Date: 18.05.2020

The next supply chain

Pandemic triggered lockdowns and the collapse in economic activity have had profound impacts on global supply chains, with transport operators slashing supply, while some infrastructure providers have struggled to maintain supporting operations.

The Coronavirus pandemic has stalled global economic activity, as nation after nation locked down, to halt its destructive advance.

The complete absence of demand from China (and other origins) for some products has seen the global shipping lines slashing capacity by up to 48%, with even greater cuts in air freight capacity, though these were primarily driven by the withdrawal of passenger services.

Overall the apparent effect of COVID19 on the supply chain, is that it is slowing everything down.

Blanked sailings, extended transits, increased devanning times, restrictive DC opening hours, congested off-dock facilities and adapted port operations are all impacting performance levels across the industry.

Less obvious, though just as relevant is the large part of the container road haulage capacity that has been ‘furloughed’ and the rail capacity that has been cut.

Uncertain international transport links and stuttering support services, underline the critical need for visibility and control, to create the flexibility that now, is a critical requirements of today’s logistics supply chain.

The critical need for visibility is accelerating digital transformation in the supply chain, something that Metro has been at the forefront of for a decade with our cloud-based solutions.

The increasingly accelerating growth of eCommerce, a sales channel that never closes, is driving 24/7 logistics and there has been demand for infrastructure to mirror this need for 24/7 supply chains.

Environmental and location issues have hampered some providers, on the air and sea trades, in providing 24/7 coverage. But as COVID19 is disrupting the working operation at the largest UK container ports and air cargo hubs, the need for extended and flexible opening times is needed now more than ever.

Retail is one of Metro’s key verticals and our agility and flexibility needs to be matched by the operational infrastructure in which the supply chain operates.

As disrupted supply chains and unreliable sailing and flight schedules are increasing the need for visibility and the digitalisation of the sector, the slowdown of port operations can create the catalyst for a 24/7 logistics operation that suits the need of today’s supply chain.  

Many of the changes the ports and airports have taken in response to COVID19, are to the way they operate, including reorganising quayside and airside staff into segregated teams, facilitating home working where practical and introducing enhanced cleaning/hygiene routines.

Wearing face masks and implementing measures to enable 2 metre social distancing, follow the latest UK Government guidance, as safeguarding employees and port/airport users is their immediate priority, though these measures will be reviewed as we move into the different stages of the crisis outlined by the Government.

The challenge for infrastructure providers and particularly the ports/airports, as we emerge from this crisis, is to transform their operating models, to drive greater efficiency and agility within the supply chain.