Leading Amidst the Supply Chain Disruptions

May 04, 2022

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the supply chain over the last two years. We have clearly seen how the pandemic has exacerbated the logistics networks all around the world. Supply chain resilience has become an increasingly relevant concern, especially given the negative impacts of congestion in the ports, labor shortages, and political strife in recent months. The days where cost and operational efficiencies were the only things that mattered are long gone.

With that in mind, how can supply chain leaders lead, support, and grow their organizations whilst ensuring supply chain resilience?

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In the latest episode of our "Unpacking E-Commerce Logistics" series, we sat down with Charles Brewer, Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pos Malaysia Berhad to talk about his leadership amidst the present supply chain disruptions. Leveraging on his decades of experience in the industry, he shared his experience in delivering great leadership over the years. The session was moderated by Arne Jeroschewski, Founder & CEO of the leading delivery experience platform Parcel Perform.

With Charles’ breadth of experience in the logistics sector, we covered a myriad of topics ranging from the effects of supply chain crunch to the importance of embracing agility within plans. Here are the key highlights from our discussion that we found the most interesting:

Recent Developments in the Global Supply Chain

There is no denying that COVID has massive implications on the supply chain all over the world. According to Charles, one of the most obvious effects would be the penetration of e-commerce and online sales around the world. During the pandemic, there was a sudden rush of consumers who started shopping online. The pre-existing group of online shoppers were also buying a greater volume of goods, many of which were from product categories that they did not buy before. Indeed, having to deal with such unprecedented volumes of parcels against the backdrop of a global pandemic (but with the same logistics infrastructure as pre-COVID) was challenging to say the least.

With that being said, we can expect to see a slowdown in e-commerce orders as consumers return to brick-and-mortar stores. Malaysia began to open up in September and October last year. Charles also brought up the data in the United States indicating that the retail sales data are back up, albeit just by a single digit. 

In addition, Charles also briefly mentioned the latest developments surrounding the supply chain crunch in China, where hundreds of ships are being parked outside one of the world’s largest ports in Shanghai, all waiting to load and unload.  Just like how a tiny accident on the highway can cause a bad traffic jam for hours, those bottleneck challenges experienced on the West Coast two years back (and now in Shanghai) are sure to have long-term ripple effects on the global supply chain in months or even years to come.

How to Run a Successful Logistics Business in the Midst of the Pandemic

Charles joined Pos Malaysia at what most would say was the peak of the pandemic. The company Chairman Syed Faisal Albar strongly believed in Charles’ capabilities and extensive knowledge of the Asian market when appointing him as the new Group CEO. “As Pos Malaysia continues on the journey to transform itself into a major player in the region and beyond, Brewer is the right candidate for the job,” said the Chairman.

1. Establish Trust with Employees & Customers

True enough, the first thing that Charles prioritized after joining the company was to fix the basics. In this case, it was to rebuild the trust with both employees and customers. Charles found it crucial to get a true pulse of employees by understanding their perspectives with regard to the areas where Pos Malaysia is doing well or where it can improve. It was equally important for him to hear from consumers about what they think the company has been doing right and doing wrong. While there is still a long way to go, Charles believes that the team has come a long way in re-establishing that sense of trust from both employees and customers.

2. Embrace Agility Within Your Plans

As much as it is critical for businesses to strategize and make plans to ensure maximum success, this is not always the case for those in the supply chain sector. While clear, well-thought out plans might seem like the answer to most, the pandemic has proven otherwise. Moreover, logistics is a sector that is rapidly evolving with emerging technologies and ever-changing trends. 

The uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the nature of the industry, have made it all the more necessary for companies to embrace agility within their plans. Even under ‘normal’ circumstances, agility is a defining attribute of many successful organizations around the world. As such, rather than a structured plan, it is more essential for companies to focus on anticipating what is to come and how to decisively respond in times of crisis.

3. Embark on a Cultural Transformation Within the Organization

No matter the sector, organizational culture is something that can impact all aspects of a business; it not only drives employee engagement and satisfaction, it can also help with customer acquisition and retention in many ways. According to Charles, changing a company’s culture does not depend on slogans or posters, but rather on how the managers behave and operate.

As employees tend to model and emulate the same behaviors of their leaders, leaders have the responsibility to ensure that their actions are completely aligned with what the company stands for. Lastly, always keep a look out for contra behavior. Charles finds this really essential because if you have senior people in your organization who demonstrate contra behaviors, the company will “go down very quickly”. Moving forward, Pos Malaysia hopes to “rebuild itself as a company that Malaysians can trust and love doing business with” and we can all agree that positive cultural change is a prerequisite to achieving exactly that.

For the full discussion, check out the video below. You wouldn’t want to miss it! 

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