By now it is clear that COVID-19 has upended the global logistics sector.
Massive changes to operations, supply chains, regulations, and manpower have transformed the way we keep commerce flowing, with lasting impact on the industry’s future.
Throughout the pandemic, logistics and supply chain companies have been at the forefront of the situation. They play a vital role as an essential service provider in ensuring that the delivery of essential medical supplies, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), COVID-19 test kits, and ventilators are reaching those who are in critical need.
With international and domestic borders across Australia at varying degrees of lockdown, business efficiencies continue to be significantly affected.
As the country starts to slowly ease into the sense of a new normal, it is time for our industry to rethink business models, harness the power of technology, exercise empathy to address the needs of today, and future-proof our businesses for tomorrow.
Value-adding with innovative technology
It comes as no surprise that the pandemic has resulted in a global economic slowdown.
As companies update their Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) to address the pandemic situation, business leaders should look into automation and digital solutions such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and robotics, to not only enhance the effectiveness and efficiencies of supply chains but also to better serve the modern consumer.
With AI and other Supply Chain Management (SCM) technologies, operational teams can tap into real-time data that will improve operational processes and enable more informed decision-making for shipments.
This, complemented by predictive intelligence that helps to identify gaps and suggests efficiencies, revenue opportunities, potential problems, and competitive advantages, results in both a continuous improvement through a live feedback loop while reducing the human margin of error on a daily basis.
By integrating tech solutions such as robotics and IoT, operations teams will also gain access to metrics that will enable them to make more accurate forecasts, improve response times, recognise shipping patterns, and achieve cost-savings – all of which are critical factors in providing intelligence to supply chain teams which will in turn, help to meet the needs of customers.
Sensitive cold chain deliveries can assist essential medical inventories and are a long-term area of focus for us at FedEx.
Round the clock updates on a delivery package
An example is the implementation of “smart” medical inventory cabinets that come with sensors to monitor variables like shipment location and conditions of the contents, to accurately indicate any deviation from the ideal environment such as temperature, humidity, light exposure and shock events.
SenseAware, a FedEx innovation is a sensory device that travels with a shipment, enabling round-the-clock updates on a delivery package. In times like these, such innovations have become increasingly pertinent in ensuring the highest standards of delivery and non-wastage.
This pandemic also calls for out-of-the-box, customer-centric solutions, and has sped up adoption of services including contactless deliveries across the globe. With safety and wellbeing of customers and beneficiaries as priority, this is one way FedEx and our industry has adapted and innovated.
Critical partnerships in uncertain times
No one company can single-handedly overcome the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Therefore, it is important to build and maintain strong strategic relationships within the logistics network.
Connections and experience are crucial aspects of being a logistics provider offering essential services. Each of these factors eventually determine how efficiently and seamlessly shipments move. Especially since customers expected to be updated on the latest movement of their shipments as well as the changing import and export restrictions due to the current environment.
In Australia, FedEx has worked closely with local regulatory authorities to facilitate smooth export clearance of increased volumes of intra and inter-region medical equipment shipments.
Serving with empathy
Further to implementing health and safety precautions to protect both employees and the wider community, logistics businesses need to serve with empathy. People must be the centre of every organisation. This is especially so when our employees have stepped up to brave the odds to deliver critical supplies.
For the world to do better, the businesses and communities that make up our region should not be neglected, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs). SMEs make up 98% of businesses in Australia and have been significantly impacted by the drastic economic downtown due to COVID-19. With logistics being the lifeblood of most businesses, our duty to continue serving SMEs is essential.
Finally, empathy is required to go the extra mile in serving our medical frontline, expediting deliveries, and understanding the needs of our customers in this field. With empathy for the people, businesses and communities we serve, the possibilities for the logistics sector to make a difference are endless.
Preparing for a changing future
As we look ahead, I believe that the logistics industry can do more for people and communities they live and work in and around the world.
With the demand and need for food, medical, and general supplies, we need to come together, as industry leaders to create a supply chain ecosystem that is agile, and customer focused – one that is future-proofed and enduring in the face of unforeseen circumstances.
At FedEx, we believe that we can do our part to bring more possibilities to the world and move it forward with empathy and understanding at our core.
Peter Langley is Vice President, FedEx Express Australasia