The fundamental role that logistics plays in our everyday lives has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the inevitable questions now being posed is: what will the “new normal” look like? And, therefore, how does this industry adapt itself and change to these new circumstances? Not every country will respond in the same way and there will be no way of determining how long any period of restrictions might last or what form they might take. Flexibility will be the watch word moving forward, and the ability to deliver solutions to match the customer’s new needs will be key.
The original use of the word ‘logistics’ is of course military: a term which personnel used to refer to how they obtained, stored and moved equipment and supplies. Today, the use of the word is much wider and covers all aspects of the flow of goods between point of origin and point of consumption; and along the supply chain.
The management of logistics is about having the right resources in place at the right time to get the goods delivered to the right location in the correct condition. It sounds simple but with ever more complex, longer supply chains around the world it only takes one part of the world to sneeze and your entire supply chain can catch a cold.
Whatever the new normal is, logistics will still play a key role in how the world recovers from a time of planetary economic collapse
The sophisticated just-in-time supply chain format has been shown to have many failings when you add in a global pandemic, where no nation remains untouched. This may well result in a reformatting and readjusting of the entire logistics industry as we enter the new normal. But, whatever the new normal is, logistics will still play a key role in how the world recovers from a time of planetary economic collapse.
In the past, economic downturns have tended to hit the logistics industry hard; but at the same time we need to recognize that the industry has broadly benefitted from the key trends of the last half century – globalization, the growth of just-in-time supply chains and the exponential growth of internet shopping.
eCommerce is likely to continue to boom on a global basis. As McKinsey points out in its 2020 report on how consumer goods companies are preparing for the new normal: “In the medium term, we expect shoppers to prefer the “safe” experience of shopping online to the prospect of shopping in crowded stores”.
Shopping from the safety of our own homes – be they in Auckland, Abu Dhabi, Aix-en-Provence or Albuquerque – appeals as long as we can rely on the logistics provider to deliver what we ordered on time and in tiptop condition. The ability of the logistics provider to do that relies on knowledge, planning and experience – because business cycles and economic upturns and downturns are notoriously unpredictable.
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