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Helping companies navigate Covid-19

Professor Yossi Sheffi's latest book, “The New (Ab)Normal,” offers a key supply chain perspective on the pandemic.
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MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics
Cover of "The New (Ab)Normal" and a headshot of MIT Professor Yossi Sheffi
“Much has been written about the pandemic, but ['The New (Ab)Normal'] takes a different perspective by showing how the virus emphasizes our interconnectedness and how supply chains are the connective tissue that is vital to the health of a vibrant society,” says author Yossi Sheffi.

In his new book “The New (Ab)Normal: Reshaping Business and Supply Chain Strategy Beyond Covid-19,” published today, MIT Professor Yossi Sheffi explains how companies grappled with the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic and how they can survive and thrive as the crisis subsides. Sheffi pays particular attention to supply chains’ role in helping companies manage and recover from the pandemic.

“Much has been written about the pandemic, but the book takes a different perspective by showing how the virus emphasizes our interconnectedness and how supply chains are the connective tissue that is vital to the health of a vibrant society,” says Sheffi, the director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics.

The book begins with an account of the struggle to mend the global economic fabric as the coronavirus ripped more holes in it. By viewing the crisis through a risk-management lens derived from Sheffi’s previous books, “The Resilient Enterprise” and “The Power of Resilience,” the author shows how companies create corporate immune systems to recognize and manage large-scale disruptions quickly.

Having set the scene, Sheffi describes the emergence of a “new normal” where phenomena such as business safe zones that protect customers and workers from the contagion and the rise of telecommuting redefine daily life. The new normal reshapes supply chains as well. For example, the acceleration of technology trends during the crisis could profoundly influence the future performance of supply chains, argues Sheffi.

He also explores broader changes wrought by Covid-19. An example is how the pandemic affirms supply chains’ critically important societal role. Civilization depends on supply chains to convert the planet’s bounty into needed products and deliver those products to 7.8 billion human beings at an affordable price. Sheffi shows that contrary to many media headlines, supply chains performed heroically during the pandemic and maintained supplies of critical products such as food. Yet, he acknowledges that there were failures and offers prescriptions for avoiding future breakdowns in health-care supplies.

The book ends with a look at the post-pandemic future — and the outlook is not necessarily gloomy. For instance, technological advances inspired by the crisis could level the playing field between small and large companies. Nimble small businesses can use a growing array of off-the-shelf cloud computing and mobile apps to narrow the competitive gap between themselves and larger rivals.

An essential lesson from the crisis is that flexibility and agility are critical to managing the pandemic’s disruptions and the pivot towards a changed future.

Supply chains will be at the core of the recovery. As “The New (Ab)Normal” highlights, supply chains served humanity during this global crisis and will continue to do so when the pandemic subsides, and beyond.

“One of my key objectives in writing the book is to help executives adapt their business models and supply chains to a world transformed by Covid-19,” says Sheffi.

Press Mentions

CBS News

Prof. Yossi Sheffi speaks with David Pogue of CBS Sunday Morning about what’s causing the current supply chain breakdowns. "The underlying cause of all of this is actually a huge increase in demand,” says Sheffi. “People did not spend during the pandemic. And then, all the government help came; trillions of dollars went to households. So, they order stuff. They order more and more stuff. And the whole global markets were not ready for this."


Prof. Yossi Sheffi speaks with CNN’s Zachary Wolf about how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected supply chains, impacting the supply of ketchup packets and causing delays in computer chips. “During the pandemic many industries reduced their orders and suppliers reduced their orders and capacity even further (because they anticipated that future orders will also be reduced),” says Sheffi. “When the economy came back, there was no capacity to snap right back.”


Forbes contributor Sharon Goldman spotlights Prof. Yossi Sheffi’s new book, “The New (Ab)Normal,” which examines how companies shifted their operations during the Covid-19 pandemic. Goldman writes that in the book, Sheffi “details how businesses grappled with the chaos of the pandemic, and explores what enterprises are likely to do to survive and thrive in 2021 and beyond, after the pandemic starts to subside.”

The Wall Street Journal

Prof. Yossi Sheffi speaks with Wall Street Journal reporters Sarah Krouse, Jared S. Hopkins and Ana Wilde Mathews about the challenges posed by distributing the Covid-19 vaccine across the country. “Everything has to come together—the packaging, the dry ice, the vials, the material itself. It all has to come together to the same place and have enough of it and exactly the right people there ready to take it,” says Sheffi. “Right now, there’s no conductor to the symphony,” just many parts that each need to work. 

Boston 25 News

Prof. Yossi Sheffi speaks with Boston 25 reporter Jason Law about how the Covid-19 pandemic is disrupting supply chains. “I don’t think it’s going to be as bad because we are more prepared for this,” says Sheffi of potential impacts caused by the latest rise in Covid-19 cases. “People now in factories and warehouses have dividers that they can work between. Everybody is wearing a mask. People understand the issue better.”

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