It will be plain to many in the trucking industry, and confirmed by a report from Deakin University’s Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics (CSCL), that some radical blue sky post-Covid thinking is needed to adapt to what’s often called the ‘new normal’.
We have seen the fast moving transformation of our supply chains over the past thirty years or so and seen the trucking industry trailer capacity replace extensive warehousing as a supply solution for most large companies.
This has all gone well as long as consumption rates have been predictable enough. The manufacturers have made enough product and done it in time to pass through the supply chain to be at the right place at the right time when needed, whether that be the supermarket shelf or the engineering works.
As the relatively steady flow of goods has been analysed, peaks and troughs have been identified and factored in. Any trends which start to increase demand for some goods or reduce the demand for others has usually been slow enough in developing for those who are importing, manufacturing and transporting to anticipate and act accordingly.
There was one thing the supply chain wasn’t capable of coping with, a massive crisis and instantaneous change in consumption needs, caused by the arrival of the coronavirus in our midst. All of the shortcomings of the just in time and ‘always available’ philosophy were exposed when the public of Australia decided they needed more toilet roll, pasta, hand sanitiser and face masks, now.
The supply chain didn’t collapse but it did take one hell of a beating in many sectors. The changes were ‘unprecedented’ of course, but the supply chain lacked the preparedness, flexibility and stocks to do anything about it in a meaningful way for weeks.
This is what Dr Hermione Parsons, Industry Professor and CSCL Director, is talking about in the report released this week. She points out the demographic of those working in the supply chain, learnt their skills from a ‘bygone era’.
“There’s no replacement pipeline of workers in sight; and no comprehensive national education and training program exists in Australia,” says Hermione. “We need to start thinking more creatively about these workforce development needs, so we’re protected in future times of drought, bushfires, floods and pandemics. We need to be prepared, and we need to build resilience in Australia’s supply chain and freight logistics workforce.”
There is plenty to think about here. There is a clear lack of resilience in the supply chain and the trucking industry has to bear the brunt of many of the problems. Trucking is also short of young well trained people to take the industry into what is looking like a substantially different future.
We are also a very global country importing a massive amount of what we consume from overseas. In essence, there is nothing wrong with globalisation as whole, we just need to have a system in place, some radical blue sky post-Covid thinking is needed. The industry needs to be manned by the right people to make sure we keep ticking over as a country when the proverbial hits the fan, anywhere in the world.