Nope. No Food For Baby Yet
Abbott's Sturgis Plant Shut Down Again
Turns out that Abbott won't be solving the infant formula shortage soon after all.
Production for Abbott’s EleCare specialty formula has been suspended, but there is enough supply to meet demand until production is restarted, the company said. Abbott had prioritized ramping up production of the specialty formula for infants with severe food allergies and digestive problems who have few other options for nutrition.
The reason for this new closure: bad weather.
Keep in mind that the Sturgis plant accounts for one-fifth of all infant formula sold in the US. Yet, as I mentioned in my last article on this topic, Abbott has no contingency plans for disruptions to plant operations.
Nor, it seems, do they have any plans for keeping the roof from leaking.
Severe thunderstorms are not a new thing in the Midwest. Weather happens. Rain especially happens. Yet Abbott is unprepared for it, and seemingly unable to defend against it, as the integrity of the plant structure was compromised.
Abbott says it needs to assess damage and re-sanitize the factory after severe thunderstorms and heavy rains swept through southwestern Michigan late Monday. Spokesman Jonathon Hamilton said flooding hit a few areas of the factory, but he declined to provide more specific details about damage.
The storm also brought high winds, hail and power failures to Sturgis, Michigan, where the factory is located. The company expects production and distribution to be delayed for a few weeks as it cleans the plant.
Still No Contingency Plan
Yet despite the inevitability of weather, Abbott had no contingency plan for a disruption to the Sturgis closure back in February, and apparently they still have no contingency plan.
The Sturgis plan produces one-fifth of all infant formula sold in the United States. Despite this, Abbott had no contingency plan on how to transfer production to other facilities in the event of a plant disruption or closure.
Keep in mind Abbott brags on their website about having a “resilient, diverse, and responsible supply chain.” Sturgis once again puts the lie to this claim of theirs. A lack of contingency planning means their supply chain for Sturgis is provably neither resilient, nor diverse, nor responsible.
I have written and consulted on disaster recovery and business continuity plans for Fortune 1000 companies. Such plans—and their routine testing and updating—have long been an ubiquitous feature of good corporate governance. Even the FDA has a page on their website reminding individuals of the importance of disaster preparedness and planning—yet Abbott still is unprepared for that most basic and common of disasters—torrential rain.
Did anyone at the FDA, while they were certifying the Sturgis plant as fit to reopen, bother to tell the Abbott CEO to build a disaster recovery plan for the Sturgis facility?
We do not know. That data point has not been reported in the media.
What we do know is that for Abbott not to have some semblance of contingency plan is a staggering amount of incompetence.
One Big Plant Is One Bad Idea
Given the obvious inevitability of Mother Nature’s tempests, this most recent Sturgis closure brings forward the proposition that perhaps a fundamental flaw in the Sturgis plant lies in its size.
Maybe—just maybe—it is a bad idea to have one plant producing one-fifth of all infant formula sold in the United States.
Maybe—just maybe—it is a bad idea for state level WIC programs to be required to give monopoly contracts to infant formula suppliers. Maybe—just maybe—it is a bad idea for one company (Abbott) to be the monopoly supplier for 34 of those state programs.
Maybe—just maybe—the FDA should have been looking at exactly how “resilient, diverse, and responsible” Abbott’s supply chain actually is, as the reality of the Sturgis closures speaks to a supply chain that is neither resilient, nor diverse, nor responsible.
Maybe—just maybe—those who are charged with administering the regulatory apparatus ostensibly built on our behalf should exercise the diligence that is their charter and their mandate. Or maybe—just maybe—those same bureaucrats should close up shop, go home, and just get the Hell out of the way of private enterprise for a change.
Actually, there is no maybe about that. That is exactly what the FDA should do. To borrow from Oliver Cromwell: “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”
Without a supine FDA to cover their shortcomings and malfeasances, Abbott would quickly face a moment of decision: run an honest enterprise and an efficient plant or go out of business. Remove the alphabet agencies that to a man have been co-opted by the very companies they purport to regulate and those same companies would be faced with a much more competitive business climate.
Without the FDA running political cover, Abbott would have to figure out how to keep the Sturgis plant from leaking when it rains, or sell the plant to an entrepreneur who can do that.
Without legally mandated monopoly contracts to WIC agencies, competitive bidding would expand the range of suppliers for infant formula and mitigate the impacts of a supply disruption at any one supplier.
Big Business would not exist without Big Government. Eliminate Big Government and Big Business will fall by the wayside, as it deserves to do.
It is past time to say this to the whole of the FDA bureaucracy: “In the name of God, GO!”