How These New Technology will Improve Logistics in the Future
Most consumers do not notice it, but there is a network of people and processes that enable goods to be transported from a source to a grocery shelf halfway around the world. The pandemic has been a challenge to the global supply chain. As borders were closed and movement between nations was strictly limited, the transfer of goods has also undergone restrictions.
Around the first half of 2020, there was a global shortage of food. Many supermarkets were emptied. Because of outbreaks, some major meat processing plants were forced to shut down. Meanwhile, some farms were forced to plow their crops because there were no buyers as restaurants around the world close down.
Later on, more and more items experienced shortages. By October, the United States and Europe were in short supply of more than half the drugs needed to treat patients infected with COVID-19. Even technology companies such as Apple found themselves dealing with a serious deficit in parts which affected the production of iPhones and iPads.
Now that economies have reopened and vaccination campaigns have started in the majority of the world, things are slowly but steadily gaining back a sense of normalcy. However, the past year has exposed the vulnerabilities of the global supply chain.
Logistics at Work
The logistics industry continued to work throughout the pandemic despite the threat of infections. Companies that not only transport but produce, store, and distribute goods strove to keep operating, sometimes with reduced capacity, to keep products that people need, including food, medicine, household products, and personal care products.
In the distribution of vaccines, there are still logistics at work. Most vaccines need to be stored in the cold. Moderna and Pfizer, for example, require to be frozen at -20 degrees Celsius and -70 degrees Celsius respectively. It is a difficult undertaking and these products need to be delivered to their destination in the safest way possible. These vaccines are precious and fragile and there is a very limited supply but a high demand.
Luckily, the technology to enable a smooth storage and distribution exists. There are refrigeration data loggers that will enable manufacturers to monitor cargo to ensure that no perishable goods are wasted while in transit or in a warehouse. There are software applications that design a blueprint that will make the whole process smooth-sailing from start to finish.
While COVID-19 has led to the global supply chain disruption, in future pandemics, the industry might be more ready. There is currently technology that is improving logistics so that, despite crises, goods can move seamlessly from production to the hands of consumers.
The pandemic made employing robots convenient. When outbreaks happened in factories and warehouses, robots enabled work to continue. Places that long ago automated could continue production while maintaining physical distancing and other health measures.
Amazon, one of the few big winners of the pandemic, received increased demand in the past year as people locked themselves indoors. Consumers were purchasing their groceries, school and work supplies, and other goods online. The e-commerce giant was able to respond to the demand so easily by hiring new staff to work alongside robots.
Drones can potentially ease delivery, especially at the last mile when the package will be handed to the consumer, in future pandemics. People who deliver goods are at a higher risk of infections through close contact. Drones allow them to deliver packages to their respective owners without fear of becoming ill. They only need to operate the machine from a safe distance.
Amazon, Google, and other companies have already begun testing the use of drones in logistics. In the past year, CVS partnered with UPS to utilize drones to deliver prescription drugs to patients in a massive retirement community in Florida. Seniors were at a higher risk of becoming sick and being hospitalized due to COVID-19. Drones would be lifesavers in case the world once again succumb to another pandemic.
Truckers were at a higher risk of catching COVID-19. The nature of the job involves coming in and out of places, interacting with other truckers and logistics people, and, sometimes, dealing with little sleep, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise.
The technology is not ready yet, but self-driving vehicles can take some load that human truck drivers have to transport from state to state. Right now, the technology is only used across short distances such as in warehouses.
The pandemic was exacerbated by these shortages in the global supply chain. The past year should be treated as a test to see what else can be improved in the entire process. One day, if the world experiences another pandemic or crisis, the same issues will not be present.