Taking Stock: The upside of down

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by Emily Atkins

As Isit down to write this message Ontario premier Doug Ford is announcing the province is in a state of emergency.

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed at the speed with which the coronavirus pandemic has taken over our world. Just last week the Inside Logistics team was at MODEX 2020, albeit under a cloud of concern about COVID-19. The mood was optimistic and plenty of show-goers walked the floor, checking out the majority of booths that had not been cancelled.

Fast-forward to March 17th and that little, light grey wisp in the sky has morphed into an apocalyptic funnel cloud. Social and business activity is being curtailed; basic supplies are in short supply; rumours and misinformation swirl in the maelstrom of social media and other news sources.

Social distancing is the new normal and businesses are trying to make it work. E-commerce companies like Amazon are trying to hire hundreds of thousands of new workers to keep up with the sudden new demand. And at the same time distribution centre operations managers are trying to find ways to keep their employees apart, while still filling orders. One Ontario-based company has placed portapotties in its DC yard so that every worker has their own private toilet.

The business consequences of the shutdown of normal life will be enormous. This is an unprecedented crisis. Nobody knows how bad it will get or how long the effects will last, but based on the stock markets’ reaction, it will hurt. Surveys and reports are already clocking the effects on businesses and trade, and it is bad. People will lose jobs, small businesses will fail, and there will be widespread pain.

There’s no immediate upside to all this, but taking the long view there are a few takeaways I hope will come to pass. First is resilience. Learning the mental toughness to see what needs to be done and the resolve to make the tough decisions like staying at home, or temporarily shutting your business’s doors is good practice. It will serve you well in the future.

Second, the economy will come back. After the darkness comes the light, and if you keep an eye on the long game, there’s bound to be a surge in demand for products and services as people emerge from hiding.

Third, e-commerce businesses, which rely on the services of distribution centres, are booming through this crisis. Assuming they can get product, and staff, they might be the bright spot in all this.

My best to each and every one of my readers as we weather this awful storm. Please stay safe and feel free to share your experiences with us.