With over 3.5 million people affected and over 250,000 dead, the Covid-19 pandemic has spread its tentacles to every nook and corner of the world. While most of us are in isolation, there are brave warriors battling it out in hospitals, quarantine centres, research labs and law enforcement centers. To help them continue the fight against the virus with full intensity, it is important that one function delivers unfailingly: the logistics, transportation and last mile delivery sector.
Logistics is one of the most unglamorous functions in supply chain that includes warehousing, packing, picking, loading, unloading, driving and delivering day and night, rain or shine, corona or not. In the current war like scenario, countries across the world have closed their roads, borders, waterways and airways fearing the pandemic. Most manufacturing units are closed. Raw material supply is gravely affected. Intercity movements are curbed. Last mile delivery is barely moving. Any unnecessary movement is considered a death risk.
Under these conditions, how does a key industry like Logistics survive? The complexity of logistics is such that it can completely throw the equilibrium between demand & supply totally heywire. From the movement of raw materials to the supplier, of semi finished subsystems to assembly locations, and of the finished goods to the customer, logistics is an integral part of the Manufacturing & Distribution industry. As restrictions grow, cost of logistics could be astronomical and when the lockdown is eased, the challenges are far more serious than what meets the eye.
The way forward for this unprecedented issue of epic proportions is two fold. First, governments have to bolster the logistics industry to buck the trend, get on its feet and deliver, ensuring that necessary safety precautions are taken at every step. This requires extraordinary co-ordination among all stakeholders. Many businesses may close down permanently, millions of companies may go bankrupt. The smartest and the brightest will survive, not necessarily the biggest.
The second is to get back to normalcy, accepting that there would be a new normal. The pandemic may last for a year or two. Conventional processes and systems may not be enough to overcome the odds and get back to full strength, while managing costs alongside. The world economy is at stake and this is a real opportunity for Innovation to take the stage. Technology should assume leadership in spearheading innovative delivery mechanisms and enable more efficient logistics processes covering the end-to-end value chain.
It will be interesting to see how the industry accepts this challenge to come out in flying colours. Till then, let’s stay safe and innovate.