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New normal in logistics demands tech-savviness and new expertise

“To adapt and transit to a new normal in transport and logistics, a high degree of expertise and technological savviness will be essential. Generic and transferable competencies, such as time management and interpersonal skills are important as always and more so in the virtual world.”

Dr Kelvin Leung, CEO, Asia Pacific, DHL Global Forwarding, and DBA alumnus of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University shared this message at a recent “How has COVID-19 Changed Our Industry” webinar.

Hosted by the Faculty of Business at PolyU on 30 June 2020, the webinar is the second in a series by the faculty to inspire students and members of the community during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

With the transport and logistics sector undergoing rapid change, Dr Leung elaborated on the main features of the evolving landscape and offered practical hints on how aspiring logisticians can prepare for the future. One key development, Dr Leung said, would be the move toward digital collaboration and workspaces.

“COVID-19 has proven that remote working is feasible for the industry,” said Dr Leung. “The crisis encouraged effective coordination and being flexible in terms of time and location. Looking ahead, companies will invest more in operation platforms and network connectivity, and success will depend greatly on efficiency in people management, data manipulation, and knowledge transfer.”

A virtual office or company can bring together expertise from different corners of the globe. At the same time, the competition for talent will be truly global with employers looking to pick those who have the most relevant knowledge and skills from anywhere in the world.

To thrive in this new reality, Dr Leung believes that a high level of expertise will be advantageous for those looking to stay relevant and stand out. “For ocean freight, knowing about temperature control and river equipment will be helpful. And with regards to digitalization, the biggest players like us are actively looking for those with the knowledge of applying robotics and the ability to program robots,” said Dr Leung.

With different segments of the industry disrupted by the disease and lockdowns, there will also be an extensive redesign of supply chain and procurement models, with a distinct pivot toward more diversified supplier bases. As companies revamp and optimize their models with cost-effective solutions and added contingency measures, skillsets around supply chain planning and management will become increasingly important.

Likewise, with the question of how companies can become more resilient at the top of everyone’s mind, Dr Leung suggested competencies related to health and safety as well as compliance could be useful for aspiring logisticians to acquire.

Future talent will also need to be familiar with the use of technology for teleconferencing, presentation and information sharing. Soft skills like time management, interpersonal skills and language ability will be equally indispensable. “When communicating in a digital environment across teams, time zones and language and cultural differences, you need to plan meticulously. Whether you are relaying information or discussing a topic, be precise and concise, and always be clear about what the essential details are and what your key messages are,” he said.

The webinar concluded with Dr Leung sharing his views about how different countries should collaborate to realize a win-win situation for the global industry of transport and logistics, instead of driving a zero-sum game.

“COVID-19 means our old ways of collaborating no longer apply. But other new avenues will open up, such as through digitalization. Free trade and the global flow of ideas and knowledge have always been the backbone of progress, and globalization remains a powerful force for positive change.”