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Planning for a Post-Coronavirus Logistics World.

Flight or Freight, just don’t hibernate.

“When this Coronavirus thing is over, I’m gonna get my nails done.” said my wife today.

I looked up from my computer, bemused, pondered at her statement, and nodded. It’s Day 26 of us working from home; I know better than to chime in on what I consider priorities in a pandemic. Besides, I was in the middle of an email correspondence with a pretty angsty freight forwarder who is working 5-people’s jobs, (the rest got laid off) and I welcomed a distraction.

“I’ll book a session with my favourite manicurist, Gigi.” she continued.

I nodded again to signal “I hear you” but this time I raised my eyebrows.

My wife went on to share how Gigi is from Malaysia, that Gigi and her colleagues are all very good at what they do (nail art I guess), my wife even knows the boss, the nail salon owner. “I hope they survive this. I hope the ladies still have their jobs.” Followed by “They better. I still have a package with them.”

At this point, I got up to get a coffee. Because this conversation just got interesting.

“ok. I’ll play along.” I said, setting my coffee down.

“So, in a few weeks or months, “the coronavirus is gone” (how?… okay.) Say hypothetically, we found a cure… You really think things will “return to normal?” That your favourite nail salon is going to stay the same, to price the same? You think the boss will honour your package over say cash? That Gigi, has not returned to Malaysia, evolved her skillset? And even if Gigi comes back, if she is as good as you say, she’ll be asked to service new customers, who bring in new revenue instead, don’t you think?”

It was my wife’s turn to nod thoughtfully.  

In a parallel universe, I’m afraid the same thing is happening in the logistics industry, where we speak of “when this is over” with too much false hope and not enough action.  

Case in point, in a rather foreboding conversation with a Senior VP of a manufacturing firm, he said to me “Wiebe, we go in hibernation mode now, and we will see what the world looks like when we wake up.” to share the news of the closing of their offices.

Anticipate, Don’t Hibernate

Just like my wife is making plans for “when this is over”, some countries are preparing to ease their lockdowns. And while my wife is eager to “book a manicure”, the logistics workforce is looking forward to getting back to work, and booking shipments, and getting that logistics supply chain moving again. But just like my wife did not consider if her previous connections are still valid and pre-Covid19 rates are still locked-in, many of us need to catch up – or better yet – create a new reality, and wise up to the fact that lots of things will not be the same as before.

Here are some points to consider:

1. Expect Price Hikes – Since airlines have halted most of their operations, we will face a lack of air freight space. As a result, we can expect a huge spike in rates, way above the rates you locked-in pre-Covid19, those likely won’t be valid anymore.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Take this time to research and discover new paths and even lock-in new rates.

2. Anticipate Volume – Once productivity resumes, it can very quickly take on a snowball effect. Many have even laid off staff so supply chains might be off to a rough comeback as we rush to fill up all the gaps left broken by the crisis.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Prepare your supply chain to be able to meet harsher demands. Forge and form new partnerships, send your staff for relevant training in anticipation of what is to come.

3. Invest in Automation and Integration – when chaos meets volume, Freight Forwarders are going to have regrets they didn’t invest earlier or faster in automation and integration with 3rd parties. If you don’t have a system in place, you’ll be hitting the ground running doing manual quoting and bookings through legacy systems like emails and phone calls.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
See if logistics technology, apps, and other intelligent platforms can help. Research and familiarise yourself with enterprise software (like Cargobase.com) that can help you automate your most taxing processes.

4. Start Shopping (Online) – Your favourite Freight Forwarders might not be able to support you now. They might have no space, or have other customers that are bigger and more important than you. Some of the smaller ones might have even ceased operations.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Take this time to connect with relevant networks that can support your business objectives, through professional communities such as “The Logistics Navigator”.

Even as we take a step back to break the circuit, it doesn’t mean productivity comes to a standstill. I believe Productivity is just as contagious. If we use this time to connect, to anticipate, to plan, we can plot our next moves and plant seeds for our supply chains to return more forcefully.

“Oh I found Gigi on Instagram” my wife says, “she’s giving online tutorials on nail care!”

Anticipate, Don’t Hibernate

Thank you for reading. I wish you and your supply chain well.

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