The group will also seek to bring fundamental changes to the supply chain and other aspects of operations by making permanent some of the recent changes implemented by the government, such as the changes to the Hours of Service rules for truck drivers, and the amount of weight trucks are permitted to carry.
The health crisis has exposed a lack of understanding and awareness of the sophistication of the supply chain, Freeman said, chiefly because there hasn’t been a compelling reason to talk about it when it was working.
“I think it's incumbent on us as an industry to effectively explain the complexities of the supply chain, to explain what happens — and use very, very specific examples — when we have a policy in one locality that's vastly different than a policy in another locality,” he said. Consumer goods companies need to both expose the problems, as well as highlight what uniform standards can mean for costs and consumer access to products.
“We have to be perhaps better storytellers, as an industry, than we've been trained to be,” Freeman said. “In the past the system has worked. Now we have an obligation to expose where the weaknesses are emerging.”
As the industry moves forward, Freeman said it will be important to see if the hiccups that were confronted can be learned from and not repeated in the face of what’s anticipated to be a second wave of the virus.
We can also expect to see massive technological changes within operations and supply chain management, such as increased use of heat sensors, Bluetooth technology for contact tracing, artificial intelligence and automation. In-person inspections, meanwhile, may be conducted using Google Glass-style glasses, with regulators viewing facilities remotely from their agencies, Freeman said.
Throughout the process, Freeman has been heartened by the willingness for industry collaboration. And while much work remains, this degree of partnership — as well as the industry’s ability to deliver in crisis times without panic — has been encouraging.
“While there has been certainly hiccups in the supply chain, and there have been things that we've all seen lacking on store shelves, all things considered, considering the magnitude of this situation, the supply chain is held up remarkably well,” he noted.