Even before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world, the logistics industry was already one of the most crucial services in our increasingly interconnected world. In fact, it is safe to say that logistics was — and continues to be — the gears that power international trade. So when countries closed their borders and restricted cross-border movements to limit the spread of the virus, the logistics industry, too, was adversely impacted. According to one estimate, the global logistics industry experienced a 6.1% drop in gross value added due to COVID-19. The impact has so far been uneven too, with China and Italy reporting a 0.9% and 18.1% decline respectively. 

Despite these less-than-stellar numbers, logistics companies continue to play a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the subsequent recovery. Logistics is, after all, an invaluable and integral part of any supply chain, both within and across international borders. 

To keep logistics operations running, manpower, too, is an indispensable resource. When planning for the rest of 2020 and beyond, look out for these key logistics skill sets to hire for.  

1. Contingency planning 

Throughout 2020 thus far, there was an air of caution surrounding the logistics sector. As the full effects of COVID-19 continues to unravel, there will be the potential for huge disruptions. This is why professionals skilled and experienced in contingency planning will remain highly valuable. Those businesses looking to devise a plan for all possible outcomes will need people who are on top of and fully understand potential risks. In addition to this, these people must also be able to proactively manage the implications of uncertainty throughout the year and set in place plans of action as changes arise.        

2. Knowledge in cross-border disputes

Effectively managed disputes can mean the difference between the success and failure of a project. Professionals who are skilled in dispute resolution are highly prized within logistics for the way they negotiate to reach the desired outcome. Those responsible for managing projects are key in minimising the effects of disputes on productivity and costs, which can spiral if disagreements are not resolved effectively. Attention to detail and strong negotiation skills will be crucial in ensuring that timescales are adhered to, particularly when working with stakeholders across the globe.

3. Peak planning and execution

One area that has remained relatively resilient throughout the pandemic is the e-commerce sector. Its growth has impacted the way in which logistics operations prepare for the peak period. This is a lucrative time for the industry, so it is imperative it is executed well. Data-led processes are becoming increasingly important to manage peak, which is why professionals skilled in performance analysis and forecasting are vital. In addition to this, competency in e-commerce, particularly in managing its ongoing growth, is fundamental, along with excellent forward-planning.

4. Budget management

Businesses of all sizes are constantly looking for ways to reduce costs and minimise waste. Logistics represents a significant cost for any organisation, which is why the effective management of these costs in line with budgets is a key skill for logistics managers. Typically, senior logistics managers hold full profit and loss responsibility and are therefore expected to positively impact the bottom line through continuous improvement, value-adding services, and cost savings. Looking forward, these skills are only set to become more crucial as businesses navigate the aftermath of COVID-19.

5. Diverse talent development

Diversity is key when hiring to build a strong team that drives an efficient logistics operation. Acquiring the right mix of skills, personalities, and talent that will perfectly match either a short- or long-term project is a crucial skill. Logistics managers need to be able to quickly identify skills gaps and see where individuals can improve. In addition, they need to be able to adapt their management style to get the most out of every individual. Hiring teams of diverse talent is one thing, but inclusive management to ensure effective collaboration is what propels these teams to excel.

6. Warehouse layout optimisation 

Today, as peak periods fluctuate and the need for efficient processes to maintain lean operations increases, utilising various layout options is key. This enables logistics businesses to optimise workflows and develop warehouse processes and standard operating procedures. Professionals who are responsible for managing warehouse layouts to optimise the value of these spaces are charged with investigating improvements to existing warehouse infrastructure, system integration, and process design. The end goal is improving long-term productivity, and, ultimately, boosting the bottom line.

7. Warehouse management systems experience

As part of ensuring warehouse optimisation and efficient management of day-to-day logistical operations, WMS know-how is key. This includes the centralised management of tracking inventory levels and stock locations. As e-commerce experiences sustained growth and retail evolves to become ever more digitalised, the need for more efficient WMS systems has never been more important. Professionals with the skills to identify and implement the most effective processes for their warehouses will forever be one step ahead and thus highly sought after by employers in this sector.