Global supply chains are continually faced with new challenges. However, a global pandemic that hit virtually all regions of the world simultaneously for just over a year has been unprecedented for the industry. And this is even more reason for the WHU-Campus for Supply Chain Management to demonstrate its raison d'être once again on March 18th and 19th, after having been cancelled last year due to the Corona virus. Under the theme "Supply Chain Resilience - How do companies react to and recover from global disruptions?", the event was held entirely online for the first time ever. Top logistics experts Dr. Udo Lange (CEO and President FedEx Logisitics), Tobias Jerschke (Managing Director Kuehne & Nagel), Dr. Johannes Bussmann (CEO Lufthansa Technik AG) and Ralf Busche (SVP European Site Logistics BASF SE) were among the impressive lineup of keynote speakers.
Strategy, structure, and employees must be in alignment
That the world's largest cargo airline is affected by supply chain disruptions is obvious. However, FedEx Logistics has been able to adapt quickly. "The same cause that creates less demand for transportation in one place can create increased demand elsewhere," Dr. Udo Lange commented in his presentation. For example, he said, the pandemic can also provide opportunities, as while some areas may ship less product, significantly more vaccine is being shipped, for example. While the current situation is not an easy one to deal with, according to Lange it is at the same time only one part of a phenomenon called PEST disruptions (political, economic, social and technological), which can repeatedly cause disturbances to supply chains at a wide variety of levels. FedEx Logistics' response to this has been to align its strategy, structure, and people, and to invest billions in the sustainability of the company under the current circumstances.
The future lies in digitization and data analytics
Tobias Jerschke of Kühne & Nagel and Dr. Johannes Bussmann of Lufthansa Technik AG expressed similar views. Jerschke, for example, spoke of the "global madness" of the past year and that the current period is characterized by ultra-dynamic change. "If [companies] want to make their supply chains resilient, they must always have a Plan B and a backup structure," Jerschke said. He, too, advocated using the current phase to invest in green technologies within the industry, because otherwise companies might eventually be out of the game.
Dr. Johannes Bussmann had actually already prepared his presentation for the WHU Campus for Supply Chain Management a year ago: "If Corona has had any positive effects, it is that we have learned a lot since its beginning. Europe is currently cutting some of the worst figures in the crisis, while the USA and Asia are already recovering. In China, the number of flights has already returned to 2019 levels." Like his fellow speakers, Bussmann pointed to the rapidly growing importance of digitalization and improved data analytics to better predict future scenarios.
Excellent infrastructure creates great resilience
Ralf Busche of BASF added another building block for resilience: the Verbund principle. With the world's largest integrated chemical park in Ludwigshafen, BASF is bucking the general trend by focusing less on specialization or reduction of its product range and more on a comprehensive offer from a single source. What matters most is an outstanding infrastructure, but not only on the road, in the air, or on water. Extensive infrastructure is also vital within the IT sector. "You need to know what can go wrong. Build an absolutely secure supply chain so that your customers don't suddenly change their minds," Busche said.
In addition to the highly topical presentations, participants at the WHU Campus for Supply Chain Management were also able to deepen their knowledge of supply chains and resilience in workshops and during a roundtable discussion. There were a myriad of exciting details and new trends to be learned from some of the leading minds in the industry.