Customers who buy up substitute products such as paper towel in place of toilet paper could be creating serious consequences for industry supply chains, warned an industry expert.
Richard Wilding, professor of supply chain strategy at Cranfield School of Management, said purchases by people unable to buy their normal items could have a knock-on effect in sectors dependent on products for which there was a sudden increase in demand.
Additionally, products such as paper towel used in place of toilet paper could threaten to block or slow sewage systems.
“We are seeing shortages of toilet paper but worryingly also shortages of paper kitchen towels and industrial paper towel used for example, in garages and workshops and other wipe products,” he said.
“If kitchen towels, baby wipes or industrial papers are used as a replacement for toilet paper, our sewage systems could readily become blocked with the resulting chaos and increased health risks associated with this. Ultimately, water companies may not have the infrastructure and equipment to unblock the sewer system.
Another example he cited was panic buying of dust masks, with members of the public reportedly turning to building hardware suppliers for face masks and body suits. As a result, workers who regularly use masks for protection against airborne particulate matter risk running out of this equipment at certain suppliers.
“The issue where a seemingly unrelated supply chain channel causes disruption is known as a ‘supply chain parallel interaction’ – causing shortages in their supply chain as a knock-on effect and a disrupting a seemingly unrelated industry."
Photo: while firms such as HCL Safety have increased protection for workers through improved kit and processes, consumer-led demand could deplete safety supplies needed for the workforce, warn experts