It is disconcerting to consider that all the difficulties faced in recent years could simply be the first in a pattern of disruptions to the global supply chain. The Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly wrought unspeakable international chaos. However, there are further crises on the horizon, at least two expected within the decade, not to mention continuing cycles of global disruptions, restarting with lockdowns in China. Surviving these challenges means learning lessons from the last few years. Before COVID, companies adjusted the global supply chain to meet the requirements of just-in-time manufacturing, but after the pandemic, this approach suffered. Shipping disruptions, plane shortages, and stops in production all initiated uncertain delivery times and resulting problems.
The early days of the Covid-19 pandemic were a crucible for creating capabilities that the global supply chain would depend on. 2020 saw decreased demand and a greater tolerance for disruption, giving firms the opportunity to gain experience. During this time of change, companies have adopted new transportation methods, overcome initial planning issues, and now regularly provide these measures with reduced costs. The current situation would be far worse if these companies did not learn from 2020, especially as greater costs and shortages would amplify inflation.
Supply chain challenges beyond the Covid-19 pandemic
However, the pandemic is unlikely to be the only immediate major supply chain crisis. A mixture of factors including macroeconomics, low population growth, and shifts in working preferences, as well as the health crisis itself, have resulted in an ongoing shortage of truck drivers in the United States as well as the United Kingdom and Japan. Older drivers are retiring, and the industry cannot attract enough young drivers to take their place. Despite driver pay and signing bonuses reaching new highs, the shortage is still getting worse. As shortages of drivers in countries across the world have shown, disruptions can impede, not only the supply chain, but the operations of the entire economy.
The obvious solution to this driver shortage, self-driving trucks which could complement or even entirely replace drivers, seems tantalizingly close given the progress major car manufacturers have been making in this area. Despite that clear progress however, we are simply not at the point where we can implement the technology on a large scale, and even the most optimistic predictions make this choice a non-factor until the latter end of the decade. Yet, automation and artificial intelligence may still be the solution, rather than replacing drivers, however, their greatest aid may be in enhancing the basic flexibility of the system itself.
Are you concerned about future-proofing your supply chain post Covid-19 pandemic? B2BE have a range of solutions designed to streamline your business processes, including EDI und Dokumenten-Digitalisierung. To find out more, get in touch with us.