The world is battling an unseen but a destructive enemy. The COVID-19 outbreak started in China in December 2019 but has spread to almost all countries around the world, with significant effects on various spheres of life, including business (Gates, 2020). The new coronavirus is highly infectious and is spreading like wildfire. As a result, many companies around the world have implemented measures aimed at curtailing the spreading of the disease, including lockdowns, close of business operations with other countries, social distancing, and “stay at home” policies. As a result, the changes have disrupted major business operations since some have closed down, others have laid off their employees, and others are operating below their optimum level due to the disruption caused by the virus (Lee, Chiew, & Khong, 2020). Among the most affected companies are those that rely on the global supply chain due to the closure of national borders and massive lockdowns. However, research remains limited on the actual effects of the pandemic on the supply chain of logistics companies, such as DHL.
DHL is a logistics company currently operating in more than 220 countries and territories around the world. It is the world’s leading logistics company, especially in sea and air mail, and delivers more than 1.3 billion parcels yearly. DHL was established in the United States in 1969, and has been delivering parcels locally and later internationally. The management was especially interested in offshore and intercontinental deliveries, and its current international services include the delivery of parcels and goods to the countries in which it operates. Consequently, its global supply chain is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic because of the logistical challenges within the company and closure of some firms that it partners with across the supply chain. Considering its huge role in the logistics industry and the disruption of its supply chain, DHL is the ideal company for research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global supply chain.
Statement of the problem
The COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique challenge for many businesses because of the disruptions resulting from the measures taken to control the spread, such as social distancing, lockdowns, and closing of national borders. One of the issues affecting companies is the impact of the pandemic on the global supply chain. Hopman, Allegranzi, and Mehtar (2020) suggest that firms that rely heavily on the SC have faced a myriad of challenges since they cannot operate optimally amid the crisis. DHL is one such global logistics company and is facing the detrimental effect of the disruptions caused by the pandemic. The firm has been receiving goods beyond its warehouse capacity due to administrative issues and business closures. The crisis has led to goods being placed in compromised status and delays of delivery of essential goods, such as medical supplies to front line workers (Livingston, Desai, & Berkwits, 2020). Considering the potential of the epidemic to last for years, research is warranted to understand the actual short- and long-term effects of DHL’s supply chain and business performance.
Objectives and Significance of the Study
Business research plays a critical role in answering questions that affect stakeholders in companies by collecting and analyzing data to achieve specific objectives. The current study aims to establish the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on DHL and its global supply chain. Therefore, the study will achieve the following objectives:
- To establish the short-term effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on DHL’s global supply chain
- To establish the long term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on DHL’s global supply chain
- To find out the overall short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on DHL’s global supply chain
The findings of the study will have significant implications on the company’s management and other businesses operating within the global supply chain in their attempts to overcome the negative effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations. They will use the findings to create short- and long-term strategies to mitigate the impact and prevent greater crises as attempts to control the new coronavirus continue around the world. Clearly, the business world should find effective approaches to operate amid the new challenges emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, business studies will provide them with some of the critical answers they require to survive in the short- and long-term.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a new crisis in the world of business; hence, not much research has been conducted on its actual effects on businesses, including the global supply chain. Besides, since the real impact of the pandemic has started, during the first quarter of 2020, companies have just begun to experience the negative outcome of the policies created to curtail its spread. However, the scholarly community has moved with speed to provide critical findings regarding the early effects of the measures that governments around the world have instituted to control the spreading of the highly contagious new coronavirus. Clearly, recent literature indicates that, although the effects are different, they are being felt across many industries and companies, especially those with a global supply chain, such as DHL. Thus, a focus on the real impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on DHL and similar firms in the logistics industry could provide policy-makers with adequate data to improve decision-making and mitigate the negative impact on the crisis.
Although businesses operating in the global supply chain experience numerous challenges, none, in the recent past, has had a greater effect than the COVID-19 pandemic. The first case of the new coronavirus was experienced in China in December 2019, but the virus has spread to almost every country around the world (Gates, 2020). The trail of the new virus has left behind serious disruptions in various aspects of life, including business. Lee, Chiew, and Khong (2020) affirm that companies in different sectors have experienced significant effects of the government-mandated measures to control the spread of the virus across the world. The author further states that firms are operating below their optimum level because of the business disruptions caused by the policies, such as lockdowns and social distancing. Companies with a global supply chain have especially faced complicated effects of the pandemic because of the disruption in the SC and businesses operating within it.
Logistics companies, such as DHL, have experienced significant disruptions following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, whose impact is experienced around the world. The company is experiencing logistical challenges, warehousing issues, and a general disruption of the global supply chain (Szymkowiak, Kulawik, Jeganathan, & Guzik, 2020). For instance, warehouses are full beyond their optimal capacity due to the reduction of their outflows. Such companies are unable to supply goods to other companies because of logistical issues and closure of businesses following the government-mandated measures to curtail the spreading of the disease, such as lockdowns, closure of national borders, and social distancing. DHL faces the challenges of receiving goods at their warehouses without a sufficient outflow because the receiving firms are no longer operating the normal business (Li & Li, 2020). As a result, the company is experiencing significant losses of business and also experiencing challenges in the delivery of essential goods, such as medical supply to front line workers.
The logistical challenge caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could have short- and long-term effects on the logistics company because of the supply chain disruptions. Barua (2020) suggests that cargo has been arriving at the port, but cannot be stored optimally because the warehouses are full and beyond the capacity to receive more goods. Therefore, firms, such as DHL are experiencing short-term effects, such as logistical and administrative issues, including loss and misplacement of goods due to the overwhelming challenges at their warehouses. Furthermore, the company might experience worse problems as measures, such as lockdown, persists across the world (Hopman, Allegranzi, & Mehtar, 2020). In the long-term, the financial loss for companies operating the global supply chains is vast due to the disruption of their business operations. Unfortunately, the effects of the crisis could go on for years because it could take time for countries to achieve full economic recovery. Besides, it might take more than one year for the companies to recover from the disruptions in their supply chains.
Although the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is already underway, research remains inadequate to provide a clear picture of the short- and long-term effects of the crisis on the global supply chain and companies that depend on it for their financial performance, such as DHL. The results of the pandemic are underway, and the scholarly community is engaged in concerted research efforts to answer many of the pressing questions regarding the outcome of the pandemic and the destruction of the policies created by the international community to curtail the spread of the highly contagious disease. Thus, research on the real-life effects of the pandemic is limited. The current study will play an important role in filling some of the gaps in the current research on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the business community.
The study will be a qualitative case study to establish the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on DHL’s global supply chain. The researcher will collect data in the form of narratives to get a detailed understanding of the impact of the new crisis on the company’s operations and its global supply chain. Thus, the study will be conducted at DHL Columbia, focusing on the firm’s warehouse since they are critical features of its supply chain. The research identifies the importance of information obtained from the setting in answering the research questions to establish the effect of the new coronavirus on the company’s global supply chain.
The management and employees of DHL working at the warehouse will be the study population since they have an adequate understanding of the current operations of the setting and changes that have occurred in the wake of the pandemic. The study will use a purposive sampling method to obtain a sample of five employees (two managers and three subordinates) to respond to the interview questions. The researcher will conduct the study at the warehouse for two reasons. One, it is the respondents’ natural setting and practical in conducting qualitative research. Two, the consideration is necessary to prevent any distraction from the respondents’ daily activities.
The researcher will collect data from the five respondents through in-depth face-to-face interviews conducted at the warehouse. Therefore, an interview schedule will be prepared beforehand and tested in a pilot study to make necessary corrections. The research will use the research tool to ask questions related to the research objectives. All responses from the participants will be recorded through an audio-recorder for analysis. A thematic content analysis will be used to analyze the data. The beginning step in the process will be a transcription, which is listening to the responses on the audio-recorder and writing down on paper or word processor. The researcher will use the content to identify common themes that will be used in the presentation of the findings.
Various ethical considerations will inform the study at the DHL’s warehouse. First, all the participants will sign an informed consent to participate in the study, which indicates that they understand the purpose and are voluntarily agreeing to provide data. Secondly, the researcher will ensure confidentiality and privacy by using all information provided for the study. Thirdly, anonymity will be achieved by avoiding any identifying information, such as names. All respondents will be assigned a code for data analysis and presentation. The researcher will write a detailed report of the findings of the study.
Barua, S. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic and world trade: Some analytical notes. MPRA Paper No. 99761
Gates, B. (2020). Responding to Covid-19—a once-in-a-century pandemic?. New England Journal of Medicine, 382(18), 1677-1679.
Hopman, J., Allegranzi, B., & Mehtar, S. (2020). Managing COVID-19 in low-and middle-income countries. Jama, 323(16), 1549-1550.
Lee, V. J., Chiew, C. J., & Khong, W. X. (2020). Interrupting transmission of COVID-19: lessons from containment efforts in Singapore. Journal of Travel Medicine, 27(3), taaa039.
Li, K. J., & Li, X. (2020). COVID-19 Pandemic: Social Distancing, Public Policy, and Market Response. Public Policy, and Market Response. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3593813
Livingston, E., Desai, A., & Berkwits, M. (2020). Sourcing personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jama.
Szymkowiak, A., Kulawik, P., Jeganathan, K., & Guzik, P. (2020). In-store epidemic behavior: scale development and validation. arXiv preprint arXiv:2005.02764.