Pandemic Catapults the Role of Technology in Supply Chain

 In Industry News

If every cloud does indeed have a silver lining, one bright spot in the very dark cloud of the pandemic is the hurried innovation and implementation of technology all along the supply chain.

Companies that have been compelled to use technology simply to stay in business and keep goods moving to where they need to go are finding it has brought other benefits too, most notably gains in efficiency and productivity and reductions in costs.

Here are 5 ways technology has been catapulted to the forefront of the supply chain these past few months.

Autonomous Vehicles

If there’s no driver, there’s no problem complying with quarantine or social distancing regulations. This can be especially valuable in the health sector for delivering critical medications and other supplies to patients and customers. In late May, autonomous vehicle company Nuro announced a partnership with CVS to deliver “prescriptions and essentials” across three ZIP codes in Houston, Texas. As with this trial project, driverless delivery is likely to be most immediately useful and utilized for the last mile, especially in cities, where the danger of rapidly spreading virus contagion is greatest.

End-to-End Supply Chain Visibility

The rapidly changing regulations and situations during the pandemic have made real-time decision-making a critical element for companies up and down the supply chain and across all modes of transportation. This need is propelling the development and implementation of IoT and similar technologies for end-to-end tracking of shipments and B2C orders.

No Touch, No Paper

Electronic bills of lading, video meetings with customers, and warehouse staff equipped with tablets and laptops are some of the technologies companies have hurriedly put in place to reduce person-to-person contact. Along with improved sanitation, companies have realized gains in both efficiency and time.

Virtual Onboarding for Truck Drivers

Trucking companies have been forced during the lockdown to find ways to onboard new drivers that respect the need for social distancing. Some have turned to technology to create a virtual orientation process that incorporates videos and electronic signatures. The time and cost savings of the virtual onboarding mean that it’s probably here to stay as part of a driver orientation process that also includes some in-person time.

Remote Working

And, of course, there’s the obvious: companies up and down the supply chain have been forced to find ways for their staff to work remotely. Even after restrictions are lifted and it’s permissible to return to the office, it’s likely that remote working will remain an integral part of ordinary work life as smart companies realize that allowing employees location flexibility can actually boost productivity. From the HR perspective, allowing telecommuting can improve employee morale and retention and reduce absenteeism. It can also save costs in the form of real estate, office furniture, and utility bills.


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