By Martin Palmer, Supply Chain Consultant, Logistics UK
For many organisations, the COVID-19 outbreak has been difficult, with those in hospitality perhaps suffering the most. In other areas of the economy, the pandemic has led to a surge in sales with online sales 46.8% higher than at the beginning of lockdown (ONS).
The supermarkets that have been catering for all our food needs are unsurprisingly seeing increased sales as food consumption has switched to in-home. Perhaps the most significant change has come from the surge in online sales. While growth in this area was already strong in the UK, the acceleration in the sector during this period may have changed the way we shop forever. This has benefited businesses already in this space but has been more challenging for those who had to adapt quickly and who continue to need to develop their online offering at pace.
One of the biggest changes for businesses has been the need to move more of their procurement online. What had been a consumer led online surge is now impacting the business world too. The suppliers to these companies have had to change, which has been challenging for those not already in the online space as service and communication expectations have also risen to a point where exceptional standards are increasingly seen as the norm.
The practical implications for all the businesses riding the online sales boom has been to cope with the increased number of orders being picked and the extra space that this requires. These effects are magnified by the need to socially distance in the workplace but also the impact of managing the flow of the operations whilst keeping COVID-19 compliant.
Businesses have also been impacted by the change in delivery channels to smaller, more frequent orders often moved by the parcel carriers who themselves are already operating at Christmas peak levels. These changes are leading organisations to review their operating processes and layouts constantly to ensure the best possible efficiency levels. In some cases, this will not be enough as capacity will be the final constraint.
There has been a huge rise in the uptake of warehouse stock as businesses look to ensure that they have enough capacity to meet demand. With many organisations reporting that they are already running at Christmas peak levels, what will this mean as we move toward the festive period peak? One thing is for sure, the organisations that react quickly and have the built-in flexibility and agility to deal with these fast-moving changes will be those that emerge on the other side of this period stronger than when they went into the crisis. ✷
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