Why Logistics Operations Are So Pivotal in This Time of COVID-19
The impacts of COVID-19 have highlighted many vulnerabilities in our vital supply chains in the U.S. and beyond.
The logistics sector has always been a vital one in keeping the global economy humming, but the COVID-19 pandemic has shone an even brighter light on the pivotal part logistics plays in ensuring the sustainability of the supply chain.
This sector is especially vulnerable to myriad potential risks that can cause major disruption. By its very definition, logistics is “the detailed coordination of a complex operation involving many people, facilities, or supplies.” The services and uninterrupted operations provided by logistics operations are, in many ways, the lifeblood of the global economy. They’re essential to manufacturing, pharma, retail, IT equipment and more.
The impacts of the coronavirus highlighted many vulnerabilities in our vital supply chains in the US and beyond. According to data from Dun & Bradstreet, services, wholesale, manufacturing, and retail accounted for more than 75 percent of businesses in the affected region of China by COVID-19. On a global level, 51,000 companies relied on one or more of their Tier 1 or Tier 2 suppliers within that impacted region, with 938 of those being Fortune 1000 companies. In terms of medical supplies alone, The Economist estimates that China accounts for 60% or more of exports of antibiotics, sedatives, ibuprofen, and paracetamol.
Unprecedented Uptick in eCommerce
In addition to the disruptions in the supply chains originating from China, the pandemic also triggered an unprecedented uptick in ecommerce and catalyzed many consumers to move to online purchasing for the first time. This put unforeseen pressure on manufacturing and retail firms and their associated distribution and logistics operations, which were hard pressed to upgrade their operations to keep up with the demand during COVID-19. This huge spike in home delivery demand made efficient logistics operations even more essential and brought into sharper focus the vital role logistics plays in the everyday lives of citizens.
In an article from The Economist, Susan Lund of McKinsey is quoted as saying the blow struck by COVID-19 has made supply chains a CEO and board level topic. Until this year, she says, many firms did not realize how much their supply chains depended on China. In a survey conducted by McKinsey in May, some 93% of firms reported plans to make supply chains more resilient and reckoned the production of 16-26% of goods exports could change location in the next five years.
This spells very good news for the security industry because as businesses on-shore the manufacturing of vital supplies, they’ll also need to safely distribute them across the country, resulting in a more diversified network of logistics and warehousing facilities that will need protecting.
Not surprisingly, existing sites are already seeking new measures to secure the supply chain and track goods in and out of their centers more efficiently. They’re also looking for additional solutions to mitigate internal shrinkage and external threats including physical and cybercrime.
While the pandemic has undoubtedly illuminated the vulnerability of our vital supply chains, there are other looming disruptions that the logistics sector must continually strive to prepare for, as well. Major disasters are becoming more common. Tornadoes, fires, flooding and hurricanes, for example, can impact and disrupt economies far beyond the localized damage they do.
Planning for More Robust Supply Chains
The ramifications can wreak havoc throughout entire supply chains. Recent disasters sadly show that recovery can take years and derail the supply chain, causing sudden shortages of food and supplies, medical equipment, drugs and many other basic commodities. Armed with lessons learned from the pandemic and other unforeseen crises and disasters, building in resilience, redundancy and planning for more robust supply chains has now become top of mind to decision makers in the logistics sector.
Logistics centers are taking basic steps to prepare them to deal with the damage that can ensue. These include establishing detailed documentation and guidelines outlining the supply chain’s emergency operations plan and building strong and strategic supply chain partnerships. These relationships can prove valuable in working through disaster challenges, as does having contingency plans in place that include re-routing suppliers and scheduling adjustments.
While these are all viable steps, another key defense in the logistics sector’s arsenal that shouldn’t be overlooked is leveraging the capabilities of IP video technology. Not only does it enhance safety and security, IP video technology adds more resilience to the overall everyday operations of logistics centers. It allows operations managers and security staff to monitor facilities while they’re away from the control room — either from client software of mobile devices — affording them greater efficiencies and the flexibility initiate appropriate responses remotely.
IP cameras provide high quality, real-time footage that can be critical in monitoring, for instance, the effectiveness of flood defenses, or quickly verifying and responding to a small fire before it takes hold, as well as countering fraud and other crimes. Fisheye cameras can also provide coverage of wider areas, eliminating the need for multiple fixed lens cameras.
IP cameras have the ability to flag incidents based on specific parameters, allowing video management software (VMS) to provide AI-assisted real-time alerts to authorized users when incidents occur. They can also offer operators the benefits of metadata, saving huge amounts of time searching for the incident they’re looking for.
In fact, a solid video management software solution should be able to be tailored to the specific needs of each logistics business and encompass the precise requirements of transport, warehousing and storage. Logistics operations need to ensure their VMS is fit-for-purpose, and that it has the functionality and comes with a choice of cameras to meet precise requirements to enable complete high-definition, real-time monitoring and simultaneous recording across often complex environments.
Operators will need the ability to remotely manage and control an unlimited number of sites centrally regardless of whether or not their main hub becomes compromised. This capability does not — and should not — have to come with a big price tag and high ongoing costs.
Failover Capabilities Needed
Logistics operators can also enhance the resilience of their video tech by looking for VMS and hardware that comes with inherent fault tolerance, failover and redundancy. One such feature is the ability to recognize a range of fault conditions and automatically switch to a redundant system. Failover capabilities can automatically take over in the event of network failure, so that video instantly begins temporarily recording to SD cards and, as soon as the camera connection is restored, the NVR or server resumes recording.
This means that in the event of a disaster there are no gaps in footage for compliance and insurance claims purposes. For mission critical sites, users should look for equipment with native RAID 1 and 5 and dual power supplies to provide additional layers of redundancy and in turn eliminate the need for expensive services to build added resilience into the system.
And if managing the day-to-day security protocols and measures needed to ensure a sustained and safe supply chain isn’t enough to contend with, the requirements imposed by COVID-19 now also have many facilities scrambling to find solutions to facilitate the social distancing and mask mandates they are tasked with adhering to. Luckily, there are now solutions to help facilities meet those challenges. They are available as simple add-on appliances and support safe and hygienic working practices, compliance with government regulations and industry-specific guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Off-the-shelf capabilities now include accurate AI-assisted notifications to facilitate social distancing, people counting and occupancy monitoring, crowd detection, mask detection and dashboard and reporting tools for reporting.
Major businesses and their logistics operators today are in the midst of a ‘once in a lifetime’ event. And most can now see more clearly that the next major crisis could well hit sooner than they previously expected. Many were caught ill-prepared by COVID-19, but nobody can say they weren’t somewhat warned. A global pandemic had been predicted by risk analysts, scientists and economists for decades. Yet because organizations tend to only work in five- to ten-year cycles, they ignored the risk.
With accelerating climate impacts becoming a clear and present danger — now including extreme temperatures, hurricanes, floods and wildfires — it will not be long before these risks need to be part of those five- to 10-year plans, too. Businesses will not want to be so exposed and on the back foot again resulting in major impacts on business continuity that have hurt the bottom line. They have seen the importance of built-in resilience and will want to ensure that they are better are prepared if the climate emergency continues to escalate.
Adopt Innovative Technologies
Regardless of the particular industries they serve, logistics centers clearly need flexible and scalable technology that allows them to manage the myriad challenges they face, and that includes their security and video solutions. The time is now to adopt innovative technologies that can stand up to common – and uncommon — threats, improve operational efficiency and are scalable into the future, allowing logistics firms to pivot quickly to respond to new threats as well as changing operational demands.
For more information, download IDIS’ free logistics eBook and discover how IP video tech can enhance security and safety, while simultaneously improving profitability.
Jeff Montoya is the Eastern Regional Sales Director for IDIS America and is also responsible for managing and developing major and national accounts.
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