The outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease, 2019) posed unprecedented challenges to the global supply chains. As a leading and innovative supply chain that achieved just-in-time manufacturing, Apple’s performance was put in the spotlight. This case describes how Apple’s supply chain has coped with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Apple’s supply chain has weathered natural disasters, such as earthquakes, fires, floods, and SARS; the risks and challenges brought by the outbreak of COVID-19 were unprecedented and complicated. Unlike the symptoms of SARS patients with high fever, the symptoms of COVID-19 varied; some patients had no symptoms at all, which made them difficult to identify. Moreover, the pandemic complicated supply chain planning because it was difficult, if not impossible, to predict where the next epicenter would be and what measures local governments might take to prevent the further spread of the virus. Social distancing was effective to control the pandemic, but it brought both challenges and opportunities for companies like Apple. On the one hand, social distancing slowed the manufacturing process and had a negative impact on the economy, which could dampen consumer confidence and reduce demand. On the other hand, social distancing boosted the demands for electronic devices, as many people had to work at home.
Using this case study, students will understand the importance of risk management in supply chain management and learn the challenges and opportunities of the disruption posed to business operations. The case provides an opportunity for students to discuss and understand why some companies can recover from the disruptions better than other companies and how a resilient supply chain can improve a company’s competitiveness.
1. To allow students to understand the advantages of a lean and agile supply chain
2. To enable students to understand the importance of resilience in supply chain management
3. To provide an opportunity for students to discuss different strategies to cope with unexpected disruptions in supply chain management