Prior to Corona, the German “Logistikweisen”, a group of renowned logistics leaders at their autumn 2019 summit identified a number of key factors that should influence logistics in 2020. Depending on the area, the panel of experts estimated their impact differently. Sustainability, digitisation and human resources were identified as the most pressing issues for 2020. At the same time, economic growth of +2.2% in nominal terms and +0.4% in real terms was forecasted at the summit in autumn 2019.
Thus, the shortage of drivers and skilled workers, the urgently needed digitalisation including the automation of logistics processes and the topic of sustainability were on the Logistics Agenda 2020. The three topics illustrate the still unused potential and challenges for transport companies:
Human resources: It is clearly not enough to deal only with the shortage of drivers. Other skilled workers are also in short supply in logistics – especially in the IT sector. This leads not only to temporary truck standstills because there are no drivers, but also to unused optimization potential that would make process and product chains more efficient.
Digitization: The high potential for digitization in the logistics industry is not only demonstrated by the large number of newly founded companies such as Saloodo! that come up with innovative, digital logistics solutions. Nevertheless, the actual degree of digitization can be expanded. However, the reasons for this are not only seen in the willingness of companies to invest, but also in the openness to new technologies and the willingness of specialists and managers to implement them.
Sustainability: The climate targets set for 2030 and the measures derived from them mean direct and indirect additional costs for transport companies. This is because the reduction of emissions, the switch to alternative drive systems and the simultaneous desire of consumers for same-day delivery pose real challenges – also in the long term – to the green logistics desired by the state and the population.
However, the economic bottlenecks and delays in supply chains caused by the pandemic are changing the current picture in the transport and logistics sector. Experts and logistics experts alike are talking about a number of new problems that transport market players will have to face in the short to medium term.
One of these is the massive price pressure on the freight transport markets, which not all small and medium-sized companies can withstand. Among other things, this will lead to insolvencies, so that concentration on the forwarding side will increase. On the other hand, global supply chains will be scrutinised more critically and there will be a partial relocation to closer locations in order to ensure the stability of supply chains in the future.
But what will happen to the key influencing factors originally identified for 2020 – human resources, digitisation and sustainability? The logistics methods illuminate the criteria with regard to the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic as follows:
Human resources: Logistics is systemically relevant – this societal assessment came about as a result of the crisis. This has changed the perception of industry and its employees (especially truck drivers). The increased attractiveness can (in the short term) lead to an increase in personnel.
Digitisation: Particularly in view of disruptions in supply chains, it makes sense to press ahead with investments in digitisation. By using digital tools, bottlenecks in action can be avoided and, in an emergency, it is easier to react to disruptions.
Sustainability: Environmental aspects will be somewhat neglected for the time being, as the focus is initially on the economic reconstruction of the industry. In the long term, however, this topic will come back to the fore and will have a strong influence on future action.
It will not be possible to say with certainty until 2021 which topics and challenges will have actually influenced the logistics industry in 2020. Depending on how the pandemic progresses, there are good and bad scenarios in the air, for which the industry must now prepare itself. However, economic expectations have already adjusted logistics methods: Most recently, they predicted a real decline of -5% in 2020, which is expected to recover by +3% in 2021.
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