A collaborative approach to maintaining optimal inventory and mitigating stockout risks during a pandemic: capabilities for enabling health-care supply chain resilience

Derek Friday*, David A. Savage, Steven A. Melnyk, Norma Harrison, Suzanne Ryan, Heidi Wechtler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Inventory management systems in health-care supply chains (HCSC) have been pushed to breaking point by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unanticipated demand shocks due to stockpiling of medical supplies caused stockouts, and the stockouts triggered systematic supply chain (SC) disruptions inconceivable for risk managers working individually with limited information about the pandemic. The purpose of this paper is to respond to calls from the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) for coordinated global action by proposing a research agenda based on a review of current knowledge and knowledge gaps on the role of collaboration in HCSCs in maintaining optimal stock levels and reinforcing resilience against stockout disruptions during pandemics.

Design/methodology/approach: A systematic review was conducted, and a total of 752 articles were analyzed.

Findings: Collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment practices are under-researched in the HCSC literature. Similarly, a fragmented application of extant SC collaborative risk management capabilities undermines efforts to enhance resilience against systematic disruptions from medical stockouts. The paucity of HCSC articles in humanitarian logistics and SC journals indicates a need for more research interlinking two interdependent yet critical fields in responding to pandemics.

Research limitations/implications: Although based on an exhaustive search of academic articles addressing HCSCs, there is a possibility of having overlooked other studies due to search variations in language controls, differences in publication cycle time and database search engines.

Originality/value: The paper relies on COVID-19's uniqueness to highlight the limitations in optimization and individualistic approaches to managing medical inventory and stockout risks in HCSCs. The paper proposes a shift from a fragmented to holistic application of relevant collaboration practices and capabilities to enhance the resilience of HCSCs against stockout ripple effects during future pandemics. The study propositions and suggestion for an SC learning curve provide an interdisciplinary research agenda to trigger early preparation of a coordinated HCSC and humanitarian logistics response to future pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-271
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2021


  • Collaborative forecasting planning replenishment
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Healthcare supply chains
  • Risk perception
  • Supply chain collaborative risk management
  • Supply chain learning curve
  • Supply chain resilience
  • Supply chain uncertainty


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