Businesses are under pressure to instill work from home (WFH) policies for employees to help stop the spread of Coronavirus—just as some communities are enforcing shelter in place mandates. Logistics managers and others involved in supply chain management will no doubt find this adds yet another layer of complexity. Even during normal times communication, transparency, and collaboration can seem impossible. Achieving them when remote work is a necessity requires flexible technology and strong relationships.
Many freight forwarders are burdened with on-premises systems that can create massive bottlenecks when the office is off limits. With limited visibility, importers and exporters could have trouble tracking shipments, receiving timely alerts, and making informed decisions. Combine that lack of information with one-size-fits-all customer service, and disruption will be hard to avoid. Publications like Freight Waves and The Loadstar have noted the increased advantage of cloud-based over hard-wired systems in today’s chaos, a conclusion backed up by Flexport’s operations teams.
“My clients and I keep in touch on the platform and by video. It doesn’t matter if I’m home or at the office, my connection to them and their shipping information is uninterrupted,” said Natalie Flores, Global Operations Associate at Flexport. Flores adds that she has built relationships with her clients using technology that she and they access from anywhere. “Before COVID-19, I could work from home and jump on the platform or a video call alongside my clients. The same thing is happening now, just on a more epic scale. Tech is our differentiation at a time when tech is the only way to connect,” added Flores.
As the world adapts to major disruptions like COVID-19, businesses will be leaning more on technology. For many, the key will be to look beyond on-premises systems to robust platforms that are cloud based. With that infrastructure in place, suppliers, logistics partners, and teams can all share up-to-date actionable information and make faster decisions using the same insights.
“With Fleport’s platform, my clients can log in to see estimated delivery dates, giving them accurate knowledge of what’s arriving and a precise way to plan labor and distribution center capacity,” said Alex Casserly, Global Operations Manager at Flexport. “Accurate shipment data and insight into transit time delays are even more valuable now that the market conditions are changing daily,'” Casserly added.
But technology is not the only thing that matters in a crisis. Culture is also a critical survive-and-thrive trait.
As shelter-in-place mandates rolled out worldwide, Flexport pivoted to ensure employees were equipped to keep operations running and customers served. It helped, too, that teams are globally distributed and prepared to keep working, despite local disruptions.
Logistics partners who know your business and can anticipate solutions will be most effective in times of crisis. “I may reach out to clients several times per day via message or video conferencing. Because I know in detail what their concerns are about this crisis, I can do more to help them mitigate costs and risks,” said Flores.
“The world is disrupted but my connection to clients is not,” concluded Flores.
Many companies see working from home as a luxury, or a distraction. But in today’s era of unprecedented disruptions it’s become a necessity to have the infrastructure and culture to work remotely and capture the agility that comes with it. With the right technology and follow-the-sun support, no matter what’s going on, businesses can effectively manage global supply chains as the world wonders what’s next.