Dr. Yossi Sheffi is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he serves as Director of the Center for Transportation & Logistics.
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Photo by Marc Rafanell López on Unsplash

As delays in Covid-19 vaccinations inflict an increasing toll of deaths and economic ruin upon the US, the newly inaugurated Biden administration is releasing all doses of approved vaccines in federal storage to the states. The aim is to speed up the rate of inoculations.

Several healthcare experts have warned against this action due to the risk of not having enough vaccines for a second jab. These critics are wrong because failing to increase the pace of vaccinations poses graver risks.

The main long-term risk to the vaccines’ effectiveness is that Covid-19 might mutate to evade the immune systems of the vaccinated. The virus converts an infected person’s cells into “bio factories” that churn out billions of copies of the virus and infect more cells, potentially exposing more victims to the virus droplets and aerosol leaving the infected person’s body. However, sometimes the hijacked cellular machinery makes mistakes in copying Covid-19’s genetic code, creating a mutation that is passed on to the virus’s offspring. …


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In mid-December 2020, the US bumbled into one of the biggest leadership failures in the modern era. After heroic science and astute government funding delivered new vaccines in record time, the US botched the Covid-19 vaccination campaign’s roll-out.

To put the scale of the debacle into context, let’s compare the US performance to that of tiny Israel.

After a slow start at the end of December 2020, the US geared up to vaccinating 500,000 people per day, according to Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser to Operation Warp Speed, a figure described as “hopeful” by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Even this “hopeful” objective involves vaccinating a scant 0.16% …


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Temporary storefronts called “pop-up” shops are an established feature of the retail landscape, but how about “pop-up” fulfillment centers? Walmart is reportedly adopting the latter as part of its efforts to cope with the holiday surge in e-commerce traffic and maintain high service levels for its fast deliveries.

The transient fulfillment center is symptomatic of more profound changes in last-mile supply chains inspired by e-commerce demands. Nowhere are these changes more evident than in warehousing. …


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It may be difficult to appreciate while the coronavirus pandemic still rages, but companies will be more resilient when they come out of the crisis than when they entered it.

This is one of the key lessons to emerge from the extensive research I carried out for my new book The New (Ab)Normal: Reshaping Business and Supply Chain Strategy Beyond Covid-19. The book details the mayhem unleashed by the pandemic and the impact on companies, especially their supply chains. Countless enterprises were hit and some — notably in the hospitality business — were decimated, but many persevered and will prosper. …


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As I have argued many times, current efforts to combat climate change are well-intentioned but doomed to fail. They ignore the economic realities that make it difficult for consumers and businesses to support low-carbon consumption. (For more on these arguments, see my posts “Corporate Hot Air No Substitute for Real Action on Climate Change” and “Why We Need a New Manhattan Project to Combat Global Warming”.)

Proponents of these efforts now maintain that the changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic give their approach to combatting climate change even more impetus. …


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There is a lot of talk about China losing favor in the business world. For example, CNBC recently argued that they see a significant number of companies moving operations out of China. One commentator claimed that the production of toys and cameras is going to Mexico, the manufacture of personal computers is moving to Taiwan, and automotive manufacturing is finding new locations in Thailand, Vietnam, and India. According to Forbes, “new data shows US companies are definitely leaving China.”

Much of the blame for this change in sentiment is laid at the door of the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, a Forbes commentator suggests that in the post-pandemic world, China will be less enticing as a business destination. …


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COVID-19’s lockdowns have required people to replace much of the in-person communication they conducted at work — as well as with customers and suppliers — with virtual meetings on platforms such as Zoom, Teams, and Hangout. When the coronavirus crisis subsides, will people return to physical meeting places or cling to the virtual equivalents they have become familiar with?

The dilemma is especially acute when thinking about meetings with faraway suppliers and customers. In such cases, the pressure to avoid expensive trips and time away from families may reduce the frequency of face-to-face meetings.

We don’t know for sure what the outcome of these deliberations will be. However, one thing is certain: in-person meetings will still be a vital part of doing business because they engender trust. This commodity is critically important to the health of any enterprise. …


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The COVID-19 pandemic has upended employment in two vital respects: it has caused a global shift towards telecommuting as well as mass unemployment. How will these trends play out as the crisis evolves and, ultimately, the coronavirus is defeated?

Answers to this question will have a profound effect on where people physically work in the future and their job prospects. In both cases, the short- and long-term outcomes are different, and the outlook for global work patterns is decidedly mixed.

Fallout from the telecommuting wave

One of the “aha” results from the pandemic and the shelter-at-home period is that many can work from home without any decline in their productivity. In many cases, their productivity has improved. One reason is that while going to the office registers a “checkmark” — in other words, showing up is half the job — this is not the case with telecommuting. The only criteria that workers can be judged on while working from home are their results and their productivity. Thus, companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and the financial services provider Square have announced permanent work-from-home policies. Some enterprises, including several tech companies, have delayed their back-to-the office dates by more than six months while considering variations of the work-from-home arrangement. …


Contrary to the media’s apocalyptic assessment, the COVID-19 crisis has not broken America’s food supply chain and the product shortages experienced by consumers are temporary blips. As is often the case, looking behind the headlines will reveal the real situation — and problems that genuinely need to be addressed.

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Waves of fearmongering during a pandemic

As I explain in my blog post Their Finest Hour Supply Chain Professionals Bring It, media outlets know that “fear sells” and are portraying a false picture of a food supply chain that is in a state of collapse. In reality, the nation’s food supply is robust and despite the momentous changes in demand caused by the pandemic, food is reaching supermarkets and online distributors. Some retailers have introduced rationing — but to prevent hoarding and excess buying and not because they fear that supplies will dry up. …


Pressure to reopen the world’s economies is intensifying. However, hasty reopenings will likely spur waves of resurging infections in location after location, followed by more closures and quarantines.

Global economic recovery after the pandemic-imposed shutdown, therefore, is not likely to be V-shaped, U-shaped, L-shaped, or W-shaped. Instead, as the number of infections, hospital admissions, and deaths cycles up and down, chaotic cycles of economic rebirth and relapse will plague businesses and their supply chains.

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Businesses face a game of global whack-a-mole, as the COVID-19 virus rears its head or subsides in the cities, states, and countries that host the far-flung supply chains on which companies rely. …

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