Despite the challenges of the lockdown, Boxco Logistics continued throughout to meet the expectations of its customers. When possible, because of the near empty roads, the team at Boxco exploited the conditions during the lockdown to a client’s advantage by increasing the speed of deliveries of heavy lifts.

The challenges of the lockdown and the measures taken to overcome them have been discussed in our previous issues. As we look back, we realise that Boxco has worked continuously. However, as the world reopens, Boxco also looks forward to returning back to what may become the new normal.

While meeting the challenges, ensuring that the work is done and putting into operation the ‘forms’ that were needed to fulfil the ‘functions,’ we see that much has changed. Project logistics has always been a team game, requiring close coordination between team members and troubleshooting visits by operations managers, which all had to change due to the social distancing norms. Managers had to manage operations through videoconferencing, and reports and instructions had to become ever more precise. The members of the operations team had to be trained to maintain the requisite distance between them and to maintain basic personal hygiene. These are among the positives from the lockdown that will become a part of the new normal.

The shortages of labour, especially equipment operators and truck drivers, were managed. However, what we had always thought of as supply chain issues for manufacturers and consumers and something far from us, also hit us in unexpected ways.

Oxygen was one such problem. All of us were breathing in more than the usual amounts of it due to the environment being cleaner. However, our port and heavy-lift operations were in real danger of being hampered due to a shortage of oxygen. This necessity for life is also necessary for securing cargoes and packages before they are transported to disparate locations, whether on axles or by barge. We had taken for granted the availability of welding consumables, which was corrected when our teams had to scurry around to ensure we had enough oxygen cylinders, among other things, so that we could properly weld or cut plates, etc. to secure cargoes.

India has nearly 500 oxygen-producing units of various capacities situated near the industrial centres. Before the pandemic, only about 10% of the overall supply was for human use in hospitals, but the whopping demand due to the pandemic has raised this to nearly 50%, and it is still rising. As the opening up after the lockdown gathers pace, tens of millions of people are now going outdoors. Thus, the number of additional cases is currently around half a million per week, and about 6 to 7% of them will require oxygen to be administered. It was reported that in April 2020, when the pandemic had just begun in India, the medical consumption of oxygen was around 500 MT per day. Now, at the beginning of October 2020, it has already passed 2,800 MT per day. At the same time, with the reopening of the economy, the demand for oxygen by factories and workshops is steadily increasing. Although the Indian oxygen industry has increased capacity fourfold, mainly of medical-grade oxygen, industrial-grade oxygen is being processed to make it suitable for medical use.

Hence, something that was earlier taken for granted now requires advance planning. The norm now for major movements as we open up is to substitute welds with belts, to calculate carefully the minimum amount of welding needed to complete the work safely and to requisition in advance even the most basic items. This takes attention to detail to a new level altogether.Going forward, we envisage that the recovery will be fast once the pandemic is behind us. Moreover, the increasingly online and remote ways of working and the newer working systems introduced by the government, especially for customs, are some of the welcome changes that will stay.

As of now, we are trudging along, sorting out the teething issues of the new ways of working, and fixing problems due to the disruptions as they arise, with a new awareness.