“What does the future look like? My guess is there’s going to be more automation in the store. My guess is we’re going to see robots moving around to check inventory levels and fulfill orders.

“IBM has announced video tracking to enable social distancing to count the number of people in the store.

“Many stores are implementing one way aisles. (There may also be) greater use of online order and pickup, greater role in food prep.”

Ananth Iyer, senior associate dean

Krannert School of Management

“Whatever hits consumers have taken, I would argue that farmers have probably taken an even bigger hit.

“The USDA releases projections of net farm income. In February they were projecting that farm income for this coming year was going to be fairly flat. But it’s hard to imagine that we’re not going to come down significantly, given the prices of most agricultural commodities have been falling across the board.”

Jayson Lusk, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics

Purdue University

“What we’ve seen is our major retailers, like Walmart, Kroger and Meijer, have really picked up (changes) very quickly and were able to give us the option to order online. They have shoppers pick out groceries and allow car pickups or deliveries. The challenge is what will happen going forward.”

Mohammad Rahman, associate professor of management

Krannert School of Management

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