At the start of the pandemic, the global supply chain creaked to a halt. Total shutdown of factories in China combined with reduced shipping meant that it was almost impossible for companies to source items, either in the Far East or the rest of the world.
But despite the enormous complexity of the global supply chain, it soon self-corrected. To the surprise of many, relatively few countries experienced shortages and volumes went back to normal within a few months.
Thus, between February and June 2020, the logistics sector won some major victories. It proved that it was able to supply both goods and vaccines to billions of people across the world, despite pandemic conditions.
What made this possible? Find out below.
Improved Data Analysis
Before 2020, global logistics firms relied primarily on spreadsheets to manage their inventories and shipments. Operations managers would enter incoming and outgoing quantities and then use these to forecast required volumes in the future.
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This setup worked admirably during normal times, but it ground to a halt when COVID-19 hit. There was simply too much disruption to rely on historical data.
Because of this, firms moved to more flexible demand planning software solutions. These collected data streams from multiple sources and then used to predict demand. The moment there was an indication of a shortage or a glut anywhere, they would inform managers who could then adjust their orders.
Such software was already available before the pandemic hit, but it wasn’t widespread. There was no great incentive to use it. Now, though, there is a general understanding of the importance of using smart tools.
Investments in this type of software are worthwhile because it allows logistics companies to evaluate their situation from both ends of the supply chain. Data sources from primary producers tell them whether there will be a supply shortage in the coming months, and consumer information keeps them abreast of the demand situation too.
Moreover, developers are overlaying these solutions with AI, allowing logistics companies to gain even more insight. For instance, cognitive systems can detect changes in the pattern of data that humans wouldn’t notice and can issue warnings in advance.
New Safety Protocols
Logistics companies also initiated a range of new safety protocols. For instance, some firms introduced new social distancing measures at warehouses. They also installed hand sanitizers in their vehicles and provided delivery drivers with protective gear to reduce the likelihood of infection.
Better, Rapid Logistics Services
When the global supply chain ground to a halt, many firms shut down and attempted to ride out the economic storm, but logistics enterprise Unipart took a different approach.
Working in partnership with COVID-19 test manufacture, it began prioritizing rapid deliveries for its clients. It recognized that continuing to provide services was the true value it could offer its customers at that time.
Unipart’s collaboration allowed the firm to deliver millions of tests to customers. LAMP, lateral flow, and PCR were available from its distribution centers near Oxford, allowing customers to get their hands on them far faster than competing products.
New Modes of Transport
Lastly, logistics companies also innovated in their use of transport. During the first few months of the pandemic, reductions in passenger flights slashed total airplane belly capacity, reducing the number of air freight shipments that firms could make.
In light of this, companies simply switched from conventional commercial to charter flights and transported their items that way. They also refitted their aircraft for cargo, offering cheaper prices and higher capacities than before the pandemic.
China-Europe rail links saw an increase in demand too. Where air freight capacity wasn’t available, it was the obvious alternative.
In summary, logistics companies found ways to respond in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, and continue to do so today. They’re reconfiguring value chains, relying more on technology, and improving their cross-border control protocols.