As 2020 came to a close, businesses across the world started to evaluate their response to the pandemic. It is without a doubt that what happened last year will shape the way we do business in the future. There are many unanswered questions that will only become better understood with time.The Logistics Point turned to you, our readers and experts, to find how you dealt with the pandemic, what are your expectations for 2021 and what you hope for the most.
Our survey included questions on how your business had transformed in 2020, what were the biggest challenges and what is ahead. We would like to thank all of you who took part in it and shared your thoughts and predictions.
Challenging but transformational
All participants in our survey agree that 2020 was challenging but it brought transformation to every corner of the industry and beyond. For many the initial response to the crisis was to halt all projects and evaluate how the business can continue .The problem of business continuity was a major one for nearly 70% or respondents.
Some, who work in IT for logistics and supply chain, say they experienced an unprecedented interest in their solutions.
‘For us the year was good, as the sector experienced tectonic changes and needed new IT tools which we are providing,’ shares a manager in an IT company.
Despite an initial drop in orders and clients enquiries most companies say that bounced back as demand returned quickly and outperformed even the boldest expectations. ‘The volume of business was unprecedented and unpredictable. We overcame the challenges through the tenacity and commitment of our staff and great leadership from the board and our senior management team,’ explains a manager in a large logistics operator.
Businesses and leaders were mostly worried how the shift to home working would affect operations. Many were concerned that clients would not like to work according to the new arrangements but soon found a willingness to adapt and be flexible. Whilst on the one hand we benefited from UK retailers needing our Home Delivery, Click & Collect and in-store contact-free payment solutions, we had to pause all but one of our overseas projects due to travel restrictions. Whereas retracting from the office and into our homes to work was initially daunting, the acceptance of conference calling, home schooling and home-office improvisation drew the team closer than ever before,’ says one of our readers.
Not everyone found working from home easy, however. 10% of our readers said they had problems adjusting some or all of their operations, especially when it came to training and onboarding new people. Another 10% said they had problems finding any work and had to mine contacts for extra orders.
Planning for 2021
Due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic many business plans were thrown out of the window. Businesses are again trying to predict how the new year will look so they can prioritise important aspects. For the majority online retail will keep its growth and logistics will have to further adapt. Many are also planning for the return to the High Street, although it might look much different to what it was before 2020. ‘We expect home deliveries will be even more important,’ says a logistics manager in a large company, operating throughout the UK. Nearly 50% of companies are focused on developing new products that could better cater for the rise of online and consumers’ changed attitudes towards shopping. 20% of the experts that answered our survey talk about the rise of Click & Collect services
In 2020 more companies started to look for warehousing space as online retail boomed. At the same time many started asking how their buildings can be more efficient and what would it take to turn fleets electric. According to a specialist in the real estate market 2021 will bring more interest in intelligent buildings. ‘We expect mutlistory logistics hubs in urban centres,’ he says. In addition, there will be a rapid employment of EV charging points for growing electric vehicle fleets.
Sustainability and climate change will be part of the day-to-day agenda for the majority of organisations, reckons another expert. ‘As companies recover from Covid-19 they will not put sustainability on the backseat,’ they explain.
In addition, a new requirement has emerged to link existing systems better so companies can receive a better visibility and traceability of all their operations. If, prior to the pandemic, many organisations relied on multiple systems, now it will be imperative to simplify operations and bring value through data.
Technologies to look for
As the need to integrate IT systems into one is expanding, organisations of all sizes are looking at what technologies will be most useful for them. With the rise of conference apps and platforms it is no surprise that a significant amount of our readers believe that a system that could link various platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meets, etc. would greatly benefit operations.
Turning to sustainability, many managers think IT systems should be better at capturing overall data and transmitting them to improve business accountability. ‘What will be needed is better IT systems that capture all the data companies need to gain transparency in their logistics supply chain and report emissions and other info to customers and the public,’ says the CEO of a large organisation working on logistics standards.
Nearly 70% of those who took part in our survey say meaningful insights are what would drive growth in the industry.
Some complain that there are numerous solutions on the market that do not work well together. ‘We need greater customer insights,’ explains a manager, ‘that reach to the customer of our customer.’ That is also covered by 30% of respondents who think there is a need for better forecasting that could help planning in uncharted territories like the pandemic.
Solution providers of logistics and supply chain software and platforms, on the other hand, are worried they might not be able to scale up quickly enough, given the unexpected interest in technology. For the majority, however, 2020 was a very successful year and they expect to see even more demand for their services.
Overall, logistics and supply chain professionals are optimistic about the state of the industry in 2021. Despite the multiple challenges during 2020 and the unpredictable transformation organisations as a whole managed to deal well. There are multiple challenges ahead from scaling up to integrating existing systems in a way that can provide visibility and add value for the end customer.✷