What do disinfectants, diapers, coffee, and toilet paper all have in common? The answer is that they’re all items that have been missing from global supermarket shelves at some point in the last two years.
COVID-19 has not just been wreaking havoc on our immune systems; it’s also crippling supply chains all over the world, causing no end to headaches for both businesses and consumers alike.
With a spike in recent COVID-19 infections across Asia, and with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, current global supply chains are further weakened. As a result, it is hard to foresee when supply chains will recover from the past year’s disruption, reinforcing the importance for businesses to have more flexible and resilient supply chains.
E-commerce clogs the supply chain
The world has changed in the past two years, not least due to online shopping. People are turning to e-commerce more than ever before as they become accustomed to the convenience of everything being just a click away.
According to App Annie’s State of Mobile 2022 report, mobile shopping habits catalysed during COVID-19 have solidified. The global time spent on shopping apps increased 18% year-on-year (YoY) with strong players in fast fashion and social shopping seeing the highest amount of growth. In Asia, Indonesia and Singapore saw some of the fastest growth at 52% and 46% growth YoY, respectively.
Similarly, HERE Technologies’ latest research revealed that at least 44% of Australians have become more reliant on e-commerce since the beginning of the pandemic.
The fierce competition to get more goods moving more quickly has not only frustrated impatient consumers, but it has also left cargo increasingly vulnerable to damage, spoilage, or theft. Backlogs in ports, traffic congestion on roads, overflowing warehouses, and a shortage of drivers have become common in recent months.
In Asia Pacific, roads around the port of Singapore were 43.7% more congested with truck traffic last October than the average throughout 2021. In Australia last year, container ships spent close to two days at the Port of Melbourne, representing more than twice the global median (0.69 days) in 2019.
Emerging macro trends presenting new supply chain challenges
The growth in e-commerce is also resulting in a need for more warehouses worldwide – as well as a need to find supply chains that link them.
Experts are predicting the number of warehouses around the world will grow by 20% between 2018 and 2025 to reach about 180,000. The continuing development of rural areas worldwide is not just resulting in more inconveniently located product manufacturers, it’s also producing more inconveniently located people to buy them.
Factor in trade wars, a looming European energy crisis, the Ukraine/ Russia crisis and increasing pressure to reduce carbon emissions, the already-complicated world of logistics looks like it’s becoming more challenging than ever.
Bottom line: Things probably won’t be returning to “normal” any time soon. Anticipating, monitoring, and mitigating risks may be what managing a supply chain has now become. Sustainable operations will be ones that can pre-emptively identify a potential disruption, or at the very least respond the moment that it occurs.
But it’s not all doom and gloom
Digital transformation is heralding the next era in supply chain management. According to research, a third of logistics companies in the Asia Pacific region are considering warehouse automation (33%) and electric vehicles (32%) as key investment priorities in the next two years.
However, far more are investing in digital technologies that are designed to achieve end-to-end visibility. Today, logistics companies require fleet, logistics asset tracking, and shipment monitoring solutions that address unique logistics challenges. So there has never been a better time to digitalise and harness the power of location.
With location intelligence, businesses can help streamline operations, reduce the costs of running a business, increase revenue channels, and gain efficiency within supply chain and fleet management. This approach also delivers a more sustainable way of doing business.
Businesses are now demanding for route optimisation and planning, as well as the availability of reports to assess their performance and improve in the future. Yojee, which supplies logistics software, is one such company that is offering innovative solutions along the supply chain. They have seen a sharp uptick in digitisation as businesses come under immense pressure.
As a result, there has been a significant step up from GPS and radio-frequency identification when it comes to fleet tracking and shipment monitoring: Internet-of-Things-based location technologies. This is because these technologies can provide better route planning and real-time notifications – helping to reduce costs and increased efficiency. A speedy, smooth, and comparatively cheap supply chain can make or break a company’s financial performance.
Consumer benefits also a critical consideration for tech investment
That said, real-time tracking doesn’t just smooth out a supply chain, it appeals to the customer who is waiting at the end of the delivery journey. Today’s consumers want (and tomorrow’s customers will demand) total visibility on their orders. They will want to be able to glance at a map, and know exactly where their goods are, as the goods make their way through the supply chain – from the factory right up to their front door; the latest trend is knowing where raw materials are sourced.
Digital investment isn’t just about minimising risk. It can also help to maximise your competitive advantage. A company that delivers a precise and reliable estimated time of arrival (ETA) – rather than a “maybe eight to 12 weeks” – will be a company that customers will return to.
Pressure on last-mile delivery is increasing as supply chains try to meet the cost and time expectation of consumers. This is where location intelligence tools such as ETA notifications and last-mile delivery applications can help alleviate supply chain pressures and give consumers their ideal delivery experiences.
We are living in fast-moving times but there is reason to feel optimistic. With disruption on the rise, supply chains are facing an ultimatum: evolve or else. To combat these widespread bottlenecks as best as possible, companies must prioritise efficiency, leveraging solutions that will reduce unnecessary waste, delays, and disruptions.
Fortunately, location technology might just be the answer — providing increased visibility and helping organisations safeguard their assets’ security.