Mitigating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply chain disruptions in pandemics – a system dynamics approach

Ioanna Falagara Sigala, Mikhail Sirenko, Tina Comes, Gyöngyi Kovacs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic has emerged as an unprecedented health crisis worldwide and heavily disrupted the healthcare supply chain. This study focuses on analysing the different types of disruptions occurring in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic, and on proposing mitigation strategies that are fit to the global scale and many interdependencies that are characteristic for this pandemic. We construct a conceptual system dynamics model (SD) based on the literature and adjusted with the use of empirical data (interviews) to capture the complexity of a global supply chain and identify leverage points (mitigation strategies).
This research follows a mix-methods approach. First, we developed a conceptual framework based on four types of disruptions that usually occur during health emergencies (direct effect, policy, supply chain strategy, and behaviourally induced disruptions). Second, we collected and analysed data from interviews with experts in the PPE supply chain. Based on the interviews data, we developed a conceptual system dynamics (SD) model that allows us to capture the complex and dynamic interplay between the elements of the global supply chain system, by highlighting key feedback loops, delays, and the way the mitigation strategies can impact on them. From this analysis, we developed four propositions for supply chain risk management (SCRM) in global health emergencies and four recommendations for the policy and decision makers.
The SD model highlights that without a combination of mitigation measures, it is impossible to overcome all disruptions. As such, a co-ordinated effort across the different countries and sectors that experience the disruptions is needed. The SD model also shows that there are important feedback loops, by which initial disruptions create delays and shortages that propagate through the supply chain network. If the co-ordinated mitigation measures are not implemented early at the onset of the pandemic, these disruptions will be persistent, creating potential shortages of PPE and other critical equipment at the onset of a pandemic – when they are most urgently needed.
We followed a qualitative approach to explore the pandemic phenomenon, which of course, could not be generalised and used in all contexts. One limitation of our study is that the empirical data were collected on the first wave of COVID-19, which capture the challenges during the outbreak but not post-COVID-19 actions and behaviours.
We propose a conceptual SD model only as a first step towards a better understanding of how the global supply chain of PPE was disrupted. While there is evidence of how the proposed mitigation strategies impact the system of interest, we cannot precisely quantify it yet. One of the next steps is to convert it into a simulation model given the newly available data at hand.
The proposed mitigation strategies contribute both to the literature on supply chain disruptions, as well as practically to health care organisations, governmental and non-governmental decision-makers, and their suppliers including logistics service providers in a pandemic. We make four supply chain recommendations for the policy and decision makers involved in the pandemic response. They can be used as a guide for the practitioners to develop preparedness and response mechanisms for the next epidemics and pandemics.
The results of this study could used to be prepare better for the next pandemic and thus contribute to the public health.
This research enriches the understanding of the disruptions of PPE supply chains on the systems level and proposes mitigation strategies based on empirical data and existing literature.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10.1108/IJOPM-09-2021-0608
Peer-reviewed scientific journalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 06.2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoHP: Humanitarian and societal logistics


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