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The future of logistics: what lies ahead?

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There’s no doubt that every business has had a tough time over the last quarter. Covid-19 has disrupted our professional and personal lives in a way that no-one could have ever imagined. In logistics, the impact has been a real rollercoaster as operations were closed temporarily before being re-opened with some facing greater demand than prior to the lockdown. But we’re starting to see the tide turn in my view. The easing of restrictions has certainly helped get logistics moving again, but there has also been more investment in the industry as well as changes being made by some businesses as they re-allocate their resources to deliver against the evolving needs of the supply chain during Covid-19. So, what does the future have in store for logistics and the talent it needs?

The future of logistics: a ‘new’ workforce

In a recent feature, the editor of Logistics Management magazine outlined some rather interesting views on what lies ahead for the industry in the US that certainly resonates with us here in the UK. In the piece, Bridget McCrea shared her views on the peaks and troughs of activity in the logistics field in the States: hiring was up in March across warehousing and storage operators, by May layoffs were a thing of the norm, but this month showed more promising signs.

For logistics employers that had faced a shortage of drivers and warehouse operatives prior to the pandemic, a rather interesting development has emerged. Potential new hires now include displaced workers from other sectors that are looking for employment where ever they can find it. And while they might not have chosen a career in logistics before, Covid-19 has demonstrated the critical role it plays for every business in every sector. This has, in turn, led to a shift in the reputation of logistics as a safer employment option for the masses, making it a more appealing job option.

It’s likely that this trend will continue as the uncertainty carries on, but for logistics managers, navigating potential heaps of candidates from a range of backgrounds is going to be the new challenge.

Technology and automation after coronavirus

While the displaced workforce is certainly an opportunity for businesses to fill resourcing needs swiftly, it also presents a potential threat in the longer-term. As other industries see an uptick in activity again, there is a chance that any new hires who moved across to logistics as career opportunities dried up in their specialism, will eventually return to their original industry. According to McCrea, when this happens it is likely to bring the discussion of automation and technology back to the fore of logistics.

Innovative tech has been creeping into logistics for a while now. We’ve seen the likes of Amazon’s delivery robots and its trials of drones. The Covid-19 crisis may have dampened some of these developments temporarily and pushed the need for people back up the agenda, but there will be a movement back to greater automation and use of software to streamline the supply chain once things return to ‘normal’.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there will be a significant impact on people in the industry, after all there have been widespread staff shortages noted in logistics that will still be a challenge when we emerge from the other side of the pandemic. There are areas across logistics such as drivers and warehouse managers that simply can’t be automated – not fully at least – and demand for these individuals will certainly continue.

Where automation is implemented, though, skills requirements of the workforce will need to adapt. Those working with or managing the technology will need to be trained to use them efficiently and spot anything that could be going wrong. Businesses will face competition for the best talent with experience delivering automation that will only intensify as time move on. But those able to adapt to this landscape and engage with these individuals will certainly be the ones that thrive in the future.

Examples of growth

Change and uncertainty are without doubt the topics of conversation at the moment. However, as we start to plan for the future, things are looking up for logistics. The team here at WR have received more calls from candidates and employers alike, a trend that shows no signs of slowing as we ourselves look to a possible return to the office.

Across the industry we’re seeing more reports of growth, investment and evolution. Online electricals retailer, AO, announced recently that it has opened a new distribution warehouse in Crewe, its third in the town, to make sure its growing number of customers get what they need, when they need it. According to the firm this is the first of many new developments as it continues to increase its warehouse capacity as demand grows.

Amazon has also adapted to offer its logistics support to local communities. In order to help those in need, the company has started delivering food supplies from the likes of Arla, Heinz, Kellogg's, Morrisons, New York Bakery Co and Quaker Oats UK to children’s homes for free. The firm’s Worcester delivery station will be supporting the distribution of these parcels through its Logistics service.

And there remains business as usual in some aspects of the industry as well. We were all pleased to see the finalists for the 2020 Amazon Everywoman in Transport & Logistics awards announced earlier this month, with another brilliant list of individuals from across the industry. It’s fantastic to see diversity remain front and centre in logistics and we wish all the finalists the best of luck for the awards which will be announced later this year – hopefully in a ceremony where everyone can celebrate in style together.

Working as one to support the future of logistics

We’re by no means completely out of the woods yet, but for logistics at least there are signs of positivity. Here at WR we’ve continued to bring together the best candidates with some fantastic employers. As things get moving again, we are here to support your recruitment needs. Contact our experts today to find out how we can help you.