The US – China trade war has already caused companies to re-examine their supply chains. In 2019 Retail was already under attack from Online and many famous names like Sears, Penny and Kmart were already in trouble. Then in 2020 Covid arrived.  Supply chains were halted and badly infected areas were “locked down”. Staff were asked to work from home. Many countries closed their borders. Many airlines were grounded.

With access to workplaces was limited, intercontinental airtravel travel almost halted and employees have had to learn how to work at home. But with schools closed and children at home for many employees working at home (in 350 sq ft flats) was very difficult with only basic home computers, in truth mostly Pads, which were set up for games and not linking to office systems and having poor quality internet connections.

Transitioning to a new normal will require a reduction in manual and repetitive roles and an increase in the need for staff with analytical and technical skills. The more advanced larger companies have started to use digital tools to communicate and collaborate with colleagues. But many small and medium enterprises are in survival mode and cannot raise the finance they require from banks as they lack the assets to secure loans to invest in more advanced digital technology

A change in the way of working will therefore require financial resources and a major program of reskilling with operations roles affected more than most.

Some companies have supplied staff with new higher powered laptops and set up remote learning and coaching programs. However the companies themselves are having to reconfigure their own systems to make them accessible while worrying about data security which is slowing down progress.  As business starts to recover organizations will need to significantly accelerate their reskilling programs to develop a workforce with the capabilities and connectivity needed to run their new-normal operations.

The recovery from the crisis will also be a catalyst for changes in how work is done as well as where it is work is done. The need for physical-distancing measures has caused manufacturers to re-examine their organisation and methods and have found that the new arrangements have improved productivity and required fewer staff!

Healthcare providers in the USA and Europe have been rolling out e-health services using new remote treatment systems to treat thousands of patients in their homes instead of medical centres

In consumer services we are seeing significant increases in the adoption of online and omnichannel delivery models. As leading banks reopen their retail operations, some are changing their branch networks to self service

Companies are reviewing product value chains to become more regionalized as companies reassess the risks of global networks and supply chains. For example, to cope with regional shutdowns, fashion retailers started to develop new supply sources closer to major markets, using local suppliers of crucial raw materials, outsourcing logistics and reducing dependency on Southeast Asia.

In consumer services there has already been a significant increase in the adoption of online and omnichannel delivery models. Retailers have applied advanced analytics to slim down product assortment, trim warehouses and logistics requirements through optimized planning and reducing procurement costs.

Companies with overseas manufacturing operations have delegated more responsibility closer the point of supply, introduced video reviews of production and quality and found that they do not need so many staff micro-managing from head offices!   As organizations master the challenge of managing physically distributed operations teams, they are having to adapt their operating models accordingly, with staff on the ground in local markets able to draw upon technical expertise either locally or remotely via digital connectivity tools.

This trend will continue – welcome to the new normal