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The challenge put forward by DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez during his keynote address for the final leg of #SCC20 Live was this: for the supply chain sector to help as the country transitions not to the “new normal,” but to what he calls the “better normal”—a truly inclusive economy.

 

It’s a role we in supply chain have been doing, perhaps without realizing it, for a long time. While our job is basically to ensure our products (or services) reach our customers in the best condition at the right time and at the most optimal price possible, the way we go about it has wide-reaching consequences not just for our customers, partners and employees, but for the communities we work and live in, and the economy as a whole. It allows people to ease their minds and focus on providing for their loved ones. It empowers people to go beyond what they thought was possible. Particularly in these times of uncertainty, these things have an impact we cannot immediately measure.

 

Take our collective move towards e-commerce. It’s something we have been dealing with for years, but only in recent months have we gone full throttle, as customers demanded home deliveries amidst restrictions on mobility. We could’ve done it faster, but at the time the appetite for online retail—particularly for essential items—wasn’t big. We also had to balance what our customers wanted with our own projections about our company’s sustainability and profitability, as well as the interests of our partners and stakeholders.

 

No wonder the past few months have been disruptive. It’s not that we weren’t completely unprepared; it’s that our timelines had suddenly been moved drastically forward. A few years ago, when I wrote about the potential for the cashless economy in the Philippines, I pondered if we’d ever embrace it fully, considering how not everybody in the country was exposed to the traditional banking structures. Now, I assume we do more bank transfers and bill payments through our phones. It’s just convenient.

 

I think the problem with “new normal” is how it sometimes feels like we’re being forced to change out of fear. Buy everything online or die from the virus. It may be inconvenient for you, but you should adjust. I imagine that for those unable to adjust that quickly, this demand will be met with hopelessness, powerlessness, perhaps even resentment.

 

A Culture of Trust

To bring everyone along to that inclusive vision of a “better normal,” the culture of fear must be replaced with a culture of trust, and that means a bit more diligence on our part. That means taking the time to understand what our customers need, what our partners need, what our employees need. That means making sure our systems, processes and resources can cope with these needs—especially now that they seem to shift more often than stay—and that our plans are sustainable and provide value. That means investing in the necessary skills and systems—whether they’re technologies on the cutting edge, or new applications of existing methods—that will allow us to serve these needs flexibly and at an optimal cost.

 

This, of course, takes some time—and again, this perhaps is why the disruption in the early months of the pandemic felt particularly unsettling. Now we’ve pretty much settled into a groove. We are confident inslowly reopening the economy because we now know the new lay of the land and have a better grip of the situation. This is not yet the “better normal” though—there’s still uncertainty about our lives and our livelihoods, particularly for those in the lower classes. We should not be complacent and wait for that silver bullet. We have to continue working, for there is a lot more to be done.

 

When we put together #SCC20 Live—the online edition of the SCMAP Supply Chain Conference—we found ourselves in the unique position of having to answer questions that we ourselves have. After three weeks, I personally think the path we have to take is much clearer. On behalf of SCMAP I would like to thank our speakers, sponsors and delegates for entrusting us with their time and expertise, now more than ever.

 

Finally, if you missed any or all of the sessions, don’t fret. You can watch full videos of all the sessions until the end of 2020. Just register via scmap.org; it’s free for members and PHP 500 per session for non-members. This “better normal,” after all, means using technology so you don’t have to miss a thing.

 

Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications director of SCMAP, and editor-in-chief of its official publication, Supply Chain Philippines. More information about SCMAP is available at scmap.org.

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