Humble beginnings are the launching pads to great endings! Likewise, Saminda Deshapriya, who began his illustrious career journey as a Data Entry Operator at Ceylon Tea Brokers PLC, is now the Director/ Chief Operating Officer of the same organisation. He is also the Director/ Chief Executive Officer of Logicare Private Limited.

His never say die attitude and his untiring efforts saw him rise to the position of Director/COO in a very short span of Time. Today, Ceylon Tea Brokers is the second-largest tea broking company in Sri Lanka in terms of value and the first stand-alone Tea Broking Company to be listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange. In 2017, Ceylon Tea Brokers decided to diversify its revenue portfolio and move into Logistics. Saminda took over the challenge and became the Director/ CEO of Logicare Private Limited the logistics arm of the CTB Group, Logicare commenced its commercial operations during mid-June 2019 with the opening of its state-of-the-art warehousing complex. Today, with state-of-the-art infrastructure, modern equipment, cutting edge technology and a team of experts; Logicare is equipped as one of the best one-stop logistics & supply chain solutions providers in Sri Lanka.

Saminda also pursued his studies in Logistics & Supply chain management and Business Management, knowing that experience and education go hand in hand in achieving success in one’s chosen path. He is also a Member of the Association of Business Executives (MABE), UK, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), UK, and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Sri Lanka.

Explaining the current situation of the Logistics and Transport industry, he stated that the industry is currently confronting immense change which brings both risk and opportunity.

“Logistics companies facilitate trade and commerce and help businesses get their products to customers and play an integral part of global value chains. They connect manufacturers and retailers to the market by providing various services including warehousing, freight forwarding, multi- modal transportation, order fulfilment, value added services and last-mile delivery. 

“Increased price competition, new market entrants, new technologies, ever evolving customer expectations, new business models and also the impact of the current pandemic are the key disruptors to the industry at the moment.”

Furthermore, speaking about how the Logistics industry fared in the year 2020, Saminda said that it has been a year that created immense challenges, however, managed the situation well to keep the supply chain networks such as food and medicine up and running whilst adhering to all health and safety guidelines.

“2020 has been a year like no other for the logistics industry and created immense challenges for companies. Operational constraints due to strict control measures taken to reduce the further spread of COVID-19 lead to labour shortages, congestion, delivery delays, higher freight rates were some of the issues facing logistics companies during the pandemic. Warehouses, distribution and fulfilment centres had to adapt to the challenge and provide a safer, less congested work environment for employees due to the increased health and safety concerns. Logistics players who have already invested in automated warehouse processes and advanced software technology platforms and were less dependent on labour adopted this new normal quite fast compared to other service providers in the market.

“E-commerce sales recorded a rapid growth in 2020 as COVID-19 prevented shoppers from visiting retail locations to shop for essentials. This accelerated growth of e-commerce too created new challenges as well as opportunities for the industry as demand for online fulfillment and last-mile delivery services grew exponentially. Overall, it is important to note that the logistics industry in Sri Lanka as well as in the world responded to the crisis very well.”

Moreover, the industry expert mentioned that the pandemic has highlighted the need for resilience in supply chains to ensure products are available even if large and unexpected disruptions occur, and hence logistics service providers are now forced to provide more agile and resilient, yet cost effective solutions to their customers.

He continued: “Customer satisfaction is defined by speed and convenience more than anything else today. To meet strict time constraints, manufacturers and retailers are focusing on decentralizing their distribution and fulfillment networks to bring inventory closer to consumers, so they are positioned for quick response. Therefore, the logistics industry is now aggressively moving from large distribution centers to smart practices such as hub and spoke distribution network models whilst embracing smart logistics technologies such as dynamic route planning to reduce operating costs and speed up deliveries.

“Labour has been a critical element of any logistics operation over the years. However, with the advancements in technology some of the industry’s most labour-intensive processes are now fully or partially automated – from warehousing to last-mile delivery.”

On the topic of how technology is shaping the Logistics industry, Saminda stated, “Technology is changing every aspect of how the logistics industry operates. With the disruption of normal routines and standard business practices due to COVID-19, organizations are now looking for emerging digital technologies to ensure they’re better prepared for the future. Therefore, ‘Digital Fitness’ will be the key success factor to survive and thrive in the field of logistics. 

“It is important to note that advanced logistics technologies and automation capabilities were developed even before the pandemic. However, COVID-19 forced enterprises to accelerate their own digital journeys without further choice. It’s been a wakeup call for those who were focusing more on physical infrastructure over emerging technologies which can increase capacity utilization whilst optimising operational expenses.

“Traditionally, logistics companies only focused on a few technologies such as Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), Transport Management Systems (TMS) and Enterprise Resource Planning Systems (ERP) in isolation without considering the benefits of integrating many technologies together and creating enterprise-wide solutions. However, today the gamechangers are those who understand how to exploit a whole range of new technologies, from data analytics, artificial intelligence, automation to platform solutions. Since there are so many technologies on offer defining a clear digital strategy that’s integrated into one’s business strategy will be critical for logistics companies prior to investing in new technology.”

In conclusion, expressing his predictions for the future, the CEO divulged that although an economic revival is expected, its size, shape and timing still remains in question and is therefore important to make cost-efficient moves, fast. “However, companies across industries have a case to shift from cost-focused logistics functions to embrace more adaptive solutions for an uncertain decade ahead.

“More than any other industry, data and analytics will play an important role in the logistics industry. Logistics players can benefit from significantly improved forecasting via advanced data analytics to scale warehousing and transportation capacity up or down and plan optimal routes. 

“Automated distribution and fulfilment centres with advanced robotics will continue to emerge which will reduce the dependency on labour. Last-mile delivery would also make more use of automation, through innovations like autonomous vehicles or delivery drones which have already been tested in some of the countries. 

“More importantly, the ‘asset light’ digital business models which are often driven by start-ups would continue to disrupt the logistics and transport sector in next few years.”