August 2020 | Commentary | Checking In

Let's Not Forget

Tags: Labor Management, Technology

Keith Biondo is the publisher of Inbound Logistics magazine.

Virus Times has reminded us that we have the capacity to quickly adopt "new" technologies, adapt to new working conditions, and remain highly productive.

Certainly the "new" technologies for collaborative work are not really new. They are new just to a large swath of workers who had no reason to Zoom under pre-COVID-19 working conditions. And yet, driven by necessity for the most part, we've plugged in, pivoted, and plunged on, getting the work done.

An important lockdown reminder for many outside the logistics profession is that it takes people to make it all work. Sounds obvious, right? Yet business visionaries continue to regale us with tales of what the latest technology can do.

One example is insourcing. Grocery heavyweight Ahold Delhaize's new enterprise plans rely heavily on new technology to allow internal staff to manage previously outsourced functions. Converting to a self-managed supply chain will "improve speed to shelf and deepen relationships with vendors," says Chris Lewis, the company's executive vice president of supply chain. It will also undoubtedly enhance the ability to match demand to supply.

"Once the transformation is complete," Lewis adds, "Ahold Delhaize will save $100 million per year." That is a lot of savings that the company can reinvest in employees. If one lesson of 2020 is a trend toward insourcing, then the pivot point in that process is people.

As we reset and recover, companies in the near term will face C-level pressure to cut costs by reducing head count and diverting those corporate resources to invest in more technology. But choosing one over the other is a mistake. Staff cross-training, technology training, mentoring, smart recruitment, and well-defined internship programs may reap benefits that are tougher to quantify in ROI in the near term. Investing in people will be a force multiplier for any and all technology investments in the long term.

One more reminder during COVID-19 times: Enterprise leaders must take the long view wherever possible. Continue to invest in those transformative technologies that will drive success in an economic environment fraught with risk and yet one target rich with opportunities.

Let's not forget we must also continue to invest in the transportation and logistics people who can wring every ounce of ROI out of those important technology investments and ensure enterprise success. We need patience, fortitude, investment, process, and most importantly, people.






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