Supply chain problems

A long time ago I wrote a review of a book called "Inventory Management in Lebanon" for the Journal of the O.R. Society.  I doubt if anybody bought the book as a result of the review, but I felt that it deserved a review in the world-wide O.R. literature.  It had been written by an academic at the American University of Beirut, and published by that university.  I read it while Tina and I lived in the neighbouring country of Jordan.  My students there, all on a part-time MBA course, were aware of the problems of being at the end of a complex supply chain for items that had to be imported from North America or Europe.  The book discussed conventional models of inventory control, and explained where they fell down in Lebanon (and as I saw, in Jordan as well).  Lead times were erratic, items deteriorated while in stock, there were government controls on overseas purchases and import restrictions.  This was the reality which did not actually match the theory in most O.R. textbooks.

Last week, Tina and I encountered a similar problem, rather closer to home.  We were on a short holiday on the island of Jersey in the British Channel Islands.  Each day we ate our lunch out.  One day was extremely wild and wet, so that ferries to the islands were cancelled and so were some flights.  The following day we went into the local branch of a national chain store to try and use a coupon for their sandwiches, to find there were none.  That chain store sourced its sandwiches from the mainland.  Their supply had failed because of the weather.  Echoes of the erratic lead times of Lebanon.  We bought sandwiches made on the island (presumably the bread was sourced in the island) which were much more pleasant (and more expensive). 

Mont Orgueil Castle on Jersey

So, Tina and I wondered about the decisions made by that chain store about its supply to Jersey.  We concluded that the supply chain must be sufficiently reliable for the company to continue its practice of supplying the shop from the mainland, otherwise they would have chosen to source these items from a local source.  And we wondered if there were any items where they held larger stocks in their Jersey branch than they would for a similar sized branch on the mainland.  (No, these speculations didn't spoil our holiday!)  And, by the way, I would be happy to return to Jersey if any company would pay for Tina and I to go there to research supply chain problems there!


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