Over the past few years, the ongoing challenges confronted across the logistics industry have continued to test supply chain resilience.
Tasks previously considered standard processes by the teams on the ground are now significant challenges. This new market environment brings more variables and complications than ever before in the history of logistics. Therefore, transparent communication with customers is vital when recommending how to build a more resilient and flexible supply chain, as it ultimately impacts delivery deadlines or, worst case, availability for consumers. This is now the critical difference in customer success.
Navigating market turbulence by air
Entrusted with undertaking a critical project during this period, Scan Global Logistics (SGL) was involved in launching the antigen test kits supplied from China into the Australian market. The task was to build a solution that could supply approximately 250 million test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) to meet the contractual deadlines across the country.
Jason Wilson, head of products, Asia, at SGL, described a solution in a complex market: “With flexibility and resilience as crucial factors in any solution design for our customers, we constructed a transparent program, robust yet agile enough to handle the volatile market environment. A control tower of key stakeholders supervised daily activities 24/7. It monitored the potential risks in China, Asia, and Australia, from the factory floor to the destination and across all touchpoints in the possible 30 operational routes designed in the mission. The robust communication process between our core teams ensured they kept ahead of the risks and made alternate arrangements with all critical partners in advance—warehouse, transport, and airlines.”
Coordinating 300 charter flights
Over 90 days, just short of 10,000 tonnes of antigen test kits were successfully handled from six airports in China to five cities in Australia, playing a part in helping meet the Covid-19 testing demands of the Australian population. The solution required coordinating around 300 charter flights in one of the most complex environments the industry has ever faced.
Jason Wilson explains the challenges the team encountered in delivering on its customer’s demands. “To provide some perspective insight into the challenges we faced, you only need to focus on China. A strict zero-Covid policy has brought significant disruption that has made the movement of aircraft, people, and haulage more challenging.”
“As Covid-19 case numbers rose, we saw cities locked down at a moment’s notice which influenced factory production output and operational practices from all vendors involved. As more workers got confined to their homes, the restrictions on employee movement affected processes that would normally enable the export of these products. The situation heightened further as the project moved through the local, new year holidays,” Jason continues.
Disruptions continue to appear
With standard operations for most organisations involved not possible, contingency plans were regularly introduced. Residences and buildings were locked down according to the Covid risks identified. At one point, one of SGL’s teams had to isolate for days in the physical office as the building got locked from a case identified on a lower floor.
Collecting goods or processing them in warehouses faced scrutiny as logistics parks were restricted. Drivers, perhaps the most impacted overall, faced many testing requirements and route diversions that squeezed transport companies’ resources and met concerns from staff who risked becoming isolated from their families. Coordinating contingency plans for cargo re-routing to alternate provinces became a significant challenge and critical function as aircraft charter flights, scheduled in advance, continued to arrive as planned.
Managing with airline restrictions
It wasn’t smooth sailing for airline partners either, as Australia’s restricted international border dramatically decreased flight schedules, and the ability to introduce additional capacity was more complex than it was perceived to be initially. As with all vendors involved, the forwarder’s partnership-oriented approach ensured airlines were part of the decision-making process. “Their input helped coordinate routings that generated the best opportunity for customer success. Together we were able to navigate the various Covid protocols on loading aircraft in China and the congestion faced upon arrival in Australia,” noted Jason.
Keeping products moving
Within SGL, resilience and flexibility are not just about processes; they’re about ensuring employees have the necessary support. Rickard Ingvarsson, CEO in Asia, comments: “Our virtues and culture, built on empowerment, well-being, and a human-first entrepreneurial approach, set the scene to help the entire team overcome the seemingly endless supply of challenges to keep the products moving. Our front line employees, empowered to make instant decisions, helped navigate the potential threats in real-time without delay. In contrast, our focus on well-being helped ensure necessary support was in place each day to the front line, which continued to perform an exceptional job for our customers.”
Jason continues: ”With restrictions moving by the day, we have had an open dialogue with our customers on moving schedules and making decisions to divert cargo as risks got identified. While this may have increased costs or time, it ultimately helped eliminate a potential hazard that may have impacted the deadlines and product supply to the public.”
”Our ability to build resilience and flexibility into our processes ultimately allowed SGL to play an essential part in providing critical equipment to the Australian population. A potential once in a lifetime solution that we are proud of our teams for being able to support and successfully execute together,” Wilson concludes.