‘Breakthrough Supply Chains’: La Jolla author’s book explains what ‘drives the economy’
Don’t understand supply chains and why they can cause the economic quandaries they do? Longtime La Jollan Christopher Gopal has a book for you.
Gopal’s fourth book, “Breakthrough Supply Chains: How Companies and Nations Can Thrive and Prosper in an Uncertain World,” was published May 26. He co-authored it with Gene Tyndall, Wolfgang Partsch and Eleftherios Iakovou, “all globally recognized experts in the field,” he said.
For those not immersed in daily supply chain logistics, the book offers “an understanding of what’s going on today” to help readers comprehend what supply chain really is, said Gopal, an adjunct faculty member at UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management who teaches supply chain management.
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, the term “supply chain” became a household phrase.
“Everything in the world was blamed on supply chain management,” Gopal said. “I used to get asked by friends and colleagues, ‘What are you doing about toilet paper?’”
“There’s no real answer for that,” he said with a laugh.
So what is a supply chain? Webster defines it as “the chain of ... companies, materials and systems involved in manufacturing and delivering goods.”
Gopal defines it as everything someone or a company buys — “all the processes and things [that] span multiple countries, multiple trade organizations.”
“Supply chain drives the economy,” Gopal said.
Gopal is no stranger to the system, having worked in global supply chain and operations management for about 40 years as a senior executive for companies including Dell, Unisys and SAIC.
Gopal also ran the global supply chain consulting group at Ernst & Young for many years and is now a member of the national Defense Business Board and the Supply Chain Advisory Board of the Global Fund in Geneva.
He integrated all that knowledge with that of his co-authors to write “Breakthrough Supply Chains” to address a situation they’ve watched build over the past 15 years. “Companies are floundering,” Gopal said.
The book explores “how we got here and what companies and governments can do about it,” he said.
“Everything in the world was blamed on supply chain management [during the COVID-19 pandemic]. I used to get asked by friends and colleagues, ‘What are you doing about toilet paper?’”
— Christopher Gopal
The problems arise from conflict between neoliberalism, which is focused on market-oriented policies, and mercantilism, in which countries “operate for their own good,” Gopal said.
“We always operated under the assumption that globalization was smooth,” he said. Goods “would flow from one place to the other beautifully, everybody would be happy, wages would go up, all countries would cooperate.”
“Unfortunately, countries don’t operate that way,” he said.
Outsourcing to increase profit means “a whole lot of risk” within the supply chain, he said. “We have built supply chains that are built to break.“
To help companies correct course, Gopal and his co-authors assembled the “best things that companies have been doing over the past so many years” — a collection he calls the “breakthrough supply chain.”
The book contains “innovative ideas that companies have come up with in supply chain … good ideas that have always been around that companies have forgotten,” he said.
The book also aims to help readers support legislation aimed at strengthening the supply chain, he said.
Gopal imagines a middle ground for supply chain success. “We’re hoping that people [and] policymakers institute policies that are not on one set of the extreme or the other — not completely mercantile and not neoliberal,” he said.