Pandemic sees shift from tech to people in supply chains

23 July 2021

The pandemic has increased reliance on human expertise in the supply chain, according to research.

study by global third party logistics provider Coyote Logistics examined how the pandemic had impacted the balance between technology and people in supply chains.  

It concluded the volatility of the supply chain and shifting consumer behaviour in the wake of the pandemic meant tasks such as inventory management, obtaining quotes and pricing, load scheduling and booking carriers were carried out by people who had “stepped up”.

The study asked shippers and carriers how they were integrating technology into operations and where they were investing in 2021 compared to 2019.

It found after a year of forced digital transformation from the pandemic, the balance actually shifted 3% towards people. The trend was the same for shippers and carriers of different sizes in different regions.

In 2019, shippers said the ideal balance was 39% people, and 61% technology in supply chain operations. This year, the balance had shifted to 42% people and 58% technology.

Carriers said the ideal balance was 41% people and 59% technology two years ago, but in 2021 it was 44% people and 56% technology.

The report said: “A 3% decline may not seem like a huge difference, but considering recent trends, even a slight shift away from technology is a resounding call from supply chain leaders that people are still a critical part of logistics.”

The number of shippers relying on core supply chain technology platforms decreased by an average of 20%, the report found.

The ideal balance between technology and humans was generally very similar for shippers, carriers, small and large companies, in the UK, Canada and the UK, according to the research.

The ability of people to problem solve, manage risks during uncertainty and manage relationships were factors cited by respondents as to why humans in the right roles were better than technology.

The report said the pandemic had increased the pace of digital adoption throughout the logistics industry at a rate never thought possible.

“And yet, despite the influx of technology, we found that global shippers and carriers are craving more human expertise in their supply chain operations than just two years ago,” it said.

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