Purpose: COVID-19 has shaken views of what is normal and what is possible, raising questions about conventional norms, ways of working and our understanding of agility. This paper aims to respond to calls for empirical research of supply chain capacities in times of crisis and offer a unique perspective on agile procurement and supply chain management from a case study of the Ventilator Challenge.

Design/methodology/approach: A descriptive case study was undertaken, adopting an inductive approach. Interviews were conducted with the major stakeholders tasked with the design, sourcing and assembly of ventilators.

Findings: Findings are delivered across four key areas: context; procurement and supply chain management; technology and culture; and environment. Key challenges and enablers are discussed, highlighting the critical roles of trust, empowerment and enabling technologies in the construction of an entirely new ventilator supply chain, from scratch, in five weeks.

Originality/value: This paper delivers contributions for both academic research and practice. The case study offers rich new insights relating to procurement in times of crisis, contributing to efforts to advance beyond outdated approaches for resilience in literature. Practical contributions arise in highlighting the significance of adapted sourcing and recruitment, technology, collaboration, people and power of purpose in enabling agility and achieving the impossible.


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Cite as

Fearne, A., Wagner, B., Mcdougall, N. & Loseby, D. 2021, 'The power of purpose – lessons in agility from the Ventilator Challenge', Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, 26(6), pp. 753-766. https://doi.org/10.1108/SCM-09-2020-0468

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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