Post-covid, logistics and supply chain management have received more than their usual share of the limelight. With stringent regulations and health and safety concerns, businesses have been actively rethinking, realigning, and redeveloping their supply chains for the post-Covid era. How much of this was driven largely by Covid and not just as part of our gradual, perpetual push towards digitization?
Current trends do indicate that supply chain management will soon be a major differentiator for firms. The early phase of the pandemic was marked by global supply chains breaking apart and, in certain cases, a complete shutdown of logistics operations. Many firms were operating with only 60% manpower. But post lockdowns, firms, largely, e-commerce, food delivery services, and other on-demand service firms witnessed a steep rise in demand. What have businesses been doing to respond to these spikes?
The silver lining amidst the dark clouds
Frankly, logistics and supply chain firms and other organizations have risen to the pandemic’s challenges with alacrity to exploit the advantages lying in its wake. Digitization, earlier considered a desirable goal, has been pushed as a necessity post-covid. It’s why many industries have frankly seen an acceleration in their projected sales and shipment volumes.
New Tech, New Optimizations
Firms are still under pressure to find creative ways to improve delivery density and cost-efficiency further. At every level, optimization has become a key process to leverage the available tech and utilities. Going in for enhanced supply chain visibility, superior warehouse management systems that leverage new tech, telematics in trucks, and other devices, firms are relying on data to improve and automate their operations.
Disruptions during the pandemic urged organizations to achieve end-to-end supply chain visibility even more. Management Events’ recent Executive Trend Survey found that 64% of supply chain executives named data science and analytics as their top investment priority for 2021.
While often used to the point of being labeled buzzwords, an increasing number of companies are indeed exploring AI and ML to toughen and better manage their supply chains against the pandemic and its aftereffects. AI incorporates information from the ecosystem to identify weak areas, supply insights in real-time, reduce costs. The result? More accurate forecasts, and improved efficiency.
Google and Amazon are already pioneers in employing AI/ML practices across automated warehouses and vehicles that reduce human intervention. Firms in India are exploring Big Data and IoT as well to keep a tab on transport operations, vehicle tracking and management of assets.
Crests and troughs in covid-dominated 2020 forced many firms to operate either understaffed or hire afresh to fill in for sudden spikes in demand. Precautionary practices involving contactless disbursal of products or sanitization drives became a daily affair, with consumer safety has become a matter of prime concern. As such, with the opportunity of symbiotic relationships ripe for the taking, big firms entered into partnerships with startups offering complementary skill sets. With digitization becoming a norm, a new trend of a deep alliance between FMCG companies, MT (Modern Trade) supermarkets, and e-commerce portals is being witnessed.
For instance, e-grocery firm BigBasket and e-shopping portal Flipkart tied up with Uber for delivering essentials. Spencer’s Retail wing and Flipkart collaborated to deliver essentials and groceries hyper-locally.
A Symbol for 2020: Contactless deliveries
Technologies such as electronic proof of delivery have made contactless delivery a fairly easy practice. One of the largest port operators in Dubai is using a blockchain platform based on Ethereum to transport cargo from one place to another with the click of a button. Such uses of technology help in minimizing human intervention and adhering to prescribed safety norms and regulations.
Diversification of suppliers/vendors
The pandemic did expose the vulnerabilities of globalization’s interdependent and multiple-tier sourcing. Post-covid, many firms have been forced to change their profiles as they enter the recovery phase.
The debacle with the majority of the nations having China as a major supplier jolted firms out of their reverie to rethink and diversify their supply chains or search vendors closer to home. Countries such as India, with competent support players such as Bar Code India, are now looking like lucrative alternatives for companies rather than China.
Logistics SaaS (Software as a service) is fast gaining traction with firms who intend to up their logistics game. SaaS makes logistics more economical, with companies free to pay as they go instead of a fixed lump sum amount. The result? Superior decision making and resource management.
Manual logistics management is a dying practice and with the pandemic. Even the use of drones for aerial delivery in supply chain management should see a rise. Several pharmaceuticals companies are using sensors to monitor the temperatures of their packages in real-time and optimize delivery routes.
The transformations in logistics and supply chain management have just begun, and the wave is being felt domestically as well globally. 75% of people using digital channels for the first time indicate that they will continue to use them when things return to “normal.” And companies are streamlining their supply chains and digitizing their operations to better integrate themselves into the consumers’ daily lives. As the economy recovers, the surge in demand will differ depending upon geography, product, and industry.