Category Management During the Coronavirus (COVID-19):  Actual Dispatch from the Front Lines!!


We hope and pray that you, your loved ones and your colleagues are all safe and sound.  Let me introduce X –  a friend, client and alumnus (and you know how proud we are of all our alumnus for what they have achieved) of ours who we’ve known for 10+ years.  I obviously will not share any more details other than he is the head of Supply Chain ( and a few other functions) for a large Global organization that is based in Europe.  We’ve been keeping in touch with him and he has been sending updates on what has been happening and I thought I would put a few of them together because it tells a compelling story.  In no way am I comparing this front line to the front lines being defended by the brave women and men of the medical profession – they are truly doing God’s work!  Here are some of the actual email exchanges with him.

February 25th

Hi Dalip,

Thanks for the reminder.

 The chance that I’ll be able to join this symposium in person remains small.

This week we woke up to the news that Northern Italy is likely to suffer significant disruptions in the next weeks, with our sites and our suppliers shutting down for the entire week at least (We buy 36% of our materials from Northern Italy, where we also have 3 of our major EU sites).

Best Regards,


March 5th

Hi Anne,

I hope things are well and you’re not getting as much coronavirus economic impact as we are in Europe.

Best Regards,


March 13th

Hi Dalip,

I’m fine to have the call next week.

The situation for us, mainly in Italy, keeps escalating, with our sites partially operating and some potentially stopping completely due to local suppliers’ issues.

I’m trying to resolve things one by one, but new issues appear every hour, including several people in our staff self-isolating.

Let’s hope countries like the UK and the US don’t see the same exponential escalation.

Best regards,


March 13th

Hi X,

Looks like our escalation may be as bad.  Let’s stay in touch.



March 24th

Hi Dalip,

I hope all in TMG and your families are well.

As always, I’m sure you’ll apply your creativity and expertise to create opportunities out of this crisis.

We’re certainly very busy in Supply Chain these days. I’m using the opportunity to plan in more details some of the changes we had in the pipeline.

At the same time, we’re trying to stretch production as much as possible, with more than 50% of our suppliers now temporarily closed.

Using E&O material and shifting production (and the supply base) to China, who seems to be in full recovery mode.

Is the roundtable progressing as planned? I assume it’ll be 100% virtual.

All the best and stay safe,


As you can see, all this transpired within 30 days.  I can just imagine the challenges X must have been going through and obviously our thoughts and prayers are with him.  The role of the Supply Chain professional is never as critical as it is during moments of crisis.  Disaster response Supply Chains (immediate food, shelter, medical supplies, medical personnel) determine the effectiveness of the response – it’s not hyperbole to state that significant lives can be saved or lost depending on these types of supply chains.  And the role of the Supply Chain function becomes the lifeblood of corporations because without that function orchestrating the supply chain like a conductor, economic activity shuts down completely and takes significantly longer to recover.  Don’t be surprised if the acknowledgement and recognition of the criticality of the function increases dramatically – as it should.


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