5 Supply Chain Tactics for Adjusting to the “New Normal”
Robert Recknagel - February 25, 2021
With the unprecedented outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything that we know about business has changed. As health and safety take priority and more people are working from home, companies have had to completely reorganize their operations to adjust to the "new normal" of today. For the logistics industry, it has become increasingly complicated to maintain supply chain efficiency – completing orders on time, tackling shipping complications, and bringing employees into the office safely. There are now more supply chain challenges than ever, addressed in our blog on The Top 5 Challenges in the “New Normal” Supply Chain, balancing costs, capacity, and resilience, with new safety measures. To combat these challenges, we will discuss five tactics for adjusting your organization to today’s “normal” so that you can get back to work and perform better than before.
1. Focus on Stability
While maintaining a stable business has always been vital, it is now so more than ever. If you do not already have one in place, create a responsive, client-focused operating model. This should include a cross-functional task force able to respond rapidly to your needs while maintaining flexibility with internal and external communications. With needs changing quickly, communication must move fast and efficiently. Invest in reliable remote work technologies that allow for smooth communication to keep both employees and customers connected to your business, regardless of if they are in-office or at home. Make it clear with your employees what operational changes are being made to be aware and prepared for any changes or transitions – whether it involves video conferencing tools, best remote practices, and reducing business travel. Stabilizing your organization will ease the transition into the "new normal" while keeping your customers and employees safe and connected.
2. Prioritize Safety
It is essential to educate your staff on the proper safety procedures during this time. Not only will this keep your business moving, but more importantly, it will keep your employees and customers safe, improve company morale, employee retention, and productivity – all of which translate into customer satisfaction. Additionally, there will be new federal and local guidelines to comply with, so you should make sure that your employees understand these and you follow them at all times to prevent any dangerous exposure or disruptions to the supply chain process. This may include sanitization of high-contact surfaces, contactless delivery, handwashing protocols, mask requirements, and social distancing. Make a contingency plan for following these requirements and a plan for a potential breach of protocol to ensure preparedness. While completely changing protocols to align with COVID safety precautions may seem like a difficult task, if you communicate these plans with your employees and take your plans one step at a time, your business will be prepared to get back in action.
3. Stay Agile
Agility is a supply chain's most vital asset during COVID. Regarding supply chain agility, this refers to planning, monitoring, and responding to various scenarios, both expected and unexpected. As global supply chains essentially shut down overnight, and even today are still experiencing significant delays, it is vital to be agile and keep moving. Due to many delays, some products completely fell out of demand, so businesses have to reassess their product line and financial statements to recover. Today, it is crucial to determine clearly what your customers want and deliver it fast. Prioritize their needs and be flexible with them by offering lenient payment plans such as after-pay, release new products, and provide no-contact services. As the market changes, your organization is responsible for keeping up with it, so find opportunities for improvement to please your customers and make it as seamless as possible to purchase and receive your product. Hand-in-hand with agility is resiliency, which offers you contingencies when disruptions arrive, allowing you to prepare for the worst and recover quickly.
4. Embrace the “New Normal”
While it may be tempting to wait for things to "return to normal," it is necessary to embrace these changes and understand that things will not go back to how they were. Worldwide changes generate new opportunities for innovation, so by adopting the "new normal," your organization can be a leader in the restructuring of the world as we know it. As a supply chain organization, finding innovations can drastically change businesses all over the world. Once you find efficiency in remote teamwork, electronic communication, and no-contact distribution, your organization will have the opportunity to discover new business processes that could change how supply chains operate. Utilize this opportunity and find success in innovation – stay ahead of the curve, ask yourself where improvements could be made – and then make them. Overall, be prepared to incorporate the supply chain protocols of the “new normal” so that you can minimize losses and embrace the future.
5. Get Ready
Resetting your organization is a large ordeal, so you must have a plan in place to launch these changes. Ensure that you maintain a long-term focus while implementing these changes, and remember that this "new normal" means that operations will likely not return to how they were pre-COVID-19. It is also important to note that these changes will impact not only your supply chain but all departments within your organization. Because of this, consider developing a crisis-management team and upgrading your customer service team's tools to improve communication internally and externally. This may require increased speed of decision-making and communication within your business, so consider what tools you may need to achieve that.
An excellent source for improving your organization's speed and efficiency is to digitize or future-proof your supply chain. This may include implementing more AI and cloud services that allow you to rely less on manual labor and instead delegate tasks to competent technology services. Not only will this save you time and money, but it could reduce the number of employees required to work in-office. Digitization is the future of supply chain management and will support you in achieving all of your planning, monitoring, and analyzing needs.
All in all, it is time for your organization to embrace the "new normal" through prioritizing safety, innovation, and preparation. While we live in the future that no one expected, it is our reality, and we must welcome it. We were thrown into the world of COVID-19 with no guidelines of how to react, so it is up to us to determine what this future will mean for businesses worldwide. In transitioning to remote-work and contactless services, organizations are reinventing how to perform business interactions, and your organization has the opportunity to be a leader in that innovation. Take advantage of the digital technologies available to you and step into the future. Using these five adjustment tactics, your organization will become a driver in innovation and define what the "new normal" could mean for supply chain operations.