Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

With the world going through so much in such a short span of time, global logistics and supply chains are once again facing several challenges. But taking these in its stride, the sector has been evolving, learning and unlearning, keeping its eyes fixed on two important aspects, that have now become the foundations for the new normal – optimisation and agility!

Resilient supply chains’ has been a buzzword for a while now. So much so that the $100-billion Tata Group’s Chairman N Chandrasekaran has put supply chain resilience as the company’s top strategy theme along with digital, new energy, and health. Resilience is reaction, resistance and unwavering grit in the face of an unfathomable crisis. It is the only power factor that can help withstand, predict and overcome disruptions for an unbroken supply chain.

The pandemic taught us to be resilient in the face of challenges and agile supply chains have been an answer to that. Through tech adoption and effective use of resources, the sector can now, more than ever before, rise up higher to meet the current demands of the new business ecosystem, right from e-retail, no contact deliveries, reverse logistics, dark stores and the surge in temperature-controlled storage and transport. However, these efforts would not be complete unless optimisation, as a key disruptor, is practiced at the group level!

Here’s a checklist for logistics and supply chain service providers to streamline operations and drive efficiency:

  1. By effectively leveraging emerging tech like AI and Big Data, it is possible to ensure resources – both human and capital, are adequately optimised. From mapping the shortest routes, enabling efficient last mile deliveries, and real-time tracking and monitoring of shipments, to ensuring better inventory management, staffing and scheduling of warehouse and transport staff as well as, tech adoption can help enhance productivity and efficiency, at lower costs.
  2. In case of interstate and international shipments, leverage route optimisation and real time tracking along with consolidation of shipments can go a long way in reducing overheads and ensuring timely and efficient movement of goods. This is especially true in case of cargo that needs specialised transport conditions like controlled temperatures, as this can help tremendously optimise time, costs and operations.
  3. An agile and optimised supply chain network is the regionalisation of national/ state level logistics hubs. The wider the regional network, the more robust the supply chain. The current government directive of building Logistic Parks near ports and airports is a great step in this direction. But this also needs to be supplemented with individual efforts where businesses and logistics service providers can create a wider access to localised storage and supply chain hubs so as to enhance reach and supply.
  4. Employing local workforce, with flexible shifts, including work from home or remote working options for office staff, can be vital to ensure business continuity and operational efficiency as it cuts down risks of attrition while ensuring trained staff continues to work and grow with the company, helping build agility while building a skilled and stable workforce.
  5. One of the key aspects of a supply chain is effective demand and supply planning. When building effective agile supply chains, one needs to consider the changing consumer demands, re-assess the possible supply burdens and constrains and prepare a contingency by leveraging effective warehousing infrastructure. By ensuring well planned and strategic movement of good and ensuring localised warehouses are equipped to offer easy access to market, one can help mitigate possible demand-supply crisis, thus supporting a strong and agile network.

Future-proofing your warehouse

Undeniably so, your warehouse remains the most important and usually undermined organ of the supply chain. It is the confluence point of inventory, distribution and data. Warehouses are central to any company’s reputation, as it creates and fulfils customer orders.

Warehouse management systems can help reap immense benefits, especially in simplifying and standardizing processes that lead to increased efficiency and decrease the chance of errors, especially in inbound and outbound fulfilment.

With real-time inventory and transaction visibility, WMS is truly the answer to bolstering supply chain resilience in the face of possible disruptions.

Warehouse automation: Changing the landscape

Warehouse automation is the use of various technologies—robotics, conveyors, cloud-based applications, etc.— to eliminate human error from operations. Automated tasks can include the retrieval, sorting, and packaging of inventory while humans replace low-level responsibilities for the management of tech solutions.

Supply chains have always been looked at from the vantage point of ensuring efficiency. Between striving for cost-reduction and seeking an agile supply chain, the question remains that which one reigns supreme.

While demanding a flexible or agile supply chains is the new buzz word, we should always keep in mind that the specific industry or customer needs a specific supply chain – as each variant comes with its own cost structures, process and technology maturity.

By

Tariq Ahmed, Editor and Co-Founder at Logistics Insider

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members