Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (May 1, 2020)

14 seconds.

That’s how long it took me to suck 10 raisins into a cup using a straw. I easily defeated everyone else in my family. Unfortunately, when it came to the other ten events in our Family Olympics (which included soccer juggling and drawing a 6-foot line with chalk on our driveway), I was a complete amateur. When it was all over, I didn’t make the podium, finishing sixth out of six.

Many years from now, when I look back on these coronavirus days, I will remember that distant Sunday afternoon, surrounded by love and laughter, when I discovered a hidden talent. 

14 seconds of pure gold.


Moving on to this week’s supply chain and logistics news

COVID-19: A Catalyst for Digital Transformation

I saw a funny cartoon the other day:

Who was it that finally approved your digital transformation initiative? The CEO? The CFO? The CIO?

No, it was the C-O-V-I-D

“Supply-chain upheaval from the pandemic is presenting the tech world with a sudden and unexpected proving ground for automation, digital platforms and other tools that had been low on the priority lists for companies’ logistics operations,” writes Jennifer Smith in the Wall Street Journal. “From delivery software to mobile robots that help workers fulfill e-commerce orders, those offerings are drawing attention in industries where thin margins have often left companies clinging to older, highly manual operations.”

One area of focus: getting rid of paper bills of lading and other documents. Here’s an example from the article:

To reduce the risk of infection, Ms. Parker [who operates a family farm] is looking to replace the triplicate forms she uses to record freight shipments with digital bills of lading.

“You are still handing them [drivers] paper bills, and they are signing them and exchanging them,” Ms. Parker said. “There’s a lot of contact you could probably avoid.”

But as Chris Jones from Descartes shared in a recent Talking Logistics episode, even companies that replaced paper documents with mobile devices and sign-on-glass applications face similar challenges:

“Delivery drivers are now on the frontlines of this crisis. There had been a push for proof of delivery and sign on glass, but that requires drivers to give a device to the recipient and take it back. Now drivers are being told to leave the package at the delivery site and take a picture of it. You can use GPS technology to verify the location. In general, we are seeing people go away from paper-based processes. We are also seeing companies go away from having drivers go into a pickup or delivery facility to announce that they’ve arrived. They can use geo-fencing and electronic notifications instead.”

In short, paperless pickup and delivery processes are not enough; the new goal is contactless.

C-suite executives at many companies have been slow to approve digital transformation initiatives, especially in logistics operations. COVID-19 has now forced the issue. The question now for many companies is whether it’s already too late.

All that said, companies shouldn’t fall into the age-old trap of viewing technology as a ‘silver bullet’ solution that will solve all of their problems. People and processes matter too. So do business models, which many companies will have to change to survive. Just saying.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “The Story” by Brandi Carlile