“People’s needs have not gone away, they merely need alternatives” 

By Daniel Abrego

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented levels of disruption for local and global supply chains. Everyday life has been severely impacted and the importance of maintaining supply chains is on everyone’s mind. 

As a 5PL, we have had to reassess our purpose and mental model in reaction to the crisis and we’ve discovered that looking to the future is imperative to keep our business functioning at optimum levels.  

Our position on the crisis is to create the largest positive impact we can. From the beginning, we have responded instantly to our customers. We are still available and working all our distribution channels. Our consultants are also guiding customers and partners who are going for it by finding opportunities in each challenge in a wise and appropriate manner.  

Some lessons we have learned during this time: 


Empower your workforce 

In this time of uncertainty, managing your workforce is a priority to maintain morale and productivity. We haven’t closed our office and still have on-site workers and we do everything possible to ensure their health, safety, wellbeing and security. Our work from home technology allows collaboration that still brings everyone’s abilities together. We review our operations daily and encourage feedback and engagement on how to optimize continuity and keep things going. 


To hire or not? 

Now we are seeing a lot more available talent in the market, and if you have the cash reserves, it’s a great time to hire and snatch up great talent. Your business may be growing now, or you predict that it will grow after this period, so now would be a smart time to hire if you are able to do so. 


Create a Emergency Operations Centre 

EOCs are not just for the executive levels but need to be functional at the warehouse and factory level. By running outage scenarios, an EOC can work on emergency action plans including clear roles for employees, protocols for decision making and ensuring communications do not fail during disruptions. Our EOC plans for the unexpected, gathers knowledge, and coordinates measures during testing times. We’ve seen extraordinary circumstances this year, but with supply chain preparedness, business risks have been mitigated.   


It’s a great time to innovate 

Supply chains are constantly innovating and now there is more need for creativity and leveraging resources. COVID-19 has significantly increased demand and put pressure on businesses to change the way they operate online or at the point of delivery. To begin with, AI demand forecasting and inventory planning can optimize supply chains. Working with a technology partner will help you find solutions to implement virtual resources such as predictive analysis, automation and remote working. If you adapt, you will not need to close.  

Think about lifestyle changes once this is over. There will be a huge amount of people who do not want to get back to public transport or would voluntarily work from home. Demand for medical supply and healthcare services will soar. As will agriculture, food processing and e-commerce to name a few. How can you get people what they want? What are new products and in which markets would they be needed once the crisis is over?  


Supplier relationships 

You may be reluctant to find new suppliers at this stage because it is time consuming and requires approvals and certifications. However, finding local sources in your home market and being multi-channel can mitigate risk. Transportation costs and risk levels will be lower with local suppliers and you can be assured of a backup source.  

At the same time, developing your relationships with already existing suppliers means coming up with contingency plans together and being responsive by reconfiguring your supply chain. There are advantages to developing these relationships. 


Customer service 

Have you asked your customers how you can add value and serve them in the current situation? Learning what they need now and how to help can offer new avenues of growth during crisis. Some companies send emails to customers. Others reach them on a one-on-one level with a note. Just letting them know you’re available and that you can do something for them is important. You will find that different requests from customers will inspire ideas for different products and services to make. People’s needs have not gone away, they merely need alternatives. 


This situation is temporary 

Leave the noise behind and focus on the business. Remind yourself that it’s not always going to be like this. Look at Italy and how it shifted from a disastrous stage to one offering hope. We must believe it’s not going to stay like this. Cling to the vision of your future and pull people together to make it happen. Motivate yourself and your employees with hope instead of fear.  


Look to the future 

We should always be prepared to restart economies, improve production capacities and remain helpful to those outside our borders, for example by lifting restrictions on the trade of PPE. Supply chains are resilient and we must not aggravate the situation by foreign investment reduction and causing more economic pain. Policymakers must allow vital items to flow from one country to the other, especially where needed. It may appear that we are dealing with forced separation and what happens in one country doesn’t affect others, but in fact we are all in the same place. 


Daniel Abrego is CEO of Intercontinental Logistics Corp. He is an international logistics expert with over 20 years of experience and a business innovator.