Publish Date: 23 June 2020

Digitalization is Restructuring the Sector

Professor Dr. Gülçin Büyüközkan states that digitalization will restructure the sector due to both the placement of women in the sector and the new circumstances created by the pandemic process.

Prof. Dr. Gülçin Büyüközkan, in addition to being Vice President of the Logistics Association (LODER), is a professor of Department of Industrial Engineering in Galatasaray University and a department chair, added logistics and supply chain issues in addition to the strategic management and strategic decision making, sustainability and digital transformation issues that make up her field in the early 2000s. In the same period, Büyüközkan, whose path crossed with LODER, has actively undertaken different duties such as the president, vice president and general secretary in the institution where she has been actively for 20 years.

We asked Professor Dr. Büyüközkan, one of the leading female managers and competent names in the logistics sector, how the uncertainties and negativities created by the pandemic process will be reflected in the logistics industry and what the sectors ways out.

How did your path cross with the logistics sector and LODER? How does your academic life reflect on this process?

At the beginning of the 2000s, I started to give lectures at Galatasaray University in the non-thesis master's program “marketing and logistics” and in my studies, I focused on logistics and supply chain. In the same period Prof. Dr. Mehmet Tanyaş introduced LODER to me and then I became a member of the association. In 2008, I joined the LODER Board of Directors at the invitation of my teacher, and I have held the positions of vice president, vice president and general secretary until today.

The focus of most of my academic work has been to propose approaches and tools to solve industrial problems. Being in the sector creates an advantage for me because it allows me to know the factory floor of the business and to better identify the needs. It is a great pleasure to see that my work, the models and solutions I propose are applied in the industry and add value to the companies.

It is said that it is still difficult to be a woman in the logistics sector, but in recent years, the number of women has started to increase both in the sector and in the management positions. What do you think are the main factors underlying these “masculine sector” prejudices?

Today the number of female managers compared to the male managers in the independent sector not only in Turkey but in developed countries is very low as well. For example, in the European Union countries, the number of female managers is one-third of male managers on average. Again, the salaries of female managers are lower than those of male managers.

Logistics, on the other hand, is a sector where operational activities are intense. Although there is not a big difference between women and men in management levels and planning activities, there are male employees in positions such as transportation and warehouse operations. Therefore, men are preferred in the management of units where employees are only men.

However, today, operational activities in logistics are supported with a holistic perspective and supply chain. Therefore, women can find more job opportunities in these renewed business models. Especially, making decisions and taking initiatives by thinking much more about the future today their nature provides a great advantage for women in the management position and supports the business continuity and sustainable success of companies. I believe that if women are given more opportunities in the sector, they will achieve significant successes.

What kind of studies do you do in LODER for women?

As LODER, we carry out studies that will add value to the sector and the future of the sector, without discriminating between men and women. For example, we developed the Logistics System Standards to be a reference for the industry to produce quality services. We have activities such as our Logistics Education Standards studies, that have been going on for four years on behalf of supporting the trained human resources and Supply Chain Professionals Club which aims to supply chain management and managers in Turkey and bring them to the forefront. We try to support managers, industry employees and companies through conferences, events and training that we organize or are co-organizers, and focus on projects that will guide logistics and supply chain management activities in the sector.

Surveys studies in recent years state that digital developments are accepted more by women. How will digitalization evolve in the role of women in the logistics industry? And what would be the effects of digitalization on the logistics sector and supply chain?

The fact that the studies can be carried out independent of space and time offers opportunities for the career development of women trying to balance their work and private life. Since the automation and technology integration will change the way in which operational works are performed, there may also be a change in the male-dominant employee profile that we mentioned earlier in the logistics industry and the orientation to women will increase. Similarly, agile management models and leadership stand out with the integration of digital technologies. Women’s competencies in leadership can make them advantageous. In addition, when the flexible working model based on the use of technology is adopted, inequalities arising from the gender gap in salaries and social rights can be eliminated.

With digitalization, we see that many business models in the logistics sector have been restructured or new business models for the sector have emerged. Digital technologies such as big data, internet of things, virtual and augmented reality, unmanned vehicles, additive manufacturing or 3D printers, blockchains have been on the agenda in the logistics sector in recent years. Along with the analytical analysis of logistics and supply chains, companies try to integrate these technologies to provide the highest benefit to their business while trying to perform their digital transformation. With digitalization, we observe integrated planning and implementation, logistics transparency, next-generation purchasing, smart storage, effective spare parts management, e-commerce logistics, logistics and supply chain analytics, and smart logistics and supply chain structures.

Particularly the pandemic process has shown the importance of digitalization again in the logistics sector as in every sector. Because in digitalization, there are important opportunities and gains such as speed, flexibility, efficiency, cost savings, increase in performance and efficient use of resources that will provide pioneering and differentiating competitive advantage. Our warning to companies that want to perform digital transformation here is to realize this transformation and make technology investments in the company with a conscious and, if possible, expert considering the current situation and needs.

How did the pandemic process affect the logistics industry? How do you think the next course will be?

COVID-19 outbreak; along with many aspects of business life such as demand, employment, financial markets, has affected the resistance of supply chains. Since the crisis is extremely complex and unpredictable, it is critical for companies to maintain business continuity and assets in order to manage this period of uncertainty. In this context, in order to overcome the crisis period with the least damage, it has become a priority to display leadership that increases resilience and to make logistics and supply chains more resistant.

The impact of the outbreak on industries and companies varied according to the end-to-end supply chain and the ecosystem in which they operate. While some companies were more limited, operational weaknesses came to the fore in most companies. With reasonable and feasible decisions made quickly and proactively, it was possible to offer more space and options to supply chains. These were the studies that companies applied reactively during the crisis.

In the next course, companies need to make good use of the potential of local and global supply sources, provide better visibility, and take advantage of the digital business solutions we have mentioned before, in order to tackle supply chain outages, overcome logistics and workforce shortages and to supply products to the market. Similarly, for a value-creating sustainable success, companies must proactively approach logistics structures and supply chains and design more resistant systems by increasing their maturity levels.

How can companies design durable logistics and supply chain structures?

First of all, companies should question their logistics and supply chain structures by taking into consideration their sector and competitors, evaluate the fragility of the chain and the potential of existing and alternative suppliers, and restructure the logistics and supply chains by taking measures to reduce weakness or threatening factors. Supply chains can be made more durable with new processes, tools, advanced technologies, key performance criteria and organizational structures.

Continuous communication and cooperation with partners is another important issue. Businesses should begin to move from the widespread supply chain with low levels of functional integration and traceability to more integrated, more collaborative and more intelligent supply management models. As a matter of fact, conducting complex scenario analyses to increase the visibility and accuracy of decision making by sharing data in the end-to-end supply chain are elements that will help strengthen supply chains and increase their resilience.

Agile logistics and supply chains support the robustness of the logistics and supply chains by ensuring quick adaptation to unpredictable changes in demand or supply. The key to increasing agility is providing flexibility to supply chain structure, processes and management with real-time visibility and speed. In this process, appropriate digital technology should be integrated with logistics and supply chain processes.

Another approach that companies can make use of is to increase the resistance of the supply chain is to institutionalize a holistic logistics and supply chain continuity Management program based on pre-emptive management of all logistics and supply risks and a risk management culture. Businesses with low logistics and supply chain resistance are doomed to fail.

Finally, what would you like to add for the future of the sector?

In the logistics sector, which was heavily affected by the pandemic, changes were observed in business conduct models and practices. For example, companies had to evaluate local company alternatives more intensively in their supply chains. Collaboration, communication, and resource utilization are enabled.

Technology played an immersive role in many areas and tried to create self-service business processes that can be operated safely from anywhere. It is necessary to make the working models experienced and advantageous in this process permanent and to bring the lessons learned to the fore.

In addition, companies must give priority to economic, social and environmental sustainability and climate change issues in their agendas for sustainable success.