The years of Covid-19 set a milestone in history and in the world economy.
The changes caused by the pandemic, radical in many ways radical, have had a decisive impact on all production sectors. And the consequences of these upheavals will not fade with the arrival of vaccines or the long-awaited "new normal".
In this scenario, logistics has to rethink and reorganize the operation of the entire supply chain. The emergency has highlighted not the fundamental role of the supply chain, but also its shortcomings and limitations.
If specific cases are excluded, the sudden and uncontrolled increase in the demand for basic necessities and the exponential growth in the use of e-commerce, especially in the first year of the pandemic, have demonstrated the inadequacy of the logistics system in front of such an unexpected situation.
Almost two years ago it was impossible to find yeast, flour and sanitizing solutions in the malls. E-commerce systems weren't able to guarantee deliveries in a reasonable time. Now the logistics sector must respond to new needs, taking account of its experience, and intercept future trends and needs.
Optimizing warehouse logistics, therefore, is the imperative of the post-Covid era.
Facing the"new normal" by optimizing logistics
It is not possible to set a definitive guide for post-Covid logistics without first identifying where your company is with the crisis management still underway.
Faced with the emergency, in fact, companies were able to:
- React: respond in a timely manner to changes. This has been possible for those companies with a high degree of flexibility in terms of production and distribution, that is, capable of rapidly reconfiguring their activities as demand or scenario changes.
- Mitigate: cushion the impact of the crisis. This is what companies with solid risk management and business continuity systems have done. Geographically diversifying their supply and distribution has enabled them to address specific country problems and be prepared for supply chain disruptions.
- Reorganize: questioning oneself to respond to the needs of the moment. These are small to medium-sized companies, often depending on a single supplier and lacking the flexibility to ensure the functioning of logistics in the event of a crisis. This type of company needs to get completely reorganized, setting up an emergency management team.
Post-Covid logistics in 5 steps
The first step lies in knowing the past and looking at the present with a critical eye, in order to be able to plan a future in which to take advantage of the experience.
Thanks to this we can, today, identify a series of fundamental steps for post-Covid logistics optimization, which give life to a real vademecum.
1. Digital Firs
The importance of the role of digitization in the logistics sector emerged strongly already in the first months of 2020.
Those who had considered e-commerce as a marginal sector of their business, such as GDO companies and Pharmaceuticals, entered a sudden crisis because of an unforeseen increase in online orders. But besides that, the optimization of their methods highlighted the natural attitude of logistics processes to contactless systems.
The user expects an efficient, effective and digital supply chain. Whether it is to confirm a delivery or to make a complaint, the password is "digital first", especially now that the use of e-commerce, with its immediacy and convenience, is an integral part of the purchase process for most of the product categories.
2. Optimize inventory management
Having a clear understanding of the state of stocks and managing supplies efficiently and flexibly is essential to respond promptly to sudden peaks and changes in demand. To do this, it is essential to use a WMS (Warehouse Management System), establish relationships of trust with various suppliers, to have different options in the event of unforeseen events, and distribute the warehouses throughout the territory.
3. Invest in Logistics Hubs
Setting up small logistics hubs on the outskirts of cities and in other strategic points could help optimizing access to urban areas and therefore deliveries. At the same time, it would allow the recovery and redevelopment of industrial areas today neglected.
4. Be "agile"
The exceptional experience lived in 2020 has shown how much being "agile" and "resilient" is now crucial for companies in any industry. In the logistics field, for example, this translates into knowing how to implement new solutions to guarantee deliveries, despite any transport difficulties, in building virtuous relationships with multiple suppliers and being able to manage reserves in a "smarter" way, perhaps creating a pool of shared resources for stocks of raw materials.
At the same time, in the event of a shortage of these, it is necessary to know which strategic productions to safeguard and how to review one's production plan according to the state of stocks and the needs of the market.
5. Monitoring trends
From Drive-Through shopping to restaurant warehouses, what are the trends for post-Covid logistics? After the success of online shopping and delivery, during lockdown periods, it can be wise to consider experiments that weren't really successful in the past, but that today could actually respond to the new needs of consumers.
One of these involves shopping without getting out of the car, to buy essential food along the main city arteries, perhaps returning from work. These would be real Drive Throughs of spending, which combine the speed of service with the need for social distancing.
Furthermore, the large-scale retail trade is focusing on dark stores, shops without customers, accessible only to pickers and designed for the fast and optimized management of e-commerce orders.
Finally, some think of investing in dark kitchens, restaurants without covers, where you can only order takeaway goods. In this way, real hubs would be created, shared between several restaurateurs, which would allow the optimization of space, resources and the management of home deliveries.
The pandemic has laid the foundations for a questioning of the old paradigms: flexibility and agility are now the watchwords for an unexpected supply chain.
At the same time, greater attention to consumer needs is destined to encourage investments in new projects, technologies (AI, cybersecurity, RPA, etc.) and professional figures, responsible for governing and optimizing the innovations in progress.