The pandemic has remapped how the supply chain and logistics sector operates. New technologies have become more relevant and imperative. For long the logistics sector played a backend role, so to say. Of late, there are rampant changes to ensure much more robust and emphatic gameplay of supply chain and logistics in overall business efficiency and brand image.
What the pandemic did If there was one industry that got completely disrupted due to Covid-19, it is the manufacturing industry. Consequently, the logistics sector too got disrupted in a major way due to its heavy dependency on the manufacturing sector. Due to Covid-19, there arose the imperative need to cut down on human interaction. This led to stalling the movement of goods, which crippled the supply chain and logistics sector. Logistics, transportation, and warehousing activities nosedived because the pandemic imposed restrictions on drivers and warehouse personnel from going about their jobs.
Need for Innovation Welcome to the new-age necessity of a robust, failsafe, and efficient supply chain. For example, the Covid-19 vaccine drive requires a humongous effort to deliver vaccines to its 130-crore population. While the vaccine drive is on, there is something brewing on the sidelines—innovation in supply chain management. Cold-chain logistics companies are now investing in data technologies and fleet management software for higher efficiency in warehouse stock management, live tracking of the fleet, and curating the flow of operations even as the fleets hit the road.
Omni-channel—the new game
E-commerce companies have reinvented the retail landscape and ushered in the dominance of online sales over shop sales. Paradoxically, e-commerce companies across the world are now taking to an omnichannel approach. While continuing to bolster their digital presence, they are also setting up offline (brick & mortar) stores. What matters is not just convenience, but also the experience. Brick & mortar outlets provide a much-desired shopping experience to the customer.
Companies are now focussing on ramping up their supply chain to fulfil the unique but compelling need of customers who would sometimes visit an offline store to test and ‘feel’ the product. They may order it online or buy it directly from the store. The fulfilment centres need to be prepared not just for regular online orders but also for those offline stores. Fulfilment centre managers will have greater control over stock allocation and distribution if they have access to live information regarding stock at the factory, in transit, in-store, and at the fulfilment centres. Technology is also helping in auto-replenishment of stocks, live tracking, and creating operational efficiencies. If that is not enough, companies are heavily investing in technologies to create an almost seamless process connecting the offline and online worlds, leading to what we call the omnichannel presence.
Breathing new life into logistics: IoT, Big Data, Analytics
Technology can help track the movement of goods in and out of the factory or shipment floor, to create an auto-replenishment system that ensures the right inventory at the right time. Internet-of-things (connected devices deployed all across the fulfilment centre) helps monitor stock movement and position to provide the most accurate readings. Add big data and analytics to this, and you have a robust and intelligent distribution system. An intelligent distribution system ensures accuracy on all nodes of the supply chain from procurement to production, packaging, warehousing, and last-mile delivery.
Managers need only to connect with the respective dashboards. Data opens new possibilities and helps them utilize the supply chain, the warehouse, and its vast space in a much more efficient manner. The technology here is not just about ensuring a smarter and more efficient warehouse but about having an interconnected supply chain and logistics system that breathes new life into the logistics sector.