The global pandemic brought massive challenges and changes to the world’s economies and supply chains. Many manufacturers initially cut back on production in anticipation of a massive slump in consumer purchasing. But consumers continued to spend through lockdowns, turning to e-commerce platforms as brick-and-mortar stores saw a decrease in foot traffic under lockdowns. While companies struggled to meet this unexpected demand, the pandemic accelerated some existing supply chain trends. Warehouse building has boomed, with companies and developers competing fiercely over new warehouse sites. Business logistics has become increasingly digitalized and automated as companies seek to both protect their workers from the pandemic and find efficiencies in their operations wherever they can. And the world of the workplace has changed, perhaps permanently, in ways that also impact global supply chains.
As the introduction of vaccines gradually reopens the world’s economies, companies will face new opportunities and new challenges. For businesses to stay competitive, they will have to find ways to meet the following key supply chain challenges.
The Changing Workplace
Before the pandemic, an increasing number of firms were allowing employees the option to work from home. One pre-pandemic survey found about 57 percent of office workers had some level of flexibility to work from home, citing better work-life balance, increased productivity, less stress, and avoiding the commute as their main reasons for doing so.
The COVID pandemic temporarily closed many offices in the United States and sent the vast majority of office employees to work remotely from their laptops or personal computers at home. Preliminary research indicates this trend will continue even as economies reopen, as many employees are likely to demand more work from home flexibility.
In one survey of workers, 65 percent indicated they wanted to remain full-time remote workers after the pandemic, while another 33 percent hope to maintain a hybrid work arrangement.
Meanwhile, some companies have decided it may be more profitable to stop renting or leasing offices, and plan to eliminate up to 30 percent of office space while maintaining the remote work model when possible.
This means increasing demands on supply chains and e-commerce platforms, and in particular demands such as same-day home deliveries, will continue, and likely intensify. Companies engaged in shipping products will not only have to account for these increasing demands but consider their own employees in the post-pandemic workforce. While many supply chain jobs still require in-person duties, some jobs could be, or continue to be, performed remotely.
Blockchain technology, which allows for the distribution of an immutable, decentralized, digital ledger of transactions, can make logistical operations more efficient while also reducing the need for in-person contact. Investing in technology like this could help eliminate paperwork and other in-person handoffs and ensure companies meet employee-based supply chain challenges.
Constant Supply Chain Reinvention
Vaccine rollouts have brought a sense of optimism to businesses and consumers alike. Nevertheless, many uncertainties remain for the emerging post-pandemic economy. Industries such as food service, entertainment, travel, and hospitality may have been changed permanently by the pandemic. Meanwhile, the interconnectedness of the global economy makes every country vulnerable to economic disruptions caused by new pandemic outbreaks or other problems in a different corner of the world.
In this uncertain environment companies engaged in shipping products must be agile enough to pivot quickly to meet supply chain challenges. They may need to find ways to quickly make more of existing products to meet a sudden surge in demand, or ensure they can constantly recalibrate shipping operations to avoid bottlenecks and delays caused by a lack of shipping material or transportation options. At the very least, companies should implement periodic assessments on the efficiency of their supply chain operations. Businesses seeking to be more proactive can invest in detailed performance and analytical software which allows for more efficient real-time oversight of every aspect of logistical operations.
Increasing Need for Technology and Automation
To stay competitive in the post-pandemic economy, companies may need to invest heavily in sophisticated technology and automation. As mentioned above, technologies like blockchain and analytical software can help meet supply chain challenges. But those are just two examples in a supply chain environment that is becoming increasingly digitalized.
Analytical software, for example, requires the Internet of Things (IoT), interconnected physical devices on products, shipping material and other forms of supply chain infrastructure, to perform to its full potential. Consumer demands with regards to e-commerce performance continue to evolve, with 70 percent of consumers anticipating digital payment options will overhaul cash and cards by 2030. This includes the use of cryptocurrency for large supply chain transactions.
The global pandemic also accelerated an increasing trend towards supply chain automation. Companies found efficiencies in robotics when it comes to packaging and transporting in warehouses, and in the COVID economy automation has also helped limit the need for in-person contact.
Businesses seeking to invest in automation may consider engaging in partners such as a pallet pooling company, instead of purchasing and managing their own supply of pallets. Outsourcing this aspect of the supply chain may not only save on unnecessary labor, management and operating costs, reducing Total Cost of Business, (TCOB) but will likely help with automation efficiency. The uniformity of iGPS plastic pallets allows for the precise calibration of automated palletizers, conveyor belts, and Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS). And because plastic pallets don’t have the nails or splinters present in wood pallets that can damage equipment, switching to plastic helps ensure automated systems operate at peak efficiency with minimum downtime.
There remain considerable supply chain challenges as the world recovers from the global pandemic. However, companies prepared to meet those challenges can stay competitive and thrive as economies continue to reopen throughout 2021.
Companies can meet supply chain challenges by using iGPS plastic pallets for all their shipping needs. Our pallet pooling program helps automation efficiency and reduces Total Cost of Business. For more information, contact us at 1-866-557-0047, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.