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The COVID-19 pandemic is leaving its footprint on most industries globally. Logistics – which involves the transportation, storage, and flow of goods – also falls under one of the many sectors on which the pandemic has made a significant impact. The industry’s host of never-before-seen challenges began with China having to close its plants, causing production to come to a standstill. Procuring goods and supplying goods became difficult. The border controls that were put in place also led to traffic back-ups and delays.
However, despite these challenges and even with much of the population confined to their homes, logistics services have still continued to connect the world, remaining as a catalyst for the development and growth of trade. Governments responded to the crisis by designating ports, shipping, and tranportation services as essential. Many logistics companies redesigned their supply chains, introduced changes in their workforces, opted for logistics automation and new warehouse management programs, setting a precedent for future challenges.
Healthcare logistics, which includes the transportation of medical equipment and supplies, has also been clearly impacted by the largest health crisis of the 21st century. Being a major supplier of inputs for manufacturing companies around the world, the stoppage of production in China saw the disruption of global supply chains. This was due to the sudden loss of labour and raw input materials, which then created a ripple effect that crossed national boundaries. This was especially challenging because the demand and need for medical equipment, hygiene products, and RAT test kits were increasing by the moment.
Cargo was being backlogged, travel restrictions led to a shortage of truck drivers and ocean carriers were experiencing unprecedented demand. This made it very difficult for medical equipment, medicine and supplies to be transported. However, the response to the crisis was quick. Although many airports around the world were closed to passenger flights, most were open to transporting cargo. Governments and third-party logistics companies also started to work closely to address the issues and facilitate clearances more efficiently. An example of this includes DHL’s vaccine rollout, supported by our team of over 9,000 Life Sciences and Healthcare specialists across our network, more than 260 planes, a large number of partner airlines, and a well connected global network of over 220 countries and territories.
With hopes that life will return to normal sooner rather than later, some changes are here to stay. An efficient, lean and profitable supply chain is about being proactive rather than reactive. This means that businesses need to recalibrate their logistics in order to face the post-pandemic world. Due to the challenges that the industry has faced in the wake of COVID-19, it has shifted the perspectives of logistics and supply chain industries for the future in the following areas: technologies that are essential to enable better logistics operations, investments in the supply chain, initiatives to elevate labour tightness, and sustainability.
Meeting the growing customer expectations is a top priority. The most important factor to enhance experiences as the world transitions to a post-pandemic future is maintaining and optimising convenient fulfilment options, which includes contactless delivery for last-mile delivery services, used mostly for e-commerce purchases. In warehouses, logistics companies have already implemented social distancing measures, new cleanliness requirements, and provided workers with personal protective equipment (PPE). They will also need to carefully consider how health and safety measures will impact their operations.
As logistics companies look to streamline their processes and adapt to the ongoing changes within the industry, they must also consider sustainability. Some companies have already started to pay attention to new opportunities by investing in electric vehicles, and others have set deadlines to be carbon neutral.
Although the pandemic has been a challenge, it has also driven home a reminder for businesses in the logistics industry to remain flexible and adaptable. It exposed vulnerabilities and provided an opportunity to explore initiatives that will orient their logistics operations toward excellence in performance.