Freight and logistics operations are the last mile in the global supply chain and have been at the epicenter of much of the pandemic-fueled disruption. This year has been eventful as extreme weather, components shortages, container shortages, and even a giant ship blocking the Suez Canal have presented unprecedented challenges for supply chain professionals. Recent data isn’t encouraging as lead times on semiconductors and other components are actually getting longer, not shorter, because of disruptive issues like closed ports, container shortages, and even an increase in factory fires.
Despite these challenges, global consumers are expected to generate $4.2 trillion in e-commerce sales in 2021 alone so the problems we face won’t go away anytime soon. With so many disruptive events happening seemingly simultaneously, it’s sometimes difficult for freight and logistics professionals to see the forest through the trees. As the cast of Game of Thrones taught us, “Chaos is a ladder,” and intelligent freight and logistics professionals that adapt and learn during tumultuous times can position their organizations for success. Flex’s own freight and logistics team shared with me their insights into the top trends that are shaping their day-to-day strategies.
1. The only constant is change
By its nature, logistics is highly dynamic but 2020 and 2021 have ratcheted this up exponentially. Unfortunately, this isn’t likely to change soon as seasonal extreme weather patterns – including the northern hemisphere’s hurricane season and Asia’s monsoon season – affect ocean and air freight routes. If Mother Nature’s challenges aren’t daunting enough, obstacles like China’s unexpected port closure and the escalating price of shipping containers introduce new risk and costs to the supply chain.
In the face of ongoing change, a positive attitude combined with rapt attention on day-to-day logistics dashboards provide people with the best opportunity to make good decisions with the information available to them. Freight and logistics professionals must use the best available data to make the most informed decisions as possible. Trying to be “perfect” in this situation is an inhibitor, not a goal.
2. Preferred logistics suppliers are vital to success
Flex views preferred suppliers as critical to our success, and the past few years have solidified that view. When component and semiconductor supplies are limited, transparency and communication have never been more critical. Freight and logistics professionals should leverage the relationships they’ve forged with these suppliers to gain knowledge that others may not be privy to. In business and the supply chain, relationships matter and can create competitive advantage. A quick phone call to a friendly logistics supplier often yields visibility into cost-effective routes, port availability, and other information that benefits customers.
3. Logistics pros earn their spot in the C-suite
Supply chain professionals have long worked in the shadows, but all that changed once consumers started to experience product shortages and other fulfillment challenges. Now logistics professionals – inbound and outbound – have earned their spot at the table and should push for a similar promotion within their organizations.
Logistics professionals help organizations assess current and upcoming transport risks and can implement strategic solutions before any major disruptions occur. These decisions have a qualitative impact on the bottom line and merit a seat in the C-suite. The supply chain as a whole has demonstrated its value in offering premium brands competitive differentiation. Freight and logistics professionals must communicate this critical role and make the case for their inclusion in any business-critical decisions.
Flex is in the trenches with our customers and providing an unmatched level of supply chain visibility and collaboration to help them adapt to this new world. Freight and logistics complexities due to the pandemic continue to persist, and many businesses struggle to keep up with global supply chain dynamics that could impact their business. Companies that incorporate current logistics trends into their supply chain strategies will be in a prime position to increase market share and competitive advantage over less-prepared competitors.