Global Supply Chains in a Post-pandemic World

  • Lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing. The pandemic is challenging supply chain logistics and retailers in terms of their ability to maintain service level agreements with their stakeholders while simultaneously implementing public health measures and new compliance requirements. This includes dealing with new workplace health and safety mandates, ongoing store closures (and the need to pandemic-proof their store architectures), and temporary factory closures.
  • Restricted movement of goods and services. Industries have struggled to deal with stoppages within the supply chain, which created delays, and the increasing need to reorganize shipments literally on the fly. The statistics bear this out: 86% of respondents reported longer lead times in China (up 8% over February) based on a survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Management last March, while 74% of respondents experienced longer lead times in Europe, while 34–44% of respondents reported the same for North American countries. Meanwhile, 94% of Fortune 1000 companies have reported experiencing supply chain disruptions arising from COVID-19. The solution is clear: there’s a need to implement inbound and outbound transits better to meet complex, urgent requirements arising from the current economic and political situation.
  • Changing tastes in consumer behaviors. Lockdowns have led consumers worldwide to stock up on essential goods due to fears of shortages, apart from existing health and safety fears and concerns. Meanwhile, the shift towards a remote working environment has eroded purchasing power and confidence. Certain products and services have increased in demand due to the pandemic, such as essential goods like groceries, pharmaceuticals, and personal hygiene products. This has also led to some manufacturers converting their entire production line to meet the shortages and resulting demand in personal protection equipment and medical supplies.
  • The emergence of the ecommerce vertical. In line with the previous challenge, perhaps the most tangible, salient change in consumer buying habits was the massive shift from brick-and-mortar store purchases towards ecommerce. Restrictions to movement, long lines, and widespread closures of stores have lowered the barriers to using ecommerce technology, driving its adoption immensely.
  • Boost visibility. Real-time visibility into operations is a requirement in these uncertain times. The implementation of strategic, real-time controls is critical to improved visibility.
  • Build towards flexibility. Repurposing assets, inventory, and capacity increases flexibility to adequately and agilely scale to meet the ebbing forces of supply and demand.
  • Communicate proactively. Communication lines should always be open and proactively pursued with every participant in the supply chain — workers, suppliers, carriers, and customers included.
  • Be good to your core workforce. COVID-19 has brought in a host of physical health and mental wellbeing concerns for employees the world over. Supporting people’s needs as they become partners for change will be pivotal to organizational success amid disruption.
  • Be innovative and responsible. There are plenty of opportunities to purposely and creatively manage customers, suppliers, and logistics networks affected by COVID-19. Companies stand to gain by examining the gaps and supporting their stakeholders as they address their concerns.

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