The thing that still confused me is how reliable supply chains are, or seem to be. The world is unpredictable—you’ve got earthquakes, labor strikes, mudslides, every conceivable tragedy—and yet as a consumer I can pretty much count on getting what I want whenever I want it. How can it be possible to predict a package’s arrival down to the hour, yet know almost nothing about the conditions of its manufacture? […]
The picture that many of us have of supply chains involve state-of-the-art factories like those owned by Foxconn. In reality, the nodes of most modern supply chains look much less impressive: small, workshop-like outfits run out of garages and outbuildings. The proliferation and decentralization of these improvisational workshops help explain both why it’s hard for companies to understand their own supply chains, and why the supply chains themselves are so resilient.