Logistics Rewind 2021: Learnings from the year in logistics

2020 saw the world grapple amid the frenzy of global trade and supply chain disruptions, which has been turbulence of superlative levels. The demand and supply mechanism was thrown out of balance as the world witnessed panic purchasing and transporting cargo became a daunting task. However, mankind adapted and 2021 saw the global supply chain & logistics industry bounce back, though still somewhat limping. Here’s a look at logistics in India as the economy bears witness to changing dynamics of customer behavior, technology and decision-making.

Modifying the way we live and work

The global economy has seen a lot of changes since the pandemic struck and so has India. From coming to a total stand-still to picking up the pieces and making a comeback, it hasn’t been an easy journey. However, one sector that has made the fastest recovery and was deemed rather imperative during the pandemic, is supply chain & logistics. When you come to think of it, we have rightfully thanked our front-line COVID-19 workers, but never have the people involved in logistics been thanked for working tirelessly to ensure medicines, medical equipment, consumer essentials, etc. reach from one part of the country to another in time. Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director at AVG Logistics gives a hint at operational ethics followed by the industry during the pandemic – “Post pandemic, this is an unpredictable world. So, it is always advisable to keep stock of essential commodities e,g food, medicines, FMCG, safety & hygiene products near to the consumers to minimize transportation time and keep optimum inventory to fulfil the consumers’ requirement on time to avoid chaos hence new market space for logistics & warehousing is created to meet the consumers demand in shortest possible time.”

Additionally, 2021 has seen a never before rise of online shopping – right from Tier1 to Tier3 cities – something that even the small business owners took advantage of and, with no doubt, this digital-centric consumer shopping behaviour is here to stay. During this year, there has been a total flip in the way supply chain industry plans as well as functions. When it comes to logistics – in-house or 3PL – companies have taken courageous decisions to mitigate risks and diversify supply chain operations to counter vulnerabilities.

Mahendra K. Shah, Managing Director at V-Xpress – a pan-India logistics solutions provider – says, “Logistics has gone from having the right product, in the right place, at the right time, at the lowest possible cost, to being a whole process within the company with specific areas for its treatment. It seeks to strategically manage the acquisition, movement, storage of products and inventory control, as well as all the associated information flow, through which the organization and its distribution channel are channeled in such a way that profitability for present and future of the company is maximized in terms of costs and effectiveness. Thus, today we can understand logistics as the organization of the supply activities of raw materials, semi-finished products and components, from the supply sources to the production centres and from these, already transformed by the production process, to distribution platforms or warehouses so that they reach the market in perfect condition and at a minimum cost. In the transformation of last year 2 major factors are role and support of technology and human connection of the organisation stood out. An organisation has to build on tech support as much as possible to get analysis, insight and forecasting to the best possible level and also having the dedicated, motivated, engage and aligned team make any logistics player more reliable.”

On similar lines, Whole Time Director at Jet Freight, Dax Theknath said, “We do believe that specialization in freight services is very important in our industry. This has been our sole focus for the last three decades. We have evolved by adapting to the disruption that change brings and have advanced in the supply chain industry by becoming more strategic, solving complex situations, being accessible, and pushing for automation. In the logistics and warehousing industry, it is pivotal to build and adapt to technological advancements. Apart from this, maintaining healthy relations with the aid of virtual meetings, strong operations policies, and trade lane management through technology helped garner the necessary margins and increased the efficiency of the company.”

Leveraging technology as a sidebar on the staircase of growth

Another noticeable development in the industry was the rapid adoption of technology, not just at the consumer end, but the manufacturer and supplier end as well. Technology has been a part of the supply chain & logistics for a very long time, however, the pandemic gave a much-needed push to it. As a layman would see it, resulting from the ‘social distancing at workplace’, humans could not work in close proximity with each other without putting others at risk, so they adopted machines (read: AI and robots) to do their work. However, ingestion of technology throughout supply chains is far more complex with advanced warehouse management systems (WMS), machine learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, route optimization software, transport management systems (TMS) and of course Artificial Intelligence (AI), along with a baffling number of other ways that technology could be used.

Saahil Goel, Co-Founder and CEO, Shiprocket – “When it comes to the Indian supply chain industry, some of the key learnings are to be prepared for an unprecedented event, do crisis forecasting, conduct a thorough risk analysis, diversify transportation options to ensure minimal impact, and ensure customers are informed in a timely manner.”

Rohan Mittal, CFO Rivigo – “Hardships have cascaded across the entire ecosystem, whether service user or provider. We believe that tech and empathy are key to resilience – tech to remove inefficiencies and help institutionalize change management, empathy to counter balance tech. Organisations cannot afford to lose the ‘human’ angle in pursuit of profits or growth.”

This is an abridged version of the original story that was published in the December edition of the Logistics Insider magazine. To read the complete article, click here.

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