How Supply Chains Can Become More Resilient, Following Nature’s Design

miniture forktruck boxes and airplane on a table

Many organizations find that the health of their bottom line is becoming increasingly dependent on the quality of the supply chain they use. After all, interruptions in the storage and transportation of items can have ripple effects that spread to multiple businesses.

It makes for unpredictable problems that data scientists want to model to predict how supply chains function under stress.

So logistics professionals are always on the lookout for new ways to organize the flow of raw materials, components, and other items. Sometimes insight can come from unexpected sources.

With that in mind, a new paper in Nature highlights how natural ecosystems actually can be seen as parallel to supply chains in the United States. The idea is that U.S. cities can improve and strengthen their supply chains to have similar resiliency to ecosystems.

Creating a More Resilient Supply Chain

Benjamin Ruddell, who serves as director of the FEWSION Project and the School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems at Northern Arizona University wrote a paper entitled “Supply chain diversity buffers cities against food shocks” in the July 8, 2021 issue of Nature with co-author Richard Rushforth, also of NAU.

Their work is funded by the National Science Foundation and is designed to use data mapping to “monitor domestic supply chains for food, water, and energy down to the county level.”

Scientists need to examine supply chains to see how we can avoid unpredictable disruptions to the system.

Supply Chains Working Like an Ecosystem

You can view supply chains as being similar to the food webs of natural ecosystems (from plants eaten by smaller animals who are in turn eaten by larger animals, with a whole host of plant life and creatures all interconnected).

“This is why ecological theory is so important — if we have diverse supply chains that mimic ecological systems, they can more readily adapt to unforeseeable shocks,” according to Ruddell. “We can use this nature-inspired design to create more resilient supply chains.”

The researchers considered data covering the history of food flow in America and how well the supply lines can withstand shocks (economic turmoil, natural disasters, war, and so on). They found that the diversity of a city’s supply chain explains more than 90 percent of the intensity, duration, and frequency of historically observed food supply shocks in US cities.

The researchers created a model to determine that the diversity of various cities’ supply chains has a relationship with how intense, long, and frequently food supply shocks occur, regardless of the cause. They plan to use their mathematical model to see if it also holds for other kinds of supply chains, such a for household goods.

Warehouse Experts Your Business Can Depend On

Prudent business owners who focus on the quality of their supply chain know just how important it is to have a dependable warehouse system in the mix.  American Warehouse, Inc. has facilities in Hudson and Nashua, New Hampshire for your convenience. To learn more about our approach to third-party logistics and how we can improve your supply chain, please contact us today.