Urban logistics in the time of the coronavirus

Let’s all open our books to the chapter on “Economy in Times of Pandemic", and go to the section on “Logistics”, after our A-Side “retail and logistics” two weeks ago. Here you will see a selection of articles that invite us to question the way global trade supply chains are organised, disorganised and can be reorganised, all the way to the doors of urban consumers. Read without moderation, between a video conference and rediscovering how to use your Italian coffee maker.

1 – Rediscovering the need for “resilient” systems

“It seems the lessons of Fukushima must be learned anew”, asserts the stern Harvard Business Review chronicle, explaining that companies are rediscovering, at their own expense, the importance of effectively managing – and quickly adapting – their supply chains. In this sense, today’s health crisis forces us to engage in real questioning of our globalised supply chains, their inadequate transparency and the pressing need for resilience in the very way in which trade and supply are organised in metropolises, the main hubs of globalised consumption.

Coronavirus Is Proving We Need More Resilient Supply Chains (HBR)

ISM Says U.S. Firms Are Seeing Widespread Supply Disruption on Virus (Bloomberg)

China Hawks Are Calling the Coronavirus a ‘Wake-Up Call’ (The Atlantic)

Can Supply Chains Survive the Coronavirus? China, the U.S. and Germany Are Key (The Wall Street Journal)

COVID-19: Managing supply chain risk and disruption (pdf) (Deloitte)

2 – How should logistics be structured in societies where everyone is living at home?

In this time of lockdown, one early conclusion shared by the specialised press is clear: the prevalence of both e-commerce and “Digitally Enabled Delivery Systems”, i.e. the digital platforms that enable the delivery of food products and even all types of manufactured goods, including medical products. And in both these sectors, China shows greater maturity than the European and American markets… However, the “hidden costs” of these delivery platforms are becoming clear as well, and stirring debate: are they really allies to urban economic players? How long will the myriad of delivery workers on whom these services rely be able to make the famed “last mile deliveries” possible?

The Coronavirus Crisis Is Showing Us How to Live Online (New York Times)

À qui profite le coronavirus ? Au e-commerce (Actu Transport Logistique)

Amazon is looking to hire 100,000 employees to keep up with demand puis Amazon limiting shipments to certain types of products due to COVID-19 pandemic (Techcrunch)

‘They don’t care about safety’: Amazon workers struggle with pandemic demand (The Guardian)

Delivery Technology Is Keeping Chinese Cities Afloat Through Coronavirus (HBR)

The hidden cost of food delivery (Techcrunch)

Delivery Platforms Need to Give Restaurants a Break (Food&Wine Pro)

Food Delivery’s Big Coronavirus Test: Can It Deliver? (The Wall Street Journal)

Food delivery platforms go the extra mile for last-mile fleet (Economic Times)

3 – Some added “food for thought”: the limits of the logistical quest for efficient and “frictionless” systems

As a bonus, we offer a (not-so-) short tour of the omnibus (that’s the name of their online space) run by the venerable Architectural League of New York, which recently offered a panoramic vista of some logistical landscapes: from the warehouse to the elevator, there is a world of examples to explore. While the technological breakdown becomes a fruitful topic of criticism, here is another text that reflects on the intrinsic vulnerability of any logistical operation, whether due to technological malfunction, human error or, one might be tempted to add, unpredictable environmental factors. Could this give more than enough reason to question the race for efficiency, inherently crippled by a number of shortcomings?

A Tour of Some Logistics Landscapes, par Ingrid Burrington (Urban Omnibus)

4 – Looking back: infrastructures, “in reset mode”

Right on our pages, read or re-read some of the fictional works famed for “telling the legend of the end of the world”: what can – this is the question echoing through these works – we learn from the imaginary post-apocalyptic worlds that have proliferated in recent years? In our “post” societies, the success of the zombie figure is not to be taken lightly – instead, it casts light on our fear that, all of a sudden, everything could come to a stop. Suddenly, infrastructure – and those  that enable it to function – finds itself front and centre: all eyes are watching. Let us take advantage of this opportunity to better think about them together!

Quelles infrastructures à l’âge des zombies ? (Leonard)

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The VINCI Group created Leonard to tackle the challenges posed by the transformation of regions and lifestyles. Our goal is to unite a community of key stakeholders in order to build the city of the future together.