We did the work for you by scrolling through countless sources and here are the common themes, trends, and advancements we found.
Remember the 2020 toilet paper shortage? Yeah of course you do but don’t worry, with global manufacturing looking to remain open this year, it won’t happen again. These two years have greatly evolved the logistics and supply chain operation process by pushing companies to re-evaluate, implement new practices, and learn to adapt to the ongoing and unexpected changes.
For 2022, what we have learned is that unpredictability and uncertainty are certain to be carried through the year, together with collaborative automation. With an unforeseeable future, it is crucial for companies to continue seeking creative, flexible, and feasible solutions in order to have a competitive advantage.
Unpredictability & Uncertainty; a running theme in 2022
Unpredictability; the arrival of the Omicron variant kickstarted our 2022 just like that. As we conquered the first month of the year, the emergence of the new variant has caused complications to existing challenges. This showed that despite all the preparation and measures we had, we would still be unprepared due to the unascertained situation. In China, their ‘zero-Covid’ strategy has tightened domestic and international restrictions.
And in Europe, post-Brexit customs checks were introduced at the start of this year which has created further friction and increased charges from accidental non-compliance. According to a poll by the Institute of Directors (IoD) in the United Kingdom (UK), attained that three in 10 of the leaders of firms that import from the EU, 'are not prepared at all,' for the customs checks.
These two situations are one of the many things that have happened in the past two years, simply showing that the logistics and supply chain industry will continue to change due to its disruption and these changes will affect the workforce strategies by creating inevitable short-term challenges yet producing adaptable long-term efforts.
Collaborative Automation is here to stay!
Due to COVID 19, the shipment and cargo quantity rose in volume and new challenges such as forcing companies to operate with minimal staff due to social distancing had to be implemented. The global pandemic has pushed all of us to make changes we didn’t expect to. Companies that have had a comfortable legacy operation system have to learn to adopt new advancements in order to refrain from falling behind their competitors.
Many businesses are already keeping up with the pandemic impact through various methods such as supply chain technologies which are becoming increasingly prominent in business processes, with the integration of collaborative automation. If you Google, ‘Collaborative Automation’, you’ll come across lots of results that talk about, ‘Collaborative Robots’ (also known as, ‘Cobots’). Well, that’s the idea of it anyway.
The first time this was thought of, was by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a government regulatory agency in the United States, in the 1990s. They found that the repetitive and labor-intensive work at automotive facilities was a serious issue, as it was putting major strains on the staff wellbeing, and recognized that automated solutions were potential issue solvers.
In 2008, the first collaborative robot arm was introduced in the facility of a technical plastics and rubber supplier and this changed the way of work in the industry ever since, as human workers could safely work alongside these cobots as it increased efficiency and productivity. Fast forward to today, collaborative automation is still fairly new yet it already means more than robots to some companies. As mentioned on techbriefs.com, ‘... a collaborative application is more than just a cobot.’
Let’s take DHL Supply Chain, as an example. A contract logistics company that has been using more than 500 assisted picking robots, Locus, in 2021 at the warehouses in the United States (US), Europe, and United Kingdom (UK), to optimize their supply chain process. This has been an effective and reliable method as it reduces the time spent lugging heavy pushcarts up and down around warehouses, lowers the physical strain on employees, and increases picking efficiency. Since then, DHL plans to implement up to 2,000 automated warehouse robots around the world by 2022.
Creativity, Flexibility & Feasibility is crucial
In pre-covid times, logistics and supply chain companies have their particular ways of operating the business. Arrange cargo, quote client, send a confirmation email to the client, and complete; MCGlobe’s Head of Business Development, Liza, did her freight forwarding job that way during that time. Though the tasks were straightforward, she managed every stage of the job meticulously, and many times, they ran smoothly without much worry.
When asked how things changed after the pandemic, she stated that the way of communication was the thing that stood out for her. To arrange a job now requires Liza to keep a closer eye on the cargo in each stage until it arrives at the end location. Let’s take a look at the altered process she works through.
For an export process, an LCL (Less-than-container Load) task requires closer monitoring of the collection and delivery of the cargo to the seaport warehouse or container freight station (CFS). As for the FCL (Full Container-Load) booking, the booking of the container has to be placed first and then only file the quotations after, as rates have been inconsistent and hence, clients are advised to accept the given rates.
For import cargoes, since 2019, Liza started to experience delays in cargo delivery and this became a consistent situation. Ever since then, for all the jobs, she chose to inform her clients to expect delays and provides a rough gauge of the dates on the arrival of the delivery which has helped her lessen the pressure on herself as well as her agents. This has allowed them to work more efficiently and carefully and has increased the reliability and trustworthiness she gets from her clients.
From this, it is important for companies to take note of the things that will not be beneficial and hinder the operation process. After figuring those out, improvements could be made for the staff and the business. Optimizing internal operations like shifting, removing, or adding new tasks or technology as well as making sure that these changes are feasible for the company for the current and future situation will be the factor that will increase the company’s competitive edge.
These two years have exposed us to the vulnerability of the global supply chain; an industry that was taken for granted once and this was certainly a lesson that has allowed us to work on developments that will benefit all stakeholders involved. As we start seeing growth and changes all around the world, we must ensure to continue being attentive, open-minded, and adjust in order to respond well during this critical period.
All the information in this article is based on our observation and opinion relating to the ongoing logistics and supply chain situation. As MCGlobe continues to learn and progress, we’re always keeping up with the latest news, innovations, and developments.
Take care, stay safe and stay tuned.
(2021, June 2). DHL Supply Chain, Locus Robotics expand warehouse robotics collaboration. Dcvelocity.Com. https://www.dcvelocity.com/articles/51109-dhl-supply-chain-locus-robotics-expand-warehouse-robotics-collaboration
Sweeney, E. (2022, January 19). The big challenges for supply chains in 2022. Weforum.Org. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/01/challenges-supply-chains-covid19-2022/
Levans, M. (2022, February 2). 2022 Global Issue: Is this the new normal? Scmr.Com. https://www.scmr.com/article/2022_global_issue_is_this_the_new_normal
Short, M. (2021, December 14). How to prepare for Global Logistics in 2022. Globaltrademag.Com. https://www.globaltrademag.com/how-to-prepare-for-global-logistics-in-2022/
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