The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in stepped-up adoption and improvement of supply-chain innovations, providing many industries with the opportunity to address some “pain points” that may not have previously been a priority.
“By some estimates, we’re already seeing, or will see, accelerated adoption of some trends to take place in a mere 10 weeks when they could have otherwise taken 10 years,” a group of Cushman & Wakefield executives wrote in an article in Cushman & Wakefield’s The Zone magazine.
They identified several “fast-forward” trends, including expansion of online shopping, changes in how inventory is held, increased use of robots and autonomous vehicles, the use of “contactless everything,” an increased need for cold storage warehousing, and the use of blockchain to track shipments.
As the coronavirus pandemic limited shoppers in stores, online shopping increased substantially, promoting companies to provide options for delivery of orders beyond traditional at-home delivery, such as curbside pickup and contactless delivery of perishables.
“The lines between how the customer shops in-store and via direct distribution are increasingly blurred, and successful companies will find new ways to leverage processes, diversify building and space types, and inventories for a seamless customer experience,” the authors wrote.
In a related area, the concerns of the spread of the virus has led to more contactless delivery, but COVID-19 has focused attention on other needs for contactless technology, such as optical and voice-enabled technology, automation, and the use of robots in warehouses, the authors wrote.
They added that while could be expensive, the pandemic may accelerate thee use of robots in warehouses to limit contact among employees, and autonomous vehicles to help offset a shortage of delivery drivers.
Additionally, the pandemic has increased demand for online services, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Hangouts, for video collaborations, and social distancing restrictions in the workplace will increase the use of any technology that will provide safer meeting solutions. Companies will need greater data storage as well, the authors wrote.
With innovation top of mind, the authors suggest companies and executives should look and listen, learn, and lead when considering innovation in COVID-19 times, and that attention may help differentiate their business in the future.
“Partnerships among the supply chain, inventory management, human resources, store operations, finance and information technology teams within an organization, and across external partners used, will be a competitive advantage to moving quickly,” the authors wrote.
The Cushman & Wakefield authors include Bethany Clark, senior managing director for industrial strategy and operations; Tony Su, national industrial head; Rob Hall, international partners and sector lead industrial and logistics; Tim Crighton, a partner in logistics and retail; and Carolyn Salzer, director and head of logistics and industrial research. All are in the U.S., except for Su, who is in the company’s Asia Pacific region.