On March 15th in the Financial Times Gillian Tett pointed out the vulnerability of global supply chains:

“[B]efore 2007, bankers had created numerous convoluted, cross-border financial chains. And while these chains seemed to make the system more efficient and safer in good times, when disaster struck, they produced new risks which took investors by surprise.”

She quoted research on the provenance of one item:

“Part of the problem is that the supply chains in many key manufacturing spheres increasingly hop across multiple borders. Last year, for example, the Asian Development Bank set about trying to assess how just one item, the iPhone, was made. This revealed a dazzlingly complex pattern, typical of numerous sectors. “Manufacturing iPhones involves nine companies, which are located in . . . the Republic of Korea, Japan, Taipei, China, Germany, and the US,” the ADB observed, adding that “the major producers and suppliers include Toshiba, Samsung, InfineonBroadcom, Numonyx, Murata and Cirrus Logic.” 

Other information 

A few days later, Professor Dan Schiller, an American telecommunications historian, explained that the earthquake damaged undersea cables which carry much of the business-process data needed to run supply chains.

Another research with LWM links is a report drawing on the 2002 research, by co-founder Colin Hines and then MEP Caroline Lucas, on long-distance food ‘swapping’.

One example from the DEFRA website:

“In the UK in 2008, 126 million litres of liquid milk was imported into the UK and at the same time 270 million litres of liquid milk was exported out of the UK.

Researcher Rianne ten Veen also highlighted the adverse economic and environmental implications of such practice.

A search of this website will produce news of Localise West Midlands’ work on procurement/supply chain issues, for example: http://localisewestmidlands.org.uk/activities/bsp_susproc/