Original Research

Supply chain disruptions during COVID-19 pandemic: Key lessons from the pharmaceutical industry

Blessing Takawira, Raborale I.D. Pooe
South African Journal of Business Management | Vol 55, No 1 | a4048 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajbm.v55i1.4048 | © 2024 Blessing Takawira, Raborale I.D. Pooe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 April 2023 | Published: 24 January 2024

About the author(s)

Blessing Takawira, Department of Business Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Raborale I.D. Pooe, Department of Business Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Purpose: This study extends previous research by exploring the key lessons learned by the pharmaceutical industry in South Africa from the COVID-19 pandemic supply chain disruptions.

Design/methodology/approach: Having embraced the interpretivist paradigm, 25 supply chain professionals were purposively selected on the basis of their experience and deep knowledge of the industry and interviewed using the semi-structured approach of interviews. A qualitative data analysis programme, ATLAS.ti (version 9.1), was used to analyse the transcripts.

Findings/results: Following thematic analysis, the following themes emerged from the primary data: supply networks, demand planning and management, supply chain coordination, inventory management, logistics management and local production.

Practical implications: It is crucial to build resilience in the design of pharmaceutical supply chains. A comprehensive demand management strategy and use of data analytics need to be adopted by pharmaceutical companies to improve demand visibility, responsiveness and supply chain resilience. The study also revealed the need for local production, as local skills and enterprises are being developed.

Originality/value: This study has extended the body of knowledge on the supply chain disruptions, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry by building on the studies that were conducted during COVID-19, many of which were not based on empirical data. It also points supply chain professionals in a direction which enables them to develop a disruption strategy while providing justification for policymakers to support investment in the development of the requite skills for the pharmaceutical industry and the development of local production facilities.


supply chain disruption; COVID-19; pharmaceutical industry; supply networks; supply chain coordination; logistics management; local production; demand planning and management; inventory management

JEL Codes

D01: Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles; D02: Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact; L23: Organization of Production

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure


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