Despite the global pandemic, Kane Logistics’ operations team has been in major start-up mode for the last year, with several new logistic operations coming on board. All facilities have started successfully and on schedule. But that success is due to more than just having a good project plan. If managing the start-up of a logistics operation is in your future – particularly during the pandemic – here are some keys to success.
Understand the context
While the practical objective of a start-up team might be “start up this operation by X date,” you also need to understand the broader business context for the new logistics or packaging operation.
- Is the supply chain being reconfigured to reduce inventory and get products to market faster?
- Does the manufacturer want to respond more quickly to retailer requests for custom packaging changes?
- Are B2C and B2B inventories being combined to create a leaner, more efficient omni-channel distribution model?
Knowing the business context ensures you can design the operation with the ultimate business goal in mind. It also allows you to offer up improvement ideas that move the company closer to its vision.
New logistics operations are part of a supply chain flow that touches other companies, other corporate functions, and the wider community. But too often companies take a siloed approach, failing to recognize the impact of these connections on the new operation. A more collaborative, holistic approach, on the other hand, builds in quality and efficiency from the very start.
For a new packaging operation, KANE worked closely with the customer’s Pack R&D group to develop product packaging that creates efficiencies on the assembly line (fast, easy assembly), meets retailer requirements (for instance, passing Walmart’s “ship test” requirements for carton durability), and is easy to open for end consumers.
COVID-19 has created a need to collaborate even with organizations outside the supply chain flow. For instance, over the last year we’ve forged close relationships with local health departments. That collaboration has led to faster, smarter implementations. A few examples:
- Through the exchange of photos and videos, we’ve received guidance on the proper set up of workstations and communal areas to ensure proper social distancing.
- As virus-suppression policies change regularly at the local and state level, we’ve gotten up-to-date advice to guide our internal policies.
- At the height of the pandemic, we received “essential worker” clearance letters to allow driving to work during lockdowns.
Until recently, if top officials at the local health department knew your business’s name, it probably wasn’t a good sign. Today that’s not the case. These organizations want to do all they can to help essential businesses continue to operate safely.
Embrace the new normal
COVID-19 is impacting just about every aspect of a new logistics operation. There’s no sense dwelling on preferred methods of hiring and training warehouse associates or evaluating and purchasing new equipment. There’s a new way of working that you need to embrace, not just tolerate. That means:
- Hiring for critical positions using Zoom or Facetime and not face-to-face interviews
- Completely rethinking normal scheduling patterns to promote social distancing, such as use of staggered start times and doubling the number of scheduled lunch periods for a single shift
- Viewing, and even selecting, critical packaging equipment using video demos instead of on-site inspection
These methods aren’t optimal, but they are now normal operating procedure.
Customer attitudes about starting up new logistics operations have changed since the pandemic. It’s no longer just about getting up and running as fast as possible. For customers, the priority is worker safety and business continuity – even if things may take a little longer.
In the current environment, when you take shortcuts on worker protection protocols (social distancing in the facility, equipment cleaning, PPE, temperature testing, etc.), you risk a virus outbreak that could halt or severely decrease throughput. Such events threaten business continuity. It’s simply not worth it. (Read our eBook for more information on safety in logistics operations.)
New Operations, New Approach
When starting up new logistics operations, it’s certainly critical to have a detailed project plan managed by superb project planners who let nothing fall through the cracks. But that’s just a starting point. Success in start-up implementation requires a thorough understanding of the company’s business goals. It requires a willingness, and even a drive, to collaborate with supply chain partners. And it requires an unflagging commitment to operate safely in order to protect associates and keep products flowing, uninterrupted.