May 17, 2020

World Cup and royal baby = supply chain strain

world cup
London 2012
royal baby
Freddie Pierce
6 min
Global events can put a strain on supply chains
Written by Denise Oakley, international marketing manager at GXS, an award winning, internationalB2B e-commerce and integration services company Major...

Written by Denise Oakley, international marketing manager at GXS, an award winning, international B2B e-commerce and integration services company

Major events such as the Olympics, the World Cup or even the birth of a royal baby capture attention around the globe. These positive world events can result in a tremendous boost for local economies as well as the wider global economy. Companies begin to plan months or even years ahead to ensure that they are prepared. There is one area that businesses often forget though - their supply chain.

An inevitable side effect of increased, changing demand is the impact it has in the supply chain. Most companies do try to prepare for changing demand, but few think carefully enough about the impact of a serious disruption, particularly in the extended supply chain, in areas that are outside their control. Many companies believe that there is nothing that they can do beyond managing their end-to-end supply chain as best they can.

The reality is that most supply chains will experience disruption from time to time, sometimes for reasons that could have been anticipated, but often such disruptions are totally unexpected and a failure to plan can have serious consequences. Many supply chains and transport networks are more global than we realise, forming the backbone of a global economy, fuelling trade, consumption and economic growth. When supply chains get disrupted there can be major repercussions for individual companies as well as the global economy.

When world events capture the attention, the focus is naturally on those events themselves. But in order to adequately prepare for major events, whether something on the scale of the Olympics, or something smaller, more local but still major for an individual company, a shift is needed from reactive to proactive supply chain risk assessment and management. Even planned for events have unexpected consequences, some good, some not so good. That’s the nature of the supply chain, but with the increasingly global supply chain, unexpected events may have an impact even if a company isn’t aren’t directly involved.  

The list of such impacts becomes longer every year; some of the obvious ones include extreme weather or changing weather patterns, social unrest, changing CSR requirements, new legislation, supplier failures, and inflation plus ever changing consumer demand. When an event impacts just one part of a supply chain, there can be unforeseen, unintended consequences and the effect can be felt much more widely than anticipated.

Companies need to take control and create their own plans, thinking through all of the possible disruptions and how they would continue to run their business as a result.  With luck, they will never need to face any of these problems, but they need to be prepared regardless.  However, there are ways to make this less painful than it seems.

Firstly, this is a subject that many are now looking at - supply chain resilience was on the agenda of the World Economic Forum meeting this year and should also be on every CEO’s agenda.  As global economies start to recover from an economic downturn, they need to ensure that they have supply chain recovery plans in place

There is growing concern around cyber risk, rising insurance and trade finance costs, which is leading supply chain experts to explore new mitigation options. Recent research by Accenture indicates that more than 80 per cent of companies are now concerned about supply chain resilience. Risk management needs to be an explicit, integral part of supply chain governance. Companies should consider taking the following steps:

·         Implementing a multi-stakeholder supply chain risk assessment process

·         Introducing a more adaptable, agile supply chain strategy to improve resilience throughout their extended supply chain

·         Outsource (or have an ability to move without notice) critical elements of your B2B integration process.  Look to a provider with a global platform and capability for help here.

Supply chain directors need to turn detective and thoroughly investigate their IT infrastructures as well as their operational management.  Implementing changes here can provide significant gains in resilience via improved analytics, data and information sharing and pre-programmed responses. One suggestion here is that the corner stone of IT based resilience is usually data and information sharing.

Business continuity is usually enabled through access to real time data followed by rapid dissemination of data driven supply chain fixes, but information sharing infrastructures depend on a resilient core network and appropriate communication tools. These in turn require an IT infrastructure that is flexible, scalable, secure and re-routable if they are to minimise disruptions across supply chains. Cloud based B2B integration solutions can provide a key ‘cornerstone’ towards developing a highly resilient end to end supply chain and this is certainly an approach adopted by many Japanese multinationals in the last couple of years.

However, it’s one thing being able to deploy B2B tools to help with increased resilience, but when disruption strikes in a supply chain there is a need for a co-ordinated approach. Professional networking web sites such as LinkedIn or Xing have noted the emergence and rise of the business continuity manager. This person becomes the go-to employee during a period of disruption, and is responsible for steering a company through a period of supply chain disruption. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Masters of Disaster’, these people are responsible for making today’s supply chains operate efficiently and seamlessly.

But they will only be successful if they have the tools to reach their community and a flexible, re-routable IT platform available. The ability to proactively monitor supply chains during planned and unplanned events has become a key competitive weapon that companies are increasingly becoming aware of. In the same way that a conductor controls an orchestra, the Master of Disaster needs B2B resources to take appropriate actions before major disruption impacts the business.

This is where some of the newer hosted services can facilitate better, faster and easier B2B collaboration between a company’s employees and individuals in the different organisations with which they do business. The ability to centralise and warehouse critical information is essential, and hosted information on your customers, suppliers, logistics providers and financial institutions can ensure that businesses retain access when it’s most needed. Collaboration tools are now available that provide the necessary information to remain in control, with up-to-date partner information to reduce those supply chain risks, enabling informed decision-making, and averting business disruption. Data that’s held can also include details related to e-commerce readiness, regulatory compliance, consumer product safety, and environmental responsibility.

Sometimes companies get plenty of warning of likely supply chain disruption, as with the Olympics and the World Cup, and (some) notice for the birth of a royal baby. But in many other situations there is little or no warning, and either way disruption needs to be planned for. In order to build increased resilience across a supply chain, companies need to address both their physical and digital supply chain issues. They need to ensure that their B2B platform is scalable, flexible, secure and continuously available and deployed proactively for significant competitive advantage. The mere thought of being unprepared for major world events or just responding to disruptions as they occur will prove catastrophic, so it is time to take ownership and control.

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Jun 15, 2021

FedEx is Reshaping Last Mile with Autonomous Vehicles

3 min
FedEx is expanding a trial of autonomous vehicles in its last-mile logistics process with partner Nuro, including multi-stop and appointment deliveries

FedEx is embarking on an expanded test of autonomous, driver-less delivery vehicles to develop its last-mile logistics. 

The US logistics firm piloted autonomous vehicles from Nuro in April this year, and the pair will now explore that further in a multi-year partnership. Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships, said the collaboration "will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener". 

FedEx will explore a variety of on-road use cases for the autonomous fleet, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries, going beyond more traditional applications of the technology in single-route movement of goods from A-B. Exponential growth in ecommerce is spurring its broader experimentation in new autonomy solutions, Fed-Ex says, both in-warehouse and on-road. 

“FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy,” said Rebecca Yeung, Vice President, Advanced Technology and Innovation, FedEx Corporation. “We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations.”


The changing role of couriers 

Unlike structured delivery networks, operating under long-term partnerships and contracts, agility is where couriers deliver true value - and their ability to deftly solve last-mile fulfilment has most acutely been felt during the pandemic. For the billions of people around the world forced to stay at home to protect themselves and their communities from the spreading COVID-19 virus, couriers have been a constant. They may have been the only knock at the door some people experienced for weeks or months at a time. 

But the last-mile has been uprooted by a boom in ecommerce, a shift that has been most apparent in the UK, US, China and Japan, according to the Global Parcel Delivery Market Insight Report 2021 by Apex Insight. These are markets with dominant economies and populations used to running their lives with a tap of a screen or double-click of a mouse. 

“Getting last mile delivery right has long been a challenge for retailers,” says Kees Jacobs, Vice President, Consumer Goods and Retail at Capgemini. “In 2019, 97% of retail organisations felt their last-mile delivery models were not sustainable for full-scale implementation across all locations. Despite increasing demand from customers, companies were struggling to make the last mile profitable and efficient.”

Jacobs says that the pandemic alleviated some of these stresses in the short term. With no other option, consumers were understanding and tolerant, if not entirely happy, with longer delivery times and less transparent tracking. “But, as extremely high delivery demand continues to be normal, customers will expect brands to contract their delivery times,” he adds. 

Last mile's role in ESG

Demand and volume weren’t the only things that have changed during the pandemic - businesses looked closer to home and as a result became more sustainable. Bricks and mortar stores were transformed from mini-showrooms to quasi-fulfilment centres. Online retailers and other businesses sought local solutions to ship more faster. In densely populated London, UK alone, Accenture found that delivery van emissions dropped by 17%, while Chicago, USA and Sydney, Australia saw similar emissions savings. 

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