3 Supply Chain and Logistics Opportunities in the New Normal

The Coronavirus pandemic has been altering almost every aspect of our daily and business lives. With uncertainty around the future spread of the Covid-19 virus and uncertainty about the sustainable solution to the global vaccination process, the leaders, communities and experts are trying to get ready for the “new normal”. No matter how much the concept of the new normal shifts quickly, there is one certain definition, which is the new normal implies a drastic change from our ways of living and doing business as compared to how we lived and worked before we encountered the Coronavirus. Therefore, it’s best to look into the new normal before moving to the opportunities seen in the logistics.

Ready for the new normal?

We are living in an era in which we are ready to sacrifice our freedom or even human rights in the name of our health. Lockdowns, for example, have almost become voluntarily or preferred task and resulted in business closures. Unemployment has increased very sharply or people have started learning less money. For the foreseeable future we will all have to deal with the realities of lockdowns, social distancing, wearing masks, working from home, and more. The tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams have been trying so hard to fill in the gaps. 

Lockdowns trigger consumers minds as if we were living in a sort of fallout shelter and as a result people, never-before-seen since the World Wars, are leaning towards commodity goods like toilet paper, flour, hand sanitizer. While the world is trying to get back on track, the next wave of virus brings a shadow onto our hope. And every day we start hearing the politicians and world leaders focusing on the importance of Supply Chain. 

And what is the new normal in Supply Chain?

The pandemic has caused a massive disruption in the Supply Chain. It is almost impossible to measure the impacts of this disruption as it is also unprecedented. However, professionals in Supply Chain are not total strangers to these challenges as they have to deal with high pressure, stressful and demanding situations. Remember the very recent Evergreen ship blocking the suez canal? Add natural disasters, cash flow and quality issues and supply-demand gaps and here you have a typical day of a Supply Chain professional. We can easily say that the Supply Chain professionals were already living in the new normal. Of course even they have to reconsider their outsourcing ways, automation possibilities and inventory planning as hard as any other business out there.

New horizons in the time of crisis

Businesses have to make decisions quickly today. These decisions will have long-term effects on the performance of a supply chain, and therefore should be made with extreme caution. So, CIOs and CEOs have to act in a very tight time space bearing in mind that there might be no return. Hence, we will outline three main areas that need immediate attention. If done correctly, these areas can benefit and turn into opportunities for your business by reallocating the way the Supply Chain is organized. Let’s start then!

1. Remote working is here to stay

Despite some arguments and disapproval traditional mindset, the remote work saves the day. During COVID-19, it’s proved that it is the safest type of continuing the business. So there is no escape from the remote work. Remote working has already become a big topic and almost 30% of U.S. workers or 41.6 million are predicted to work remotely. Therefore companies should start embracing the remote work with the help of technology and build a remote working environment as soon as possible. Otherwise many fields including Supply Chain will face to have cut.

It’s important to use technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) and automation to create a remote working culture. This is not as difficult as it sounds since there are many digital tools, connected computing devices and Big Data. All of these require minimum human intervention but this might lead to another problem. Your workers may start losing that they are actually working. Employees will also fear losing their jobs unless they feel they belong to a digital working environment or culture. Provided with the right digital tools and technology, you can even increase the employee satisfaction level as you actually protect them from infection and provide them with their incomes. companies are taking measures to redesign work in a way that make workplaces safe. 

You still need human touch despite the pandemic because not every job is suitable to be performed by the machines. So don’t you leave your business in the hands of the machines just yet. Of course, it is becoming increasingly feasible to automate repetitive work processes with technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA). However, mundane tasks like inventory cycle counts and cold chain integrity inspection or verification can be dealt with machines. You will still need your employees to take initiatives and create value, which is highly important in logistics. 

2. Accelerated planning through supply chain signals

Businesses spend a great amount of time to foresee what’s coming ahead. As a result, they make long-term business strategies and navigate through the cycles of 13-18 weeks. Nonetheless, these are extremely volatile times and thus these long-term strategies work no longer. You should start limiting your plans to 10-15 days because only then you can adapt and adjust your business to dynamic goals. You need real-time and reliable data of supply and demand more than ever to see ahead.

The short term plans require a well-managed inventory monitoring system. It will help you keep track of live sales and consumption data in a timely manner. Otherwise you might realize what’s going on with your Supply Chain too late or even never. Thanks to the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or with direct-to-cloud sensors communicating over Nb-IoT, Sigfox, CAT-M or GSM, manufacturers, retailers and distributors can keep track of live inventory at warehouses. These digital tools will enable you to plan your short term future in the most efficient way.  

It should also be kept in mind, while planning, that consumption patterns are trending toward omni-channel solutions, which requires alternative Supply Chain strategies. Online services, especially e-commerce, are the clear winners of the current crisis. So, you should align your logistics in accordance with this new ecosystem using new service level agreements (SLAs).

3.Make real use of real-time data

You may think that your goods are being shipped to your desired destination as planned and sleep comfortably. However, you may not know that no sooner than you turned in to bed, a new regulation came up in the destination country. Just like your business and demands shift rapidly, the governments have to pass a law very quickly in order to protect their people from the virus. So, new restrictions are the new normal and your are forced to re-route the container through another airport or a port. This is a real challenge if you are in cold chain business. You need to constantly check the temperature logs and adjust the shipment’s journey accordingly. This is almost impossible without the aid of real-time data. In short, making use of the real-time or live data either breaks or makes your business. In other words, if you want your business to survive, start investing in data technologies without losing any time.

$1 trillion loss or gain

The New Normal has forced Supply Chain professionals to make the right decisions in the shortest time. However, they can benefit the relatively Supply Chain technologies such as sensor-enabled monitoring and AI-assisted recommendation engines. Moreover, drone deliveries are becoming new supply chain management standard. This is essential because more and more people are purchasing online and according to a study from IHL Group, retailers may miss out on nearly $1 trillion in sales due to lack of shelf stock. Smart logistics solutions can contribute global markets by preventing the loss of this $1 trillion. If you want to turn crisis into new opportunities you have to access reliable data and analyze it with powerful tools to meet the shifting demands. 

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