As we look back on almost two years of a global pandemic, I think it’s time we take a look around this holiday season and give thanks to all those who have gone above and beyond to make our lives if not normal, at least bearable, by providing the goods, services, and support that we need in our lives.
Of course, we start with the healthcare workers and first responders who must risk their own safety, day in day out, to make sure we are safe; the scientists who have designed, manufactured, and delivered vaccines to fight this terrible COVID-19 pandemic.
But let’s not forget all the people who work tirelessly to make sure that there is food on our table, clothes on our backs, deliveries at our doorsteps, and supplies in the stores. The essential workers across the global supply chain.
Supply chains have had some bad press in the past few months, with plant shutdowns, port closures, cargo ship congestion, the inflation blame games, and labor shortages. But we must remember that behind this nebulous thing called the “supply chain” are people who make things tick.
There are people in the manufacturing facilities who have had to work short staffed, in protective clothing and complying to environmental health and safety protocols. There are people driving through the night, sacrificing time with loved ones, to move goods around the country. There are people, along with the cargo, sitting out at sea waiting for the call to come into dock, and there are people trying to keep the shelves stocked, with limited supply, and handling disgruntled customers who are looking for their favorite brand of cranberries to put on the Thanksgiving table.
Cranberries – From Farm to Table
It is estimated that Americans consume about 80 million pounds of cranberries during Thanksgiving. Taking a closer look at that can of cranberry sauce, here’s what it takes to provide this staple of the Thanksgiving meal.
It starts with a farmer in a cranberry bog, where it can take up to 16 months for the berries to ripen, before they are harvested in September — in New England at least. To harvest, the farmers must flood the cranberry bog to let the berries rise to the surface to be loosened from the vine, collected, and loaded into trucks, then transported by drivers to a manufacturing plant.
At the manufacturing plant, the berries are sorted by size and cleaned. They are then placed in wooden crates, frozen, and stored ready for production.
The production process starts by “spiking” the frozen berries in order to loosen them up and then fresh berries are added, and the batch is inspected for quality. They are then ground up into a puree, some sweetener is added, and the resulting mixture is pasteurized. The finished batch then goes into the canning process, after which the full cans are steamed and sealed, cooled, labeled, and finally packed into cases that are moved into a warehouse prior to shipping.
All of these steps require a team of production planners, supervisors, and workers.
Shipping requires a logistics network of planners, warehouse personnel, and drivers to move, store, and distribute pallets of cranberry sauce all over the country to retail stores where, again, there are teams of people stacking and replenishing the shelves.
To put it in perspective, for this holiday season, the process from farm to table started about the time the pandemic hit the U.S., and involved hundreds of people, just so we as consumers can have cranberry sauce as a side this Thanksgiving.
Showing Gratitude this Holiday Season
This Thanksgiving, I for one will be giving thanks for what I do have, and for all the people who made it possible — and not complaining about what is not available.
Thank you to all those honest, hardworking people behind the scenes, making the best of a tough situation, so that we can all try and enjoy some semblance of normality this holiday season.
To learn more about how to manage teams of people across a sustainable supply chain download this recent Oxford Economics study.
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This story originally appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.