McLennan said the disruption created by the pandemic was beginning to ease, although things were a long way from pre-pandemic normalcy.
“At the very start, it was manic,” she said. “We've been working around the clock for many, many months.”
“I don't think we have gone back to the way it used to be. And so we're just now trying to adjust to what could be the new norm, across all elements of our supply chain.”
McLennan said conversations around the impact of the pandemic at the group were still regular, and many were still adjusting to the new “countries of origin, regulations and restrictions,” of the supply chains they’ve been forced to tap.
“I think if nothing else, [COVID] has actually helped us as an organisation build our agility muscle,” she said.
McLennan said the impact of the pandemic on transport and logistics has been a significant challenge. Simonetta agreed.
“That's impacted us, especially from an export perspective,” he said. “It’s a big challenge and continues to be.”
“With a couple of our major customers, we've had positive outbreaks, which has really put pressure on the supply chain right through to retail.”
Simonetta said an unexpected upside of the pandemic was how it had forced collaboration across participants in supply chains “to another level, in terms of openness and sharing of information”.
“I think it's really been fantastic,” he said. “Both customers and suppliers are more transparent with what they need, and they're certainly talking more about production planning and forecasting, which is difficult in these times.”
“I think that's what's going to set apart the successful retailers and suppliers, the ones that can forecast accurately; the supply chains with longer-lasting and more-strategic business relationships.”
Tech will play a big part in this success in the FB&A sector, Simonetta said, with robotics “a big thing that is being talked about”. However, he warned it would be some time before tech would outpace the effectiveness of humans, particularly when it came to harvesting.
“[Robots] can pick grapes for wine, but they can't pick table grapes to put on a retail shelf,” he said. “That still requires hand labour.”
“But it's happening - and it's not driven by COVID, I might add, it's driven by the sheer fact that there is a shortage of labour worldwide.”
The pace of change means tech remains moving target, Simonetta said.
“It'll keep growing,” he said. “Certainly in our industry within we're embracing technology in every way we can.”
Shane White is Content Manager at ANZ Institutional