The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, a global health emergency.
University of Minnesota expert Karthik Natarajan is available for comment on how the outbreak might influence global supply chains and the logistical challenges surrounding delivering an effective response to the outbreak.
Karthik Natarajan, Ph.D.
“The coronavirus outbreak has the potential to create significant disruptions to the supply chains of companies in a number of industries around the globe. Many companies have suppliers in the Wuhan area. If the outbreak prolongs and factories remain shuttered or operate under limited capacity, it could create challenges in terms of the availability of components necessary to assemble the final products. Many companies that source exclusively from the Wuhan region are already looking for alternate suppliers in other regions, both in and outside of China, given the uncertainty in terms of how long the outbreak might last and the potential for long-term supply shortages.
“In addition to supply chain disruptions, the outbreak is also likely to create significant logistical challenges for organizations and entities involved in responding to the outbreak. There has been a substantial increase in the demand for masks, protective gear and other medical supplies. However, there are already reports of shortages of those items, hampering the response process.
“The uncertainty around the virus also makes it extremely challenging to estimate how many people are likely to be affected in different parts of the globe. This further complicates the supply-demand matching process. In the past, global health organizations have sought to address this challenge by establishing central supply hubs in strategic locations (e.g., Dubai) from where essential health supplies can be delivered quickly to different parts of the world. We are likely to see a similar coordinated global response for the coronavirus outbreak in the upcoming days.”
Karthik Natarajan, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Supply Chain and Operations at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. His scholarly interests are in global health supply chains, humanitarian and not-for-profit operations, and social responsibility in supply chains. He actively works with nonprofits in Minneapolis, as well as global health organizations, and has several ongoing projects related to improving the efficiency of global health supply chains and increasing the availability of essential health commodities in developing countries.