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A look back at two years of the pandemic: the growing challenges surrounding the supply chain

Resilience, relocation, staffing: by becoming vital, logistics face new challenges

During the pandemic, several events demonstrated the importance of an efficient and effective supply chain at the local level. In order to dispense masks, antibacterial gel and vaccines to all their citizens, governments needed to take on the role of buyers. Airlifts have been set up in order to supply stores and health centers in direct contact with the local populations, such as hospitals and pharmacies.


Businesses needed to be resilient and adapt to the undeniable acceleration of underlying trends, especially due to the impact of e-commerce, which has been growing in recent months. In this context, the introduction of new technologies, the issues of relocation and sovereignty or the questions surrounding staffing and training have been particularly noteworthy in recent months.

Structural changes that force companies to reorganize and invest in the supply chain


The pandemic has played a catalyst role in accelerating the outburst of e-commerce, which is practical and sometimes even essential for some at-risk people who had to avoid going out shopping. The flows intensified and the e-tailer sites were sometimes overwhelmed by demand.


As it may be your case, these changes have compelled the e-tailers to invest in their supply chain, and to reorganize it, in search of more efficiency. Philippe Roger, of Orange Consulting, stated in the Journal du Net that today, “it has become essential to use technology to anticipate possible risks linked to the supply chain, to activate the right decision-making and thus strengthen the resilience of industrial processes."


Some have first transformed their sites into industrial sites with high technological value, to meet demand and succeed in maintaining quality collaboration between the various links in the logistics chain. If mechanization and robotization date from before the crisis, the deployment of these large “4.0” industrial projects has accelerated in recent months: according to Philippe Roger, “This key development is largely based on investments in IoT and big data in the industrial sector. These technologies go hand in hand with 5G and AI technologies, enabling the delivery of real-time data to optimize supply chain processes and open up new opportunities. "


Better collaboration between actors throughout the production chain, increased risk anticipation that can have a strong impact on production, increased productivity… Mechanization or robotization have other advantages: in warehouses, robots are now able to move around and perform tasks independently. They improve reliability, productivity and even the employee experience of companies that have passed this milestone.


Also read: Three good reasons to equip your warehouse with robots


While your priority during this period of pandemic, a source of strong international tension on transport, is to find solutions to transport and receive your products, another subject has taken on more and more weight: that of the environment and corporate social responsibility (CSR) which has also been the subject of investments. Many companies have invested in order to improve their positioning in this matter. We note, for example, the proliferation of low-carbon logistics sites projects such as GEODIS, which has just announced the construction of a 130,000 sq.m. sustainable logistics campus in the Netherlands.


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Behind the idea of national logistics, an issue of sovereignty and competitiveness


The global evolution of the competitive landscape could justifiably suggest a phenomenon of large-scale relocation. We regularly talk about relocating production sites. But aren't logistics sites just as important, if not more important?


The pandemic has revealed to the French that their country does not have control over several strategic sectors, such as the drug industry or other key industries. As the first vaccines circulated in producing countries, delays were piling up in France, due to orders taken by other countries.


While the benefit of relocating seems obvious, France still lacks arguments. To consider repatriating processing sites, which are located near sources of supply, France must be more attractive. Eastern Europe or countries like Portugal are among the favorites in Europe. They have a qualified workforce, good transport infrastructure, are very competitive in terms of costs, and offer many advantages in terms of legal security.


"France has many advantages, and measures have been taken to make the country even more competitive".

Marie-Christine LOMBARD, CEO of GEODIS 



Read her full interview on the Institut de l’entreprise website.


Rather than just talking about relocations, it is perhaps more sovereignty and autonomy that are the topics to be discussed. Logistics cover key issues, which could be integrated into private and public policies. This would involve reviewing procedures that seem complex, investing in infrastructure (bridges, airports, railways), but also in training leading to better qualification of the workforce, and therefore, helping to make a territory more attractive and competitive. The reason being that to this day, the workforce is one of the black sheep of logistics.

Difficult staffing, training: logistics professions are undergoing rapid change


The pandemic has had many impacts in terms of human resources. Managerial methods have had to evolve due to teleworking, while difficulties in recruiting are seen in a rapidly growing logistics market which represents 1.6 million jobs in France.


According to a study conducted by the network of France Supply Chain professionals with the firm Michael Page, certain key profiles are particularly in demand since the pandemic. This is the case for logistics site managers and supply chain managers in industrial SMEs. Logistics hubs, which have become actual factories, are said to have difficulty recruiting design engineers, logistics operations managers or customs officials, which have been massively sought after since Brexit.

"This study has enabled us to highlight new opportunities for the supply chain, calling for a pool of qualified candidates, with varied profiles, with transversal skills, and whose 'soft kills' are increasingly questioned in the process of recruitment."


Yann de Féraudy, President of France Supply Chain 



Companies, he says, are looking for skills such as finance, risk management, technology and IT, or business orientation. New positions, for the moment still confined to large groups, should also gain more weight in the coming years: Supply Chain Data Analysts, Supply Chain Architects, Supply Chain Innovation Leaders or Sustainable Supply Chain Managers.


In this context and because of the digital transformation underway, training has become a priority issue: it is necessary to train a pool of young employees in logistics professions... This will make it possible to promote local employment and to respond to new logistics challenges, such as the decarbonation desired by companies aware of their ecological and social impact. For these newcomers, the opportunities are abundant. This is the assurance of being part of a promising sector in terms of jobs, with a desire for a positive ecological and social impact.


The logistics sector and the supply chain have therefore experienced profound upheavals with the pandemic. In France, during the crisis, companies played a major role in ensuring a good fluidity in the economy, and continue to create social bonds.
To endure, it will be necessary to capitalize on this renewed interest, and to support the various actors in the changes that are accelerating, in particular through training and change management ...


Do you want to know more about the challenges of global brands in e-Commerce and how to take advantage of the boom in online sales?


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