Navigating the Pandemic: May 2021

Supply Chain Management Proves to be a Key
by John Conway
HARRIS, May 2021—Many experts have described the COVID pandemic as the “black swan event” that has forced a number of businesses and organizations to rethink their supply chain models. Disruption to virtually every industry has resulted, as the pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in many organizations’ procurement procedures.
The Center for Discovery is a massive operation that depends heavily on an uninterrupted flow of goods, especially medical supplies and personal protective equipment. Despite the vagaries of the supply chain over the past year, The Center has managed to fare better than most organizations, mainly due to the efforts of the procurement and distribution team working out of the main purchasing warehouse in Harris.
Brian Dunne, Senior Director of Warehousing & Procurement at The Center, is the man faced with the responsibility of ensuring that the support staff has what it needs to perform their everyday duties. It hasn’t always been easy, but for the most part, Mr. Dunne says, the procurement team has been able to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
“I am very fortunate to work with the team I have here in Purchasing,” Mr. Dunne said recently. “As COVID began to spread, and the urgency to source PPE, food, household items, etc., became more of a challenge, the whole team here stepped up in a major way with their flexibility with scheduling and ensuring that implemented protocols were in place and strictly followed.”
Mr. Dunne specifically cited the contributions of Donald Morton, Matt Hendrickson, Saoirse Moloney, and Rebecca Crossman in keeping things running smoothly as more and more of his time was spent dealing with other matters.
“As the pandemic situation evolved, more and more of my time in the day-to-day operations in Purchasing became strained with more meetings and conference calls both within the agency and with our external vendors, along with the load of finding, procuring and distributing PPE,” he says. “They all stepped up and assumed more responsibility in managing and overseeing respective areas within the operation, which allowed me to focus more of my time on product research and working with other departments to develop procedures to mitigate potential COVID exposures. I am thankful that I have a staff that I can count on to implement and follow through on directives to an almost flawless extent.”
While Mr. Dunne is quick to credit the efforts of his staff, he is slower to acknowledge his own contributions to navigating the pandemic, starting with having established strong relationships with suppliers in the first place.
“By establishing and maintaining excellent business relationships with the companies and their representatives that provide critical items (medical supplies, foods, furniture, etc.) we were able to foresee many areas where shortages were likely to occur and implement an early procurement strategy based on expected usage,” he says. “In addition to leveraging our strong business relationships, our Environmental Services, Nursing and DNA teams at The Center have been instrumental in maintaining constant communication and assisting with developing contingency plans for likely supply chain disruptions within their respective areas.”
And most of all, Mr. Dunne says, strong leadership within the organization set the tone early on for a successful strategy in dealing with the many ramifications of the pandemic.
“I’d have to say the biggest factor in staying ahead of the virus and ensuring as safe an environment as possible for our staff and residents has to go to Patrick (Dollard) and Terry (Hamlin),” he says. “Their foresight into the danger of this virus among our population and realization that this was going to be a very long road, allowed me to move on product early, before critical supplies became short. Though the financial impact of what we needed to bring in was monumental, they realized it was necessary and gave me the green light to procure what we would need.”
At the risk of unintentionally overlooking someone deserving of credit, Mr. Dunne also praised the contributions of David Fanslau, Roger Anderson, Susan Sayers, Jason Kean, Lindsey Veety, Peggy Parten and “many others throughout the agency who played critical roles” in keeping the impact of the pandemic to a minimum.
A little over a year into the pandemic, Mr. Dunne says things are becoming “more normalized” and most of the shortages have eased. But new challenges have arisen, he says, most notably a shortage of syringes with which to administer the COVID vaccines. Such gaps in the supply chain are likely to continue for the foreseeable future, he says.
“We will eventually have to pivot again as we come across other challenges down the road, but we will make the appropriate adjustments and find ways to make it through.”