Very few of us have managed to accomplish everything we’d hoped to do in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic stopped individuals and companies from pursuing many of their 2020 ambitions, be it expansion, relocation, or otherwise. That said, this year has allowed us to reflect upon how the logistics sector reacts to unforeseen circumstance.
Interestingly, COVID-19 has highlighted two almost contradictory themes for our industry: a huge rise in demand, as e-Commerce boomed and reduced operational capacity due to mandatory social distancing health and safety measures.
For instance, the percentage of a company’s employees allowed to be present at any given moment has been massively reduced to avoid infection – and firms have needed to invest in comprehensive antiviral measures to eliminate any possibility of them shipping a contagious packages.
Additionally, firms who work with British companies or consumers have had to tackle Brexit uncertainty. For goods travelling across the channel, this will probably result in new customs checks, and bureaucratic processes. For those tasked with transporting said goods, ensuring one’s firm is prepared for the added strain these complications will bring is absolutely vital.
Although a last-minute deal was signed, the British government had repeatedly stated that it was up to businesses themselves to plan in advance for a No Deal Brexit. Thus logistics firms have been forced to proactively prepare for the unknown – a challenge to say the least.
But, despite all the issues laid out above, the logistics sector has held up remarkably well throughout this year, and – for the most part – overcoming issues such as panic buying and gaps in the supply chain.
What lessons can be learned from the previous twelve months? How have logistics firms managed to not only stay alive throughout the pandemic – but thrive? And what lessons can be learnt for the future?
Understanding fleet capacity
The ability to quickly pivot operations or alter one part of a company’s business model is paramount to surviving financially tumultuous times.
This is particularly true in the logistics industry. With each individual aspect of a firm’s logistical operations having the potential to disrupt an entire supply chain if mishandled, knowing exactly how a firm’s supply chain and manpower is performing is vital to maintaining high standards throughout 2020.
As such, logistics firms have been investing heavily in digital solutions that allow them to learn just that. Inventory and human resources software allow firms to be able to re-direct their efforts or staff to wherever needs it the most, protecting the safety of the whole supply chain as a result.
Moreover, understanding a firm’s fleet capacity is crucial as the e-commerce boom continues. Tools that allow fleet operators to monitor the performance of individual vans, manage energy usage, and gain key insights into the drivers’ skill have all provided useful insights for firms needing to ensure maximum efficiency during the pandemic.
Car manufacturers Ford have recently announced an expansion of their fleet management tools, with new versions providing even more data for logistics firms to identify inefficiencies. As more companies replace their fleets with electric and hybrid vehicles, providing more information to fleet managers to determine the most efficient driving / charging schedules will only become more important for logistics firms in the years ahead.
A last-minute Brexit deal has been achieve, however, its effects are not likely to be known for some time. Consequently, firms which took the necessary precautions – such as opening up a continental EU base of operations to minimise the shipping of goods between the UK and the EU – and communicated such precautions to their customers will be far better positioned than competitors that failed to follow suit. If a firm’s clients, customers and staff are taken by surprise by increased costs and delivery times after December 31st, they will blame the logistics firm in question for not providing adequate warning nor preparations for this eventuality.
Ultimately, the primary lesson to be found in 2020 for logistics firms is the need to plan for the future. Whether it’s ensuring that decision makers can observe as much of your firms’ performance as possible in order to alter operations to best suit new developments; or planning for whatever Brexit has to offer, making sure you’re never caught off-guard is tantamount for any firms’ survival post-2020.
Now, as vaccines are distributed and pre-COVID normality slowly returns, firms able to heed the lessons outlined above will be well-positioned to deliver positive results in the years ahead. If the proper preparations are made and inefficiencies squashed, there’s no reason that logistics firm can’t make 2021 their best year yet.