During a recent meeting with KANE associates, our long-time business partner, Sam’s Club, reminded the team that they were “the backbone of this economy right now.”
It was a heartfelt comment that cut right to the heart of the matter – without logistics workers, the supply lines for essential goods like food and household staples stop flowing and commerce grinds to a halt.
Things are pretty tough these days, but they could be a lot worse.
There’s no telecommuting for a logistics workforce, whether it’s at the docks, in warehouses or in trucks. They’re on the front lines with police and firefighters, medical professionals and public utility workers helping to stabilize daily life at a very unstable time.
So, in a world where pandemic exposure may be a “new normal,” how do we ensure the protection of these essential workers so they can keep products flowing?
Will 3PLs need to be experts not only in logistics, but also in logistics workforce protection?
The new normal through history
Today, we accept long security lines at airports as a given; but rigorous screening was a post-9/11 phenomenon.
If you go to a professional baseball game, you expect to pass through a metal detector or be wanded at the entrance; but this only became mandatory in 2015 in response to bomb threats.
Well, get ready for a new normal when it comes to Pandemic preparedness. And part of this will be protecting the uninterrupted flow of goods and making sure there’s a professional and trained logistics workforce to make that happen.
In the future, logistics workforce management will have a new twist. In addition to hiring and training, 3PLs will need stepped up procedures to keep associates safe and ensure they are available to do the work.
Chances are these efforts may look a lot like what’s going on right now at KANE facilities nationwide:
- Overcommunicating universal precautions and what we know about COVID-19.
- Communicating the action plans we are taking to reduce risks and provide a safe workplace. This includes reinforcing hygiene best practices,
- Expanding the availability of hand sanitizer throughout our operations and increasing the frequency of cleanliness practices for high-touch areas. One associate cleans high-touch areas every hour throughout the DC.
- Establishing new cleaning stations so associates can wipe MHE and RF equipment four times per shift.
- Cleaning of breakrooms, restrooms, time clocks, entry way, door handles, guard rails and offices at least four times a shift.
- Modifying break times and lunch times to limit the number of associates in the breakroom at any one time.
- Announcing daily meetings on the intercom to limit groups of associates.
- Working with consignees to have shipment documentation shared digitally, so our drivers can remain secure in their cabs, avoiding unnecessary interaction.
- Providing wipes and hand sanitizers to each tractor.
- Reinforcing healthcare benefits to our associates (access, assistance programs, telemedicine) via email, e-boards, and daily meetings.
Life is a struggle these days. But we’re adjusting.
We’ve stopped commuting to work, stopped going to school, stopped congregating…
But one thing we haven’t stopped doing is eating and consuming basic household staples. Thankfully, with some exceptions, goods are on the shelves for you and me when we go to the store.
Let’s not take this for granted. Because, remember, that ability requires a dedicated logistics workforce to distribute the goods and retail workers to stock the shelves. People who leave their homes and risk infection, while most others are being told: “stay home, stay safe.”
It’s logistics work. It’s retail work. Right now, it’s the work of heroes.
There’s a TV commercial from Sam’s Club that captures this sentiment nicely. You can view the commercial as part of this AdAge article.
Keep Safety First
At various times, we’ve read that the future of logistics will be about visibility... collaboration... automation... artificial intelligence… blockchain...
Well, here’s another prediction: The future of logistics will be about SAFETY.
But don’t expect that prediction to be short-lived. A new normal will emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and one of the biggest changes we will see is around logistics workforce protection – making sure our drivers, our warehouse personnel, and our planners are available to do their vital work. Our economy is reeling right now, but they are its backbone.
It’s ironic. For a very long time, the first tenet of the 5-item KANE Code has been “Keep safety first.”
Maybe we’ve been on the right track all along.