Chris Lewis, executive vice president of supply chain for Retail Business Services offers insight on the top three learnings from the challenges brought on by COVID19:

“Like many in the retail sector, the brands we service have managed a tremendous surge in consumer demand for grocery products. In the midst of this, our companies are six months into a multi-year supply chain transformation to a fully integrated self-distribution model.”

“This project includes new distribution facilities, as well as an evolution in the way we manage procurement, leverage digital and work with suppliers. Here are our top three learnings from the challenges brought on by COVID-19:”

1. Omnichannel is the new imperative — Omnichannel is a significant driver of our supply chain, and must be structured to support multiple channels, shop styles, delivery speeds and more. Consumer preferences for e-commerce and online were already growing rapidly and COVID-19 accelerated this trend. We believe that the surge in grocery e-commerce is here to stay and we’re creating a supply chain that is nimble enough to support a common experience in stores, online and everywhere in between.

2. “Nimble” is not a buzz word — Our supply chain teams onboarded 1,100 new associates in a matter of weeks, stood up a rapid response team, instated temperature checking at all facilities and delivered 90% warehouse attendance. Together, we worked in new ways to deliver product, which spiked 100% overnight, maximizing network capacity. We need to continue to be open to evolving the ways we work — and changing them rapidly — as we continue to face unforeseen circumstances.

3. The formula for success is in the right blend of people and technology — We need the right blend of the hardworking people to move product through the system and we need to complement that with the right technologies that give us the tools and visibility to make smart forecasting decisions, replenish products adequately and transport to stores. As we transform our supply chain for the future, we’re putting innovative technologies in place like an integrated transportation management system and an end-to-end forecasting and replenishment system to leverage the best of people as well as technologies like automated routing and artificial intelligence.

Chris Lewis is the executive vice president of supply chain for Retail Business Services, the services company of Ahold Delhaize USA. Retail Business Services serves five leading grocery brands: Food Lion, Hannaford, The Giant Company, Giant Food and Stop & Shop.