How to Minimize the Coronavirus’ Supply Chain Disruption

The pandemic changed everything. That’s not news. While everyone has been scrambling to understand what the new “normal” is right now, the supply chain industry in particular has been upended. 

Regardless of the size of your business, we’re all constantly learning about different things that can be impactful (case in point: social distancing), including how goods travel from manufacturer to consumer, as well as how this can be disrupted. Everything is evolving. It’s changing at a pace that most of us can’t wrap our heads around. It’s just the nature of 2020, and so far, there’s no tangible end in sight. 

An inefficient, ineffective supply chain can be problematic and disruptive. An efficient, effective supply chain requires processes, technology, and people who work together responsively. The disruption caused by the coronavirus challenged every part of the supply chain industry, but partners are working with one another to keep the country moving forward. Every sector is working to streamline their processes to ensure that their goods are getting into consumer hands with as little disruption as possible. 

The challenges of an evolving supply chain 

What we consider essential to our lives looks different these days. We can’t access many of the things we took for granted, while some have taken on more importance while we practice social distancing. A couple of the biggest drivers of supply chain disruption are people ordering things online, along with a surge of buying in bulk at grocery stores.

Think about what we need right now. We’re grilling a fat ribeye or cooking burgers at the house. We’re scrubbing every surface. We’re not out spending money on the little things. We’re trying to keep the kids occupied for our sanity while looking forward to a Lonestar in the backyard at the end of the day. These require an effective supply chain.

All of these things have a life before they get to your hands. Companies, states, cities, and communities are testing the limits of what’s possible, along with how far each stage of the supply chain can be stretched. Case in point: the meat and toilet paper industries. 

Prior to this insanity, the supply chain moved at a comfortable pace. For example: bags of chips were made at the factory, they went on the line, and were put into a box. Next, that box went onto a pallet and was transported to a distribution center. Finally, the box would make it’s way to the supermarket to be unloaded, unpacked, and stocked on the shelves for you and me to buy.

Now, things like the corn used to make the chips might not be as accessible. Warehouse and distribution center teams are dealing with the virus. Huge brands like Kroger are buying their supplier’s milk just to donate it to food banks (as opposed to letting it go to waste), and some meat suppliers are struggling to keep up. The industry is most definitely not spinning on it’s normal axis.

Consider this: Amazon, the mother of all supply chain innovators, hit the pause button on taking any new grocery deliveries because they can’t handle the demand. 

This, along with other reasons, has forced other e-commerce players to fill in the gaps. E-commerce companies, along with 3PLs (third-party logistics) are scrambling to get products warehoused, distributed, and fulfilled. Companies have to create a path leading from raw materials—like milk or chemicals—to finished goods in our hands in as few steps as possible. And because the situation is evolving, this isn’t easy; companies need to be several steps ahead of the game. 

What can companies do right now to optimize their supply chain?

Think locally 

Who can help you get products from point A to point B? Goods may still be coming in from overseas, but utilizing what’s right here, right now, is the better option. Manufacturers should consider multiple channels to spread out their inventory in a way that enables it to get to its endpoint

Communication is key 

The story is changing by the hour. What we thought we knew about the virus is old news. We’re learning more, and our processes are becoming more streamlined, but it all starts with efficient communication. Talk to employees about organizational goals and what it’s going to take to see those goals executed. This is A1 critical. Schedule meetings at the beginning of each shift to lay out clear plans dedicated to problem-solving and making positive changes. If something needs to be addressed or changed, communicate the issue clearly. It all starts here.

Set standards 

There needs to be a method to the madness. While we’re all adjusting to things on the fly, there need to be clear standards set to keep the ship afloat. When there isn’t a standard to follow, errors happen. That’s money.

Focus on the reduction of variation in areas like: 

  • Facilities management
  • Shift scheduling
  • Receiving
  • Quality control
  • Shipping

Establishing quality standards keeps focus on the work, while maintaining movement of the product.

Understand what’s important 

It’s critical to keep the supply chain moving without hiccups. Continuous improvement to productivity is everything – getting products out and into the hands of the people is the goal. Focus on key performance metrics like: 

  • Safety
  • Service/On-Time Delivery
  • Inventory Accuracy/Turns
  • Productivity
  • Cost per Unit/Total Landed Cost
  • Product Damage/Claims
  • Customer Satisfaction

Empower your people 

What are your team’s strengths? Focus on their attributes, laser focus on what makes them great, and put them in positions to succeed. If someone is doing a fantastic job, give them every reason to thrive and champion their growth. They’ll only help the operation go smoother. The ultimate goal is to make the supply chain run at peak performance. If someone can pick shelves at lightning speed, there’s no reason to have them at a job that doesn’t utilize their skills. Plus, by recognizing their abilities, employees will hustle hard because they know their work is impactful.

It’s essential to train people from the start. It’s possible to improve productivity, slash costs, and improve customer satisfaction. By establishing a team-first point of view with a performance-based approach, employees, and management will improve their execution

Be flexible 

Because things are moving fast, trying to predict the future is next to impossible. Thankfully, businesses have a company like Adia in their back pocket to help hire temporary workers on demand to help accommodate fluctuations in the workload. Given the current market, if you don’t want to hire directly, this is a far less risky option for staffing that is malleable to your needs. You set the hours and the pay rate, and Adia handles all of the paperwork, including the W-2’s. Right now, it’s about expediency, and this is an excellent tool to keep in the kit.

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