The World Economic Forum tags logistics as one of the market sectors most affected by digital transformation, especially as it is becoming increasingly central to companies’ supply chains and business models. With the pandemic and subsequent rise of e-commerce, we have been witnessing an unprecedented surge in demand for logistics services, with a proliferation of digital players and start-ups interested in manning the ‘last mile’ of the delivery market. And here’s exactly where the world of food comes in. Italy’s agri-food industry is also booming, and the entire supply chain, especially distribution, is adapting as speedily as possible to digital technologies and the new cultural sensitivity, to ensure greater transparency, sustainability and quality, benefiting both consumers and the environment.
Everything is changing forever: roles, skills, production processes, company policies and missions. While some trends can be predicted and paths mapped out, many aspects and issues still warrant further consideration.
A PHYD Talk
The PHYD organised the talk entitled “A Journey along the Professional Paths of the Food Industry” as an opportunity to address the present and future of the Food Industry, gain a better understanding of how COVID-19 has affected the industry and pinpoint which skills will be in greatest demand tomorrow. Special guests Michele Silvestri, Supply Chain Manager at Müller, and Debora Guma, Group CIO at Lactalis Italia, were interviewed by Laura Ghisleri, Content & Networking Director at IKN Italy.
The journey into Food starts with Michele Silvestri’s valuable contribution on the strategic role of logistics, a sector that has “always been ontologically resilient and prepared for the unexpected“. There is no denying the difficulties of the retail sector in the early months of the lockdown, when people were clearing out supermarket shelves in a climate of fear and uncertainty and yet the sector suffered no setbacks. On the contrary, the explosion of home deliveries seems to have given new life and vigour to the entire sector. For Silvestri, the age of logistics has only just begun, and its future will hinge on how it responds to the challenges that the pandemic has brought to the table, including the time factor, with increasingly rapid delivery demands. Being technically literate or digitally minded is no longer enough; as a dynamic attitude has now become essential:
“Logistics is not for anyone looking for a laid-back life, with set office hours. It takes curiosity, passion, initiative, decision-making and problem-solving skills. And one should never be afraid to make mistakes or ask questions, even when they seem trivial. Listening to the answers is what counts“.
You have to be like an aeroplane pilot (and Michele Silvestri really is, as he brings up in the interview), “you always need to know where to go before you get in the cockpit, and you have to have a plan B. In short, when it comes to logistics, as in flying, there is no room for improvisation“, The manager’s hope is that a new generation of logistics professionals will emerge, capable of dealing not only with the so-called ‘last mile activities’, which have gone from being a niche phenomenon to a trend in little more than a year and a half, but also with the entire industrial system. Silvestri considers that using a wide-angle lens, not a zoom, and being far-sighted, not fixed on the present, is a must in order to move around the world proactively and optimistically.
“you always need to know where to go before you get in the cockpit, and you have to have a plan B. In short, when it comes to logistics, as in flying, there is no room for improvisation“.
The Pandemic: an innovation accelerator
Debora Guma, one of Italy’s leading female CIOs, talks about technology boost and innovation in the agri-food sector. She is quick to point to the pandemic as an important driver of innovation, even for the food industry, which in the past has not been at the forefront. Today, more and more companies, including Lactalis, are making the most of the cultural change brought about by the epidemic to speed up certain processes, such as computer dematerialisation or cooperation with suppliers and customers in the name of sustainability and responsible consumption, starting, for example, with the reorganisation of supply chain flows.
Guma is also convinced that the pandemic has put the spotlight of institutions and companies on issues that are fundamental to society as a whole, such as diversity&inclusion and gender equality, all terms that, according to the CIO of Lactalis, are often abused or used as a façade by many organisations, but which must nevertheless be considered a conditio sine qua non of any innovative process, because to really change, technology alone does not cut the mustard. It takes people.
With regard to the delicate and urgent question of the concrete enhancement of female leadership and, more generally, of a truly inclusive female workplace, Guma believes there is still a long way to go. However, you can start with baby steps, such as practising empathy, “a distinctive characteristic of women. I hope, even though the signs are not particularly reassuring, that the pandemic served to increase the level of empathy in everyone“. A constant, daily exercise that enables us to look at others, to feel more involved and participate as citizens and workers. Thinking and acting consciously is the only way to be prepared for the future, whatever form it takes.
To watch the event, simply register on the PHYD site.