Seemingly everything has been shaken up by COVID-19, and the shipping, logistics, and transportation industry is no different.

Consider our lives before the pandemic. Goods and materials were continually traveling across borders. All modes of travel were booming, whether it be for cargo, work, or tourism. In the business sector, each day consisted of dozens of ungloved handshakes, introductions, and meetings. Now, all of those norms are long gone, and it has left the shipping, logistics, and transportation industry wondering what lies ahead once COVID-19 begins to decline.

So how might the industry look in the wake of COVID-19?

It is too soon to say with certainty, but here are a few moves that we can expect the industry to adopt.

  • The way that we interact with one another will change. Since COVID-19 shut down a vast majority of the world, video calling has reached a whole new level of popularity. It is safe to assume that video conferences will replace many physical interactions, especially in light of how business travel has dramatically declined and will likely continue to in the months and years to come.
  • Businesses will look to create supply chain redundancies. Redundancies help strengthen supply chains when unforeseen threats arise. No one could have predicted a global pandemic, but now that we have all experienced it, it is likely that companies will create redundancies so that they can bounce back if something like this were to ever happen again. Ultimately, redundancies help businesses afloat, and given how many struggled with being single-source out of China, it is likely that redundancies will play a part in the new normal.
  • Robotics, automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and smart technologies like blockchain will be on the rise. As per Material Handling & Logistics, increased automation and smart technologies will allow distribution centers and warehouses to continue operating regardless of the state of global affairs, especially when workers are getting sick or spreading illness to one another. While it is likely that some companies may switch over to entirely “dark warehouses,” which are fully autonomous, most will still require a human element to manage the technologies. That said, the number of people required will still be much fewer, allowing for effective social distancing and more resilient, effective, and efficient supply chain operations. Additionally, technologies such as blockchain operate via smart contracts, eliminating the need for intermediaries and a paper trail. (To learn more about how to incorporate blockchain technology into your operations, get in touch with us!)
  • There will be an increase in the number of contract workers hired. One of the hardest consequences of the pandemic has been the vast layoffs around the world. Companies simply do not have the available funds to maintain the same workforces they did when business was booming, and a considerable majority of talented and qualified workers have been furloughed without pay or left without a job. Companies looking to contract workers instead of full-time employees will likely benefit from the ability to quickly increase or decrease their workforce as we adjust to life in the post-COVID-19 era.
  • We will be on the path for a more sustainable future. The one and only good thing to come from the forced shutdowns has been the environmental impact. With a lot of the world shut down, there has been less pollution, carbon emissions have decreased (scientific estimates believe that they could drop by as much 5% in just 2020 as per Zpryme) and overall, the earth seems to be ‘recovering’ from the toll of years of industrialization. These positives have not gone unnoticed, and businesses will likely continue to prioritize environmentalism and sustainability in the years to come. Additionally, moves such as prioritizing video conferencing over in-person meetings, more smart technologies, and less business travel inherently play into a more eco-friendly future.

Although it is still too soon to truly know what the world will look like once there is a COVID-19 vaccine, it is safe to assume that things in shipping, logistics, and transportation will be different. How the industry rebuilds from this crisis will help ensure that supply chains are stronger and more resilient in the future.