How a global manufacturer has learned some vital lessons about managing uncertainty and planning for the future

Meri Stevens, Worldwide Vice President of Supply Chain, Consumer Health and Deliver at Johnson & Johnson speaks with MIT CTL Director Prof. Yossi Sheffi on Mar. 17, 2021

As the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic progresses, the lessons learned from the crisis and the implications for future supply chains become clearer.

Healthcare company Johnson & Johnson has been on the front lines both as a global manufacturer that has had to manage the uncertainties of the pandemic, and latterly, as a producer of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics interviewed Meri Stevens, Worldwide Vice President of Supply Chain, Consumer Health and Deliver at Johnson & Johnson, about her company’s pandemic experiences.

For most companies, one of the most important lessons to come out of…


by Josué C. Velázquez Martínez and Ken Cottrill

As Amazon’s recently launched Climate Pledge Friendly program underlines, giving consumers opportunities to make green purchases can differentiate a brand and burnish its reputation as a sustainable retailer.

However, our research shows that online sellers — including Amazon — do not realize the full potential of green purchasing options. With the right messaging and supporting logistics systems, these retailers can provide sustainable buying choices that bolster their brands and lower logistics costs.

The power of the right sustainability messaging

The Climate Pledge Friendly program presents a special label to consumers when searching for more than 25,000 products on Amazon’s…


Supply chains triumph when they complete deliveries satisfactorily — but not when the payload is the COVID-19 virus.

Framing the fight against the pandemic in supply chain terms makes it clear that to stop the spread of the virus, we must ensure that its supply chain fails. We can secure failure by using disruptors to prevent deliveries of the supply chain’s deadly freight. But not disruptors such as adverse weather that derail product supply chains. These are special disruptors that include masks, quarantines, and social distancing.

Our point of origin for the COVID-19 supply chain is an infected individual. He…


Dealing with uncertainty, whether in the form of a crisis such as a natural disaster or a disruptive force such as technological innovation, has always been a core element of supply chain management.

Blurred image of a seaport
Blurred image of a seaport

However, it seems like the level of uncertainty is greater today than ever before.

How can companies steel their business operations against escalating change, and what are the implications for future supply chains? Also, what opportunities do these changes bring, and how can companies take advantage of them to create a competitive advantage?

Ongoing research on resilience and risk management carried out by the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics over the last two decades or so, shows that companies need a mix of established and new strategies to manage uncertainty in today’s fast-paced business environment.

MIT CTL’s upcoming conference…


Despite retailers’ obsession with making the buying experience more convenient this holiday season, for many consumers choosing the right gift has gotten more complicated.

But how do these discerning buyers know that the brands they covet meet these requirements? And how do they make more sustainable choices once they have selected their gifts?

Ken Cottrill, Alexis Bateman, and Matthias Winkenbach, MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics

These are important questions for shoppers as well as the companies that profit from their holiday largesse. The National Retail Federation in the US expects retail sales to total between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion in November and December 2019. …


Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies use robust algorithms to interpret patterns from historical sales and predict future demand. Typically, these algorithms only have one or two sources of information (data sets) to derive the forecast for the next period.

As the field of business forecasting develops, technological improvements allow companies to experiment with more advanced models. One such model being explored by a leading manufacturer of healthcare products is Demand Sensing. This approach has been around for more than a decade but is steadily gaining interest.

The enterprise is already a leader in accurate forecasting. Its current forecasting system produces…


Will Blockchain Create a Digital Divide in Shipping?

Competition without common standards could undermine blockchain in shipping

On November 6, 2018 nine leading ocean carriers and terminal operators announced that they are forming a consortium to develop the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN), an open digital platform based on blockchain technology.

The new consortium advances the application of blockchain technology in supply chains — but is also highlights the dangers of a “Betamax versus VHS” fight that creates inefficiencies by forcing users to navigate different systems.

A blockchain is a distributed database that can store data in a permanent, transparent and shared way. It has the potential to solve…


In an age where customers are expecting faster deliveries and increased flexibility, consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies are constantly looking to evolve their supply chains. This requires companies to examine their end-to-end supply chains to find opportunities to optimize both cost and visibility. Oftentimes, companies focus on their outbound logistics network to find such opportunities. However, there are also many available ways to improve and streamline the inbound logistics network.

Redesigning inbound logistics networks can yield significant cost savings

A capstone research project sponsored by a major CPG company looks at how different supply network designs for inbound logistics can drive savings. General costing models were created to compare…


Co-written by Inma Borrella and ken cottrill.

Countless proof-of-concept and pilot projects have provided compelling information on the potential worth of blockchain solutions in supply chain management, but the technology has to start delivering concrete ROIs soon if the industry is to take it seriously.

Is blockchain technology a hammer looking for a nail?

This was a recurrent theme at the Blockchain Applications In Supply Chain Management Roundtable, October 9 to 10, 2018, organized by the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics. More than 25 enterprises from a wide range of industries attended the event to discuss the current state of blockchain technology and its prospects from a supply chain perspective.

A blockchain can store data in a permanent, transparent and shared way. It promises to solve trust issues, streamline transactions through the elimination of intermediaries and automate processes. However, several factors hinder the technology’s wide implementation.

ken cottrill

Editorial Director

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