There is a rather disturbing fact concerning pandemics and their timelines of occurrences; in the 1720s, there happened to be the Great Plague of Marseille, 1820s we had a particularly chilling cholera outbreak, 1920 marked the era of the Spanish flu, and in 2020, most recently we had the Covid-19 pandemic. Without going into too much detail, the fact that these happened centuries apart is an idea that’s shaking. As it is characteristic with all epidemics, what usually follows is a series of effects that often shake societies to their cores. The most recent Covid-19 outbreak wasn’t any different from the rest in this regard. Keen to the fact that it caused significant upsets in different arenas, we shall dwell on the evolution of logistics companies after the outbreak occurred.
In a complex operation, there is the need to organize and implement activities in a detailed manner; that is generally what logistics is by definition. As a science, it has been around since the 1830s, the term itself having been attributed to the French writer and military officer Antoine-Henri Jomini. (Jomini, 1830). Logistics companies have provided essential services, and more so in these modern times of globalization. They connect buyers and sellers, firms to one another; provide inventory management, warehousing services, activities, freight forwarding, and even modal transport. The entire process is as complex as it is critical, entailing thousands of employees and hours of work. Tech giant Apple Inc. for instance, relies on components from at least two hundred different suppliers in forty-three countries (Twinn, Qureshi, Conde, Guinea, & Rojas, 2020). Maersk, the world’s largest container company, has operations in 76 countries. All these could’ve possibly ground to a halt in the wake of the outbreak.
March 11th, 2020 Covid-19 is declared a global pandemic, unprecedented and unrivaled in its wrath. To understand the evolution that logistics entities underwent, we have to know the causalities and effects. The correlation between the performances of logistic firms and high-income levels illustrates their contribution towards global economic growth.
- At its epicenter, Wuhan, and China at large, there were massive disruptions in the supply chains; manufacturing disruptions were also felt as backlogs of cargo took effect.
- Furthermore, following border closures and movement restrictions worldwide, much of the commodities ferried each second took a grind. The infamous 37-mile-long track length in the European Union comes to mind (Twinn, Qureshi, Conde, Guinea, & Rojas, 2020)
- Additionally, with further restrictions such as social distancing, warehouse workers were affected, bearing in mind how crowded the settings might be most of the time.
- While land transportation remained partially available, air and ocean freight volumes fell by 19% and 10.1%, respectively.
- The total effect on the global economy, which we have established that the logistics arena is partially responsible for, isn’t entirely clear. HOWEVER, the IMF predicted a global economic contraction alongside other global financial players. The IMF predicted a 3-4.4% contraction by the end of the 2020 financial year.
- A slump on supplies and deliveries was observed due to operational constraints. There were delays on numerous levels, and understandably so.
- Death. If it were up to us, we’d fashion an ideal world, and in it, the citizens wouldn’t know death. Unfortunately, such decisions aren’t entrusted unto us. Covid-19 has claimed millions of lives despite its rather mortality rate. The logistics companies weren’t spared either by this unfortunate happenstance. Companies lost employees, a tragic thing, really. And with the loss of life comes other inconveniences that undoubtedly affect the industry.
The world has been likened to a jungle, harsh to some extent, benevolent to a particular degree. In a typical jungle, the laws reign supreme. One such law is that of survival, backed up by evolution. An organism only evolves because of environmental stimuli. So how did the logistics industry evolve to cope with the prevailing changes? Different occurrences demanded different changes, the ones that were taken by some companies in the logistics arena were as follows.
- Solutions at Maersk included altering the usual mode of cargo transport from road to rail. This was during the massive lockdown. Borders become too restrictive when one opts for road networks entirely; railways seem reasonable enough given the quantity of goods ferried and the number of requisite containers.
- The Danish team equally decided to add extra ocean loaders in order to ensure container supply consistency (Team, 2020).
- Perhaps among the most radical changes, post-covid was the global embracement of digital spaces. Via hybrid working, product and personnel transportation have been efficient. The pandemic forced most of us to work remotely; we had to endorse the digital platforms to keep up.
- Furthermore, there was a rise in alliances, mergers, and partnerships. Businesses in the logistics space had to not only diversify but also come together to achieve economic stability. This happened either through acquisitions, mutual understandings or business takeovers.
- Coming up with new safety protocols. Wearing masks wasn’t a thing until last, so was social distancing or regular handwashing. In order to protect the health of their staff, logistics firms had to implement such guidelines, a first for most of them.
- Providing adaptive services to consumers. In a move that wasn’t too corporate, some firms such as UPS ferried up to two million masks and protective gear to Wuhan. This is just one example (Twinn, Qureshi, Conde, Guinea, & Rojas, 2020). Within their operational domains, in their institutions, offices, and such, companies implored the use of safe gear in order to combat the outbreak. Firms like DHL ferried not only the aforementioned apparel but also items of sustenance.
- Logistics firms had to adopt alternative transport modes to keep up with demand since, during lockdowns, restricted movements and all people opted for online supplies. In China, medical supplies were delivered by drones. Not only that, they were also used to warn and educate the citizens about the virus (https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=china+covid+drone&&view=detail&mid=B069C6C8D759E4F491B2B069C6C8D759E4F491B2&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dchina%2Bcovid%2Bdrone%26FORM%3DHDRSC3)
- Emergency funds and planning. The funds and plans for emergency existed already, no doubt, but none of them barely had the ability to cover the expenses brought about by a pandemic. In retrospect, logistics companies had to think beyond emergencies such as fires, the collapse of buildings, terrorism, etc. They had to think bigger have plans and expenditures for viral outbreaks such as the Covid-19. The pandemic brought such discussions to the table.
- Enhanced security measures have had to be taken in order to curb the viral spread. Measures such as frequent testing, medical isolation, or quarantine on those who test positive, and perhaps most important, taking the jab or vaccine so that one’s immune system is boosted against various strains.
Victory, uncertain as it is, demands that we prepare for what comes yonder. With the limitations brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic coming off the other side, a victor, even for the logistics companies, needed a level of readiness. And that, they didn’t have. Nobody foresaw the effects, but they trudged through it regardless. Nobody was warned of the coming restrictions, but isn’t that characteristic of living in unprecedented times? In order to survive or live through the pandemic, companies, just as people, had to adapt, evolve even, and logistics companies took on it.
Jomini, B. D. (1830). Tableau Analytique des principales combinaisons De La Guerre, Et De Leurs Rapports Avec La Politique Des États: Pour Servir D’Introduction Au Traité Des Grandes Opérations Militaire. Paris.
Team, T. M. (2020). Keeping Supply Chains Moving During Covid-19. Maersk.
Twinn, I., Qureshi, N., Conde, M. L., Guinea, C., & Rojas, D. (2020). Impacts of Covid-19 on the Logistics. International Finance Corporation, 1-2.