It’s hard to believe it has been three years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the onset of the global disruptions it caused. Since March of 2020, the supply chain has experienced snarls and setbacks of all shapes and sizes— including semi-conductor chip shortages, port backups, a dwindling workforce, and panic buying. A pandemic three-year review shows many of its ripple effects are still being felt.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many manufacturers cut back on the production of goods in anticipation of a massive slump in consumer purchasing; others experienced stockouts as certain high-demand items flew off shelves. Despite layoffs in certain industries, consumer spending remained high through lockdown periods and e-commerce purchases hit an all-time high, leaving manufacturers and retailers struggling.
As the pandemic continued and supply chain challenges worsened, retailers and manufacturers quickly realized a need to change and adapt to a shifting landscape. It is an ironic reality that a global pandemic, and the toll it took on countless industries, has shaped the development of a much stronger and more efficient supply chain — one that is better suited to face future disruptions head-on.
Even now, the industry continues to evolve. And while the supply chain is still navigating some challenges and disruptions, many companies have introduced new technologies and processes that will make them stronger in the long-term:
- Increased focus on supply chain resiliency: To prevent future interruptions, many businesses and manufacturers have incorporated improved supply chain resilience strategies into their business models as they emerge from the pandemic.
- Expanded use of AI and machine learning: Supply chain artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools have been on the rise to assist companies in adapting to the challenging economic environment – helping them track inventory, boost warehouse efficiency and safety, and lower cost of operations.
- Wider adoption of omnichannel fulfillment: Omnichannel fulfillment involves the utilization of multiple channels to fulfill a customer’s order, regardless of the channel the order was placed through, allowing retailers to survey their networks and locate the product at a facility that has the inventory and can fill the order the fastest — ensuring more timely deliveries for all customers.
- Increased use of warehouse robotics: As disruptions continued to impact the global supply chain, many enterprises accelerated their plans to test and adopt automated solutions. Robotic systems have become prevalent throughout the fulfillment process, which has not only boosted efficiency but also tempered challenges caused by the so-called Great Resignation.
- Increased supply chain outsourcing: The pandemic highlighted the benefits of outsourcing key aspects of a supply chain to keep operations moving efficiently. For example, partnering with a plastic pallet pooler frees companies from having to manage their own pallet supply while reducing the costs and complexity of pallet procurement, storage, transport, and recovery—and often aiding the environment.
As we look at 2023 and beyond, enterprises throughout the industry are continuing to navigate hardships — but they are now far better equipped to do so. The disruptions and challenges brought on or worsened by the pandemic have helped the global supply chain evolve for the better.
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