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By Rajali Maharjan Rajali Maharjan Scilit Preprints.org Google Scholar 1, * and Hironori Kato Hironori Kato Scilit Preprints.org Google Scholar 2
Received: 9 February 2023 / Revised: 29 March 2023 / Accepted: 13 April 2023 / Published: 4 May 2023
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Background: Improving the resilience of global supply chains has become a growing priority in response to recent natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: This article presents results of semi-structured interviews with five Japanese companies conducted between November 2020 and February 2021 to examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on different aspects of logistics and supply chain activities and resilience strategies implemented. The interviews focused on companies’ financial performance and the status of preparedness, response and future plans from the perspective of logistics and supply chain resilience. Through interviews, we also investigated whether existing logistics and supply chain resilience strategies helped the companies to avoid, cope with, respond to or recover from the effects of the pandemic. Results: The results indicated that the interviewed companies experienced both positive and negative effects of the pandemic on their logistics and supply chain activities and experienced negative effects mainly on their financial performance. Conclusions: A certain level of preparedness was observed; however, the levels of resilience preparedness, response and future plans varied among companies with different attributes, such as industry type and organization size.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented stress on logistics and supply chain activities and presented many pressing challenges for industries worldwide. The pipelines of global supply chains, which span from the supply of raw materials to the delivery of products, have been strongly affected by the pandemic, and disruptions have been observed in all supply chain phases . International logistics for sea, air and land routes have experienced delays, delays, cancellations and obstructions due to large-scale travel restrictions and the closure of borders . Bottlenecks in transportation and logistics disrupted the movement of materials and products along the supply chain. In addition, the pandemic caused disruptions in supply and demand on global and local scales . In a survey of 1000 companies in different parts of the world conducted by the Capgemini Research Institute from August to September 2020, >80% of the organizations reported that their supply chains were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a vast majority struggling. across all aspects of their operations . The pandemic has forced organizations to prioritize supply chain resilience, with two-thirds stating that their supply chain strategy will need to change significantly to adapt to the “new normal”. As such, many organizations are now realizing the strategic importance of resilient investments.
Many studies have indicated that supply chain resilience, or the ability of a supply chain to respond quickly to disruptions, is one of its most important challenges [ 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 ]. Given the widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the adoption of logistics and supply chain resilience strategies is critical to ensure that companies can avoid, respond to, and recover from disruptions. It has been pointed out  that strengthening supply chain resilience is the key driver for reducing vulnerability during times of disruption. Thus, there is a growing need for companies to build resilient supply chains .
The resilience of logistics and supply chains can be improved through the implementation of strategies that target both the nodes and links of the supply chain, which we call logistics and supply chain resilience strategies (SCRESTs). Figure 1 illustrates the typical structure of a supply chain network. A supply chain consists of nodes (i.e., suppliers, production/production centers, and facilities such as logistics centers, distribution centers, warehouses, and customers) connected to different links. When a node or link in the network is disrupted by even a small event, it can have major consequences for the entire network. A failure in a node or link can potentially stop the flow of materials through the network. Disruptions arising from natural disasters, man-made disasters, pandemics, epidemics, government regulations, etc., can affect the nodes and/or links of the logistics and supply chain network, necessitating the implementation of appropriate resilience strategies.
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Resilience strategies are adopted to avoid, cope with and recover from disruptions in supply chain networks. Supply chain resilience strategies are important because they enable effective and efficient responses . To improve the resilience of supply chains, researchers have proposed strategies such as redundancy in inventory, additional production capacity, diversification of suppliers and making supply chains shorter, more domestic and more diversified [1, 10, 11]. However, Miroudot  argues that before restructuring global supply chains, it is necessary to identify the problems faced by companies during crises and the policies that can solve them. Miroudot  also reported that many proposed solutions tend to be disconnected from the conclusions of supply chain literature (eg, reconstruction does not lead to resilience) and insisted that the insights of international trade and global value chain researchers can contribute to the development of better solutions.
In this context, the objectives of this study were (1) to analyze the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on logistics and supply chain activities and financial performance of firms through a case study of five Japanese companies; (2) identify the current status of resilience preparedness, response and future plans from the perspective of logistics and supply chain for the different Japanese companies; and (3) determine whether the existing logistics and supply chain resilience measures implemented by the interviewed companies helped to avoid, cope with, respond to or recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. To the best of our knowledge, no empirical study to date has addressed all the issues examined in this study.
The rest of this article is organized as follows. Section 2 presents a literature review. Section 3 describes the research methodology. The results are reported and discussed in Section 4 and Section 5, respectively. Section 6 explains the policy implications. Finally, Section 5 concludes the paper.
In this section, we summarize previous studies on the effects of COVID-19 on the logistics and supply chain activities of Japanese companies, the status of SCRESTs implementation and the benefits associated with its implementation.
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Among the various effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Japanese logistics sector are disruptions in the maritime, air and land transport sectors, which have been affected mainly by measures to prevent the spread of the virus. For example, sea transportation was affected by the suspension of services in some ports, air transportation by the decrease in the number of passenger air service operations, and land transportation by the blocking of roads and railway tracks . These virus-spread prevention measures had a significant negative impact on economic activity and could seriously affect the quality of life in Japan. It should be noted that sea transportation accounts for 99.7% of Japan’s international trade total, air transportation 40% of trade revenue, and land transportation and warehousing together for nearly 80% of Japan’s total logistics costs. In addition, due to differences in the characteristics and functions of these transport modes, there is a limitation to the substitutability of each logistics route .
Regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on logistics facilities, CBRE’s Japan Logistics Occupier Survey asked respondents (companies using logistics facilities in Japan) a series of questions to assess the short, medium, and long-term impacts of the COVID- 19. 19 pandemic on logistics demand in March 2020 . Short-term impacts such as a shortage of warehouses and delivery workers were reported, and 405 respondents reported increases in cargo and delivery volumes. Regarding the medium-to-long-term effects of the pandemic on businesses, 30% of respondents from 361 companies mentioned additional inventory for unexpected situations, and 17% mentioned accelerated automation of warehouse operations. In addition, a survey conducted by the Japan Chamber of Commerce and JETRO’s overseas offices in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and the United States from April to July 2020 revealed that
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