December 2012 | Commentary | Checking In

What Sandy Showed Me

Tags: Supply Chain Management

Felecia Stratton is the editor of Inbound Logistics magazine.

As the editor of Inbound Logistics, my job is to provide information about keeping product moving from source to selling point. In my nearly 30 years in the industry, I have read, written, and edited many articles about supply chain disruptions. But words are just words. It was quite different to experience disruption with my own eyes, in my own town.

I work in New York, but live in Sea Bright, N.J., a small town bookended on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the other by the Shrewsbury River. As a long-time resident, I've dealt with my share of ordinary street flooding from nor'easters, high tides, and full moons. But Sandy was no ordinary storm.

The morning after Sandy struck, as the sun came up, I peered out the second-floor window of my flooded home. I saw houses ripped from their foundations, storefronts shattered, and roads made impassable by mountains of sand.

Despite a sense of despair in the days that followed, hope and optimism emerged quickly as the supply chain industry rushed to the aid of those in need. Ryder disaster recovery teams and American Red Cross trucks sped emergency provisions to Sea Bright. Elsewhere across the Northeast, transportation and logistics companies stepped up and did what they do best: match supply to demand.

The American Logistics Aid Network engaged private industry and logistics services companies to facilitate the needs of disaster relief organizations. Hub Group provided vehicles to owner-operators who lost their own so they could keep trucking. ROAR Logistics collected donations and transported supplies to displaced residents. Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific, RIM Logistics, UPS, DHL, and FedEx pledged millions of dollars toward relief efforts. These companies, and countless others, gave comfort to those left hopeless and homeless by Sandy.

The supply chain community also rallied around a local Sea Bright fixture: Bain's Hardware. Their motto: If we don't have it, you don't need it. Recognizing that if there's one thing a town needs in the aftermath of a hurricane, it's a local hardware store, Frank Bain's suppliers and carriers dispatched volunteers to demolish and rebuild the store, and deliver replacement inventory. Thanks to these supply chain partners, Bain's reopened on Dec. 12; the first Sea Bright business to do so.

Sandy showed me the true nature of the people who work in supply chain management. I saw them provide product without credit, transportation under the harshest circumstances, and warm bodies to help clean up and restock shelves. I saw their generous donations of time, resources, and money.

For me, and many others, it will be a long road back. But the supply chain industry gave Sandy victims hope, help, and a headstart to recovery.