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7 Simple Ways to Boost Morale Among Supply Chain Professionals

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7 Simple Ways to Boost Morale Among Supply Chain Professionals

Every workplace deals with people feeling burnt out or like their work doesn’t matter. When morale is low, employers must implement tactics to raise their employees’ moods.

If a leader shows they value their workers, employees will feel more welcomed and important — and their work ethic can reflect that notion. Supply chain professionals can try various techniques to ensure their employees know just how valued they are.

1. Listen to Feedback

To show staff they care, employers should try listening to all the feedback they receive. This evaluation will tell them whether they need to change something and how to do it. Executives can cultivate a community-type atmosphere where communication is encouraged and welcomed, even between peers.

The best way for peers to give one another feedback is for someone to teach them what quality dialogue looks like. Putting together a string of constructive comments is the best way to have a positive experience rather than a negative, destructive one. Employers can create a more caring environment by welcoming input as a part of workplace culture.

2. Support Employees Wholeheartedly

The greatest leaders want the best for their workers. It can be challenging to know what people need from time to time, so an excellent measure an employer can take is to support their staff wholeheartedly. By knowing their executive is in their corner, employees may be more likely to do a better job at work and take what they do seriously.

Sometimes, work can drag a person’s mental health down, which can then affect their physical health. Supply chain professionals should consider hosting monthly check-ins to see where their employees’ or contractors’ brains are. Having regular check-ins will normalize the topic of mental health in the workplace and help employees feel like they have somewhere to go when they’re in crisis.

Leaders should also prepare protocols for any instances where an employee has a mental health crisis. Executives should liberally share mental health resources around the workplace so anyone who needs help can access them. When an employer cares about their staff’s mental health, it shows how they run a business.

3. Opt for Flex Work

Flexible work is an excellent alternative to rigid work hours. As long as a company has plenty of work to be done at different hours, letting employees come in at staggered times according to what works best with their schedule would be a great idea. Doing so would allow workers with children to take their kids to school or pick them up in the afternoon. It would also enable them to care for or check in on loved ones.

Plus, some people work better earlier in the morning, while others are better suited to work evenings and nights. The time they’re most productive may not always fit with their schedule. If employees could choose their schedules more easily, they may be more likely to enjoy the place they’re working for.

4. Build a Trustworthy Company Culture

Company culture is everything to the people who work there. Executives want to make sure the environment is friendly and welcoming to everyone and work is a comfortable place to be rather than one that brings unnecessary stress. Employees who feel they can trust their coworkers could be more likely to get along with each other and enjoy the company culture their employer has fostered.

According to Glassdoor’s 2019 Mission & Culture Survey, more than 77% of adults in the U.S., UK, France and Germany said they would consider a company’s culture before they applied to work there. How a company is run and how tightly-knit the community is could determine whether people want to join the team. A close team can talk about their successes and setbacks together without fear.

5. Recognize Hard Work

Even when employers can’t give their workers a raise, they can still acknowledge all the hard work they’ve done. Recognition of good employee behavior can motivate those people to do better in the future and encourage others to emulate their actions. Nominating an “Employee of the Month” might be one way for employers to show appreciation for those who go above and beyond in their workplace.

Another way for supply chain executives to show they appreciate their employees could be by setting stretch goals. When everyone in a team reaches a particular quota — such as a productivity score or number of hours — they can have some reward. Implementing non-monetary prizes are still ways to get employees involved in the fun that work can be.

6. Advocate for Work-Life Balance

Employees can’t be expected to carry work with them throughout their lives. They have other responsibilities and worries — such as maintaining a fitness routine or taking care of a household — so they shouldn’t have to dedicate most of their lives to work. The employer who understands employees need a stable work-life balance may retain more workers in the long run.

Work-life balance is hard to attain for many people. Leaders should encourage workers to communicate when they feel overwhelmed or have difficulty separating their personal and professional lives. Employers should constantly look for ways to make their employees feel more comfortable in the workplace. This way, they can look to work as a space where they can expect less stress rather than a place that adds more of it to their lives.

7. Get Together Regularly

All teams should try to get together regularly, whether they’re in-person or remote. Executives can try to host a get-together outside of work hours. They might opt for a virtual happy hour where employees can see one another on their screens or they could get together for team-building exercises.

Regular meetings can help staff feel like they belong to a team. Employees can feel free to share their weekly highs and lows at this meeting, whether about work or their personal lives. Employers can also organize team-building activities and other games their workers could enjoy together.

Boosting Morale Shows Kindness

Everybody wants to work for a company they know cares about them. When employers ensure their employees are comfortable, the staff could do a better job. Boosted morale might be as simple as making workers feel valued.

When people know they’re important, they may be more likely to do their jobs more efficiently and boost their productivity. Professionals are professionals for a reason — they just have to have the right working environment to perform to their best ability.

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Ensuring the Productivity of Remote Supply Chain Employees: 8 Strategies

Supply chain workforces are changing. This sector is leaning increasingly towards remote work like many others, letting more people work from home (WFH) and even hiring people across borders. While this shift has many advantages, managing remote productivity may challenge some organizations.

While WFH employees say they’re about 9% more productive at home than in the office, some encounter more issues. Helping workers reach their peak productivity looks different in remote environments than in-person ones. With that in mind, here are eight ways supply chain companies can ensure their remote employees remain productive.

1. Hire People Who Fit Remote Work Well

Ensuring remote productivity begins before people even start in their roles. If businesses want to make the most of a remote workforce, they must first look for candidates who work well in these environments.

Not every person is ideally suited for remote work. More than 60% of American workers who can work from home but choose not to say they do so because they feel more productive in the office. Supply chains must ensure they don’t place these workers in remote positions if they hope to maximize their productivity.

Companies should look for characteristics like self-motivation and strong communication skills in remote position candidates. Questions about applicants’ previous remote work experience, independence and deadline management can also help find ideal work-from-home candidates.

2. Communicate Thoroughly and Often

Communication is another critical consideration for boosting remote productivity. Without regular communication, staff may become distracted, feel isolated or lose track of upcoming major and minor deadlines. By contrast, consistent check-ins and meetings can help remote employees keep work at the top of their minds and remain engaged.

This communication should be both frequent and in-depth. If remote workers don’t understand what managers expect, they’ll struggle to stay engaged. To combat this, higher-ups should be as informative as possible when talking with their remote workforce. Encouraging these workers to ask questions can also help, as two-way communication will provide the most assistance for everyone involved.

3. Use Multiple Communication Channels

As supply chain managers communicate with their remote workers, they must remember to switch between different channels. Modern technology provides many remote communication options, each with unique advantages and downsides.

Video conferencing is the most engaging form of remote communication, but it shouldn’t be the only tool companies use. Nearly half of all professionals report high feelings of burnout from frequent virtual meetings — a phenomenon known as “Zoom fatigue.” Switching between communication channels will help avoid this, ensuring higher productivity.

Zoom and similar tools are ideal for regular check-ups and more in-depth meetings but not daily use. Email can suffice for more mundane, repetitive communication, while instant messaging is perfect for time-sensitive but simple requests.

4. Establish Routines

Flexibility is one of the primary draws of working from home. However, too much freedom in an employee’s working schedule can make it harder to stay engaged. While offering schedule flexibility is necessary, supply chain businesses should also establish some amount of routine to keep remote workers on track.

Putting parameters on remote work hours — such as giving an acceptable range of when workers can start and stop — is an excellent first step. Similarly, leaders can have virtual office hours that remain unchanged so the staff knows when they can contact them. Regular meetings and check-ins can also help establish routines.

5. Help Employees Build Their Home Offices

Another common productivity killer for remote workers is a lack of boundaries between their work and home life. It can be challenging to stay engaged in work when employees don’t feel like they’re in a work environment. The solution is to create a dedicated home workspace and organizations can help.

Remote workers can convert their garage into an office with the right tools. Converting a garage has a broad spectrum of benefits, including: 

  • Fewer distractions
  • Added home value 
  • Easy personalization 

Employers can provide the necessary equipment — like lights, computer monitors or office chairs — to help them create these workspaces. By easing the financial burden of building a home office, businesses make it easier to remain productive at home.

6. Provide Emotional Support

It’s also important not to overlook the impact remote work may have on workers’ mental health. While many remote workers enjoy the flexibility and improved work/life balance, many also find it isolating. That can make it hard to remain engaged, but now more online options exist to meet new people.

Regular check-ups are an ideal time to help provide the emotional support employees may need. Managers should be upbeat and friendly and avoid only talking about work on these calls. Asking workers how they’re doing and if they need anything to be more comfortable can go a long way.

Companies should also consider providing staff access to resources that could help them. That could include articles about managing remote work, self-care tips and tools, discussion groups or similar options.

7. Host Remote Social Events

As part of that support, supply chain organizations should host virtual non-work events, too. Social events are an excellent way to break up the monotony of a job and boost engagement in any working environment — remote work is no outlier. While these activities may look different than in-person ones, they can provide the same relief.

Casual video conferencing meetups are an excellent option. Companies can host virtual happy hours, play online games or do virtual teambuilding activities over the same platforms they use for work calls. It’s also essential to encourage employees to talk to each other and build stronger work relationships during these events to help boost productivity.

8. Measure and Reward Productivity

Supply chain businesses should set up systems to measure remote productivity. Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) and implementing tools to measure them can help reveal where the company falls short, providing a path toward improvement.

Thankfully, tracking remote productivity and time management has never been easier. The time-tracking software market is booming and could exceed $1.9 trillion by 2030, so plenty of tools are available to measure these KPIs.

Employers should also reward remote workers who meet and exceed goals based on these KPIs. Rewarding high productivity with cash bonuses or other incentives will help encourage increased engagement.

Follow These Steps to Maximize Remote Productivity

If supply chain organizations know how to manage them correctly, remote workers can be just as — if not more — productive than an in-person workforce. Following these steps will help employers and managers ensure their workers reach their full potential, regardless of where they are.

As working from home becomes more common, these steps will become increasingly important. Learning to maintain high productivity among remote workers now will help supply chains excel in the future.

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8 New Digital Technologies That Are Transforming Supply Chain Operations

Digitization has thoroughly improved sector after sector and the supply chain industry is next. As the backbone of many other industries, supply chain operations have much to gain from new digital tools, but they’ve lagged in this trend.

Increasing efficiency and reducing costs are the top priorities for 63% and 59% of supply chain leaders, respectively. However, the changes that can produce those ends — like manufacturing digitization and digital upskilling — get less attention. That’s starting to change as more organizations realize the potential of these technologies.

Implementing new digital technologies can help supply chains attain their goals now and in the future. Here’s a look at eight innovations changing the industry.

1. IoT Tracking Solutions

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the essential technologies to enter supply chains in recent years. These wireless, interconnected devices offer remote access to critical functions and real-time information. In supply chain operations, that means in-depth shipment tracking.

IoT tracking solutions can transmit locations in real-time, as well as shipment quality factors like temperatures and vibrations. When these fall outside acceptable parameters, the devices can alert relevant workers and stakeholders. They can then adjust operations as necessary to deliver sensitive shipments earlier and prevent spoilage.

This transparency can also help improve client-vendor relationships and establish trust with drivers. These benefits have made the IoT one of the most popular digital technologies for supply chains, with 56% of industry leaders planning to invest in it.

2. Remote Collaboration Platforms

Supply chains are complex interconnected networks involving multiple stakeholders. As a result, clear and efficient communication is crucial to success in the industry. Digital collaboration platforms provide the tools supply chain organizations need to maintain that level of communication.

Remote collaboration software is similar to ERP and WMS in that it uses the cloud to provide a single, consolidated point to manage multiple processes. That simplification is critical for communicating across departments and locations. Real-world case studies back this up, with some organizations seeing an increase in productivity after streamlining their workflow and reducing data silos.

Digital collaboration tools let supply chains act as a more cohesive unit. As disruptions continue, this quick and informed communication will become increasingly crucial, enabling faster, more effective responses.

3. Machine Learning

Another new digital technology that could revolutionize supply chain operations is machine learning. This subset of artificial intelligence is skilled at recognizing patterns and their causes to improve over time. Consequently, it’s an ideal resource as supply chains strive to become more flexible and resilient.

Machine learning can suggest practical process optimization steps in virtually any supply chain operation. Predictive analytics — which can predict incoming changes like demand shifts or logistics disruptions — are some of the most helpful. With these reliable future insights, supply chains can adjust to minimize these changes’ impact before they occur.

4. Enterprise Resource Planning Software

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions will also likely play an increasing role in supply chain operations. These software platforms integrate multiple core business processes into a single solution. That way, stakeholders across departments can access the information they need and understand procedures quickly and effectively.

In addition to bringing typically separate processes together, ERP often includes automation features to streamline management further. ERP’s insight and efficiency have helped some companies improve productivity by 30% and reduce inventory by 20%. When supply chain leaders don’t have to switch between multiple platforms continually, they can better grasp operations and make more effective strategic decisions.

5. Warehouse Management Systems

A similar digital technology with significant potential in supply chains is the warehouse management system (WMS). WMS solutions offer a digital, highly automated alternative to traditional inventory management systems. They provide a single access point to view and control inventory tracking, picking, shipping and related processes.

Conventional manual approaches to warehouse management are inefficient and prone to error. In some sectors, inventory accuracy can drop below 60% because of these limitations. WMS provides a solution by capitalizing on real-time data tracking and automation.

WMS’s increased accuracy and efficiency make it easier to adapt to incoming supply chain disruptions. As more organizations implement these systems, product shortages, delays and similar errors will become less common.

6. Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) is another essential time-saving tool for supply chains. Managing a supply chain typically involves many repetitive administrative tasks like scheduling, billing and data entry. While these are crucial to successful operations, humans aren’t ideal for the job, as they tend to be slow and make errors in this kind of work.

Instead, RPA tools automate software-based tasks just as physical robots automate manual labor. Delegating this repetitive, date-heavy work helps streamline administrative processes while reducing errors.

As technology improves, automation will come to more processes like driving to reduce the strain on truck drivers and similar challenges. Until that happens, supply chains can use RPA to free workers’ schedules and help them reach peak productivity.

7. On-Demand Warehousing

One newer digital supply chain trend is on-demand warehousing. In this practice, digital platforms give organizations access to unused or underutilized facilities to rent out for short-term adjustments or demand fluctuations. Businesses with excess capacity can use them to connect with clients to make the most of their assets, as those with limited space avoid delays.

Warehouse space has become an increasingly in-demand commodity, leading to high prices and limited expansion. On-demand warehousing helps mitigate the issue, democratizing available space and helping organizations minimize losses on both sides of the equation.

8. Blockchain

Another emerging technology with considerable potential for supply chains is blockchain. These are decentralized digital ledgers with open, transparent and unchangeable records. While the technology initially served as the underlying platform for cryptocurrencies, it can improve visibility throughout the supply chain, too.

Because blockchain records are immutable but easily accessible, they’re ideal tools for establishing trust and traceability throughout the supply chain. This transparency can help attract potential partners, meet regulatory requirements or reduce issues like counterfeiting.

While the use of blockchain technology in supply chains is a new practice, real-world use cases already exist. Two British hospitals used blockchains to track vaccine shipments at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the technology grows, it could bring the same benefits to other products.

Digital Transformation Is Reshaping Supply Chains

These eight technologies are just a sampling of the emerging digital tools that can improve supply chain operations. As more organizations realize their potential, innovations like this will shake up the industry.

Digital transformation in supply chains may fall behind other industries, but that trend is changing. These digital technologies can help supply chain businesses meet and exceed their most critical goals, becoming more efficient, transparent and flexible. Over time, digital transformation could help the industry overcome its reputation for disruptions and delays.

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How Common Is Substance Abuse Among Supply Chain Employees?

Optimizing supply chain operations requires attention to the workforce’s behavioral trends and issues. Organizations must keep their employees safe, healthy and motivated to protect them and help them reach their full potential, which may involve facing some uncomfortable realities. Understanding substance abuse rates in the industry is an important part of that goal.

Substance abuse can endanger employees, hinder productivity and harm workplace relationships. It may also be a more prevalent problem than many organizations realize. Many companies’ measures to control or understand it aren’t sufficient, and it can be easy to gloss over and assume workers are behaving safely.

Addressing this issue is essential, and that begins with understanding the size of the problem at hand. So, how common is substance abuse among supply chain employees, and how can employers reduce it?

Substance Abuse Rates Among Supply Chain Employees

Some of the most oft-cited data on this issue comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). According to its 2015 report, on average, 9.5% of all workers depended on or abused alcohol or illicit drugs within any given year. While the transportation and warehousing sector fell below that average at 9.1%, that’s still a considerable problem.

It’s also important to consider that data in context. The SAMHSA study came out in 2015, and trends have since shifted. A more recent report found that drug use in transportation and warehousing increased by 21.4% between 2015 and 2017, more than any other industry.

Figures like 9.1% of the workforce may also seem relatively small at first, but consider the size of that workforce. In an industry as large as this one, any percentage of employees represents a considerable number of people.

The U.S. supply chain accounts for 37% of all jobs, employing 44 million people. Consequently, that 9.1% adds up to more than 4 million workers, and given how rates have risen since the SAMHSA report, that figure is likely higher today. All this data points to the same conclusion: substance abuse is a considerable problem among supply chain employees.

The Dangers of Substance Abuse in Supply Chains

Any amount of substance abuse can negatively affect supply chain operations, too. Most importantly, it can endanger the lives of employees and those around them. Alcohol alone plays a role in 40% of motor vehicle crashes, so substance abuse among drivers or forklift operators increases the risks of a potentially fatal collision.

Substance abuse can affect people’s performance in any job, but that performance drop can be hazardous with as much heavy machinery as supply chain operations. Workers still feeling the effects of alcohol or drugs may have shorter attention spans or extreme tiredness. That decline in attention could lead to dangerous mistakes when operating heavy machinery.

Workers’ social interactions may also suffer as a result of substance abuse. While that may not seem directly related to work, it could hinder their engagement and cause rifts between colleagues. These conflicts, in turn, could decrease workplace productivity and morale.

Overall, drug and alcohol abuse costs U.S. employers $100 billion annually. These losses stem from various factors, from lost productivity to damages to preventable medical bills. With costs this high, especially the cost of human lives, any substance abuse rate in the workforce warrants attention.

Where Does This Problem Come From?

If employers want to help fight workplace substance abuse, they must first understand what causes it. While substance use is a complicated subject with many influencing factors, many cases start with other mental health problems. As many as one in five American adults experience a mental health issue every year, which, when left untreated, can drive people toward drugs and alcohol.

Several factors within the workplace can also raise the likelihood of employees turning to substance abuse. Some employees may feel isolated or uncared for at work, driving them toward drugs or alcohol as a form of relief. Similarly, workers experiencing high stress may use these substances to cope with it.

These issues are particularly prevalent within supply chain organizations. The long hours, high workloads and other pressures of working in this industry lead to considerable stress among supply chain workers. Studies show that 40% of long-haul truckers experience moderate stress, and another 22.7% feel high or chronic stress.

As supply chain pressures ramp up, these stressors and feelings of isolation may worsen. Consequently, resulting behavioral issues like substance abuse may rise within the industry as well.

What Can Employers Do to Help?

While substance abuse is a pressing issue within supply chain organizations, it’s not an impossible one. Employers and managers can take several steps to prevent these issues from starting and mitigate their impact when cases do arise.

Addressing workplace stressors that could drive employees to substance abuse is a good first step. The most-cited causes of workplace stress are low salaries, lack of growth opportunities and heavy workloads. Offering better pay and benefits, creating more upward mobility and reskilling programs and using automation to reduce workloads could help lower stress, reducing subsequent substance abuse.

Creating social programs and employee recognition strategies can help fight feelings of alienation that may contribute to substance abuse. Similarly, it’s important to have a reliable, attentive HR program that can help resolve workplace disputes and build a more comfortable, inclusive workplace.

Tighter restrictions around alcohol and other substances in the workplace can help by reducing their availability. Imposing stricter penalties will discourage casual attitudes around them, creating a healthier, anti-substance abuse workplace culture. Controls like ignition locks that stop drivers from operating machinery without passing a breathalyzer test can help, too.

Finally, supply chain organizations should establish comprehensive substance abuse knowledge and prevention programs. That involves providing meetings and literature to inform people of the dangers of these issues and offering access to treatment. Studies show that abuse treatment programs lead to a 91% decrease in absenteeism and a 97% decrease in workplace injuries.

Substance Abuse Is a Serious Issue

Substance abuse in the supply chain is a more prevalent issue than some companies may realize. Considering rising rates and how destructive, both in terms of health and finances, these behaviors can be, businesses must address them. That begins with understanding the issue itself.

While substance abuse trends are concerning, supply chain organizations have many options for mitigating this issue. As more businesses embrace comprehensive prevention and treatment strategies, workplace substance abuse will decline. With enough work, the industry could virtually eliminate it.

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Incentivizing Supply Chain Employees: 8 Effective Ideas

Employee retention and engagement should always be a priority for businesses. However, incentivizing workers has become particularly critical for supply chains as labor shortages persist and output demand rises.

Lingering product shortages and delays have placed unusually high pressure on supply chains to act quickly and increase output. At the same time, 47% of shippers and 73% of third-party logistics cite difficulty finding, training and retaining qualified labor. Incentive programs can help supply chain organizations overcome these challenges by improving engagement, retention and productivity.

Here are eight effective ideas supply chain businesses can use to incentivize their workforce.

Incentives to Offer

The first and most straightforward way to categorize incentive programs is by rewards. A business’s unique workforce, project and budget considerations will affect different rewards’ efficacy, but these five incentives are among the most effective across workspaces.

1. Cash Bonuses

One of the most effective rewards to offer is also the simplest: cash. Generally speaking, wages have not risen as quickly as consumer prices, so many workers today are looking for higher pay. Raising base wages will help, but offering cash rewards for high performance can provide a unique and enticing incentive.

Cash has the unique advantage of meeting every employee’s needs and preferences. No matter what a worker likes or wants to achieve, more money in their pocket will help them. Cash bonuses may not be the most groundbreaking or creative reward, but they’re popular for a reason.

How much to give employees depends on a company’s budget. Regardless of the specifics, businesses should consider scaling rewards and offering more money for higher achievement.

2. Profit-Sharing

Cash bonuses are far from the only financial incentive businesses can offer. Profit-sharing is another effective option.

The primary benefit of a profit-sharing program is that it ties rewards directly to company performance. Employees will enjoy larger bonuses if the business does better and profits rise. This direct cause-and-effect relationship can be a powerful motivator to improve productivity and engagement.

Higher wages may catch people’s eyes more than profit-sharing, but the latter can be more profitable for employees under the right conditions. If Amazon hadn’t substituted its profit-sharing scheme for higher pay, each worker would now own shares worth more than $350,000 on average.

3. Extra Vacation Time

Employee incentive programs can be effective without offering financial rewards. One of the best noncash perks supply chain organizations can provide is additional time off.

Worker stress has reached astronomical levels lately, with 77% of U.S. professionals saying they’ve felt burnout in their current positions. Consistently working long hours is one of the most-cited reasons for this exhaustion, so vacation time can be an enticing reward for today’s employees. The chance to get an extra-long break could easily push people to work harder in the meantime.

Supply chain managers must be careful with how they deliver these rewards. If employees must work more hours than they’d get off as a reward to achieve them, then the program is self-defeating.

4. Travel Programs

Similarly, creating company travel programs can also be an effective way to incentivize employees. Workers may want to travel more than ever after spending so much time at home and within the same area during the pandemic.

Not many companies offer employee trips as an incentive, so these programs can be a useful recruiting tool. Since these trips can apply to a group of workers, they’re also ideal for building stronger employee relationships. Those bonds can translate into higher engagement and productivity when people return to the workplace.

Travel programs are also surprisingly cost-effective, thanks to their customization options. Companies can send smaller groups on a more remote vacation, take a larger one on a day trip or do anything in between to match their budgetary restraints.

5. Schedule or Project Choices

Some supply chain managers may choose to reward top-performing employees with more choices. Letting high-achievers have first pick over their schedule or projects can be a tempting reward in places where workflows may frequently change.

Many supply chain employees lead busy lives, so the ability to pick a work schedule that better suits them is compelling. Alternatively, some workers may simply want to break up their routine by choosing a new project or workweek. In either case, offering these choices as an incentive for better performance can be a powerful motivator.

Control over schedules has become even more popular than remote work opportunities. About 95% of survey respondents wanted flexible hours compared to 78% who preferred location flexibility.

Incentive Program Types

Supply chain organizations can also revamp their incentive programs by rethinking how employees earn rewards. In general, they should tie directly to actions that benefit the company. Here are three of the best examples.

1. Quantity of Work

One way to run incentive programs is to reward employees based on how much work they accomplish. This option is ideal for supply chains facing tight deadlines or rising demand for higher output.

Not every job or metric is a good fit for quantity-based incentives. For example, truckers can only drive for 14 hours between 10-hour off-duty periods, among other restrictions. Consequently, logistics companies can only offer incentives for longer drives up to these legal limits.

Warehouse tasks are often a better fit. Businesses should choose whatever metric they need to improve most, such as picking rates, and define consistent goals and rewards to motivate employees.

2. Quality of Work

Supply chains can also reward workers based on the quality of their work. This may be a better alternative for transportation employees, using metrics like delivery times or safe driving habits to measure performance.

For many supply chains, completing tasks faster is one of the most practical ways to monitor work quality. However, reduced errors or improved safety statistics can also be helpful, relevant metrics.

Quality-based incentive programs are better at motivating employees to take more care and give more attention to their roles. As a result, these schemes can help supply chains impress clients and build positive work environments.

3. Retention

Some supply chain organizations may need to focus more on retaining employees than improving the quality or quantity of their work. Incentive programs can fit this goal nicely, too. This strategy is increasingly helpful, considering the industry had a 49% turnover rate in 2021.

Retention incentive programs are among the most straightforward to run, too. Employees receive increasing rewards for staying for longer periods. This won’t necessarily improve individual productivity, but it can help mitigate labor challenges.

Keep Employees Engaged With These Strategies

Supply chains must do all they can to motivate, grow and retain their workforce. These eight incentive program ideas provide plenty of opportunities for organizations to achieve that goal. The industry could move past its current labor-related obstacles as more businesses implement these reward schemes.


7 Challenges Supply Chain Managers Will Need to Address in 2023

Supply chain managers have faced their fair share of challenges in 2022. These issues, several of which stretch back to the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset in 2020, have caused widespread disruption, and many are far from over. Current trends suggest 2023 could be an equally challenging year.

Some issues seem to be resolving, but others will linger and more may emerge. Prudent supply chain managers have learned that preparedness is key for dealing with these obstacles, so here are seven challenges to expect in 2023.

  • Continued Backlogs

One of the most prevalent challenges facing supply chains today will continue into next year. Backlogs from supply shortages and congested ports, an unfortunately persistent leftover from the early days of COVID, will still be an issue.

In October 2021, 45% of surveyed economists believed supply chain bottlenecks would mostly recede by mid-2022, with another 40% believing it would happen earlier. Seeing how these issues have yet to resolve in many areas, it’s safe to assume they’ll persist for a while. Supply chain managers must plan around continued backlogs.

Businesses must be careful to avoid over-ordering to compensate for these backlogs. Caving to demand too quickly could worsen the situation, continuing the bullwhip effect. Instead, supply chains should focus on slow, long-term recovery, restructuring to prevent similar shortages in the future.

  • Worker Shortages

Another challenge that will carry over from today is the ongoing labor shortage. Despite being one of the most essential jobs in the world, trucking has struggled to gain enough workers to maintain demand. Warehouse operations and manufacturing facilities face similar issues.

Much of the current labor shortage arises from a cultural shift, which takes time to settle. The available workforce must gain a better perception of supply chain work, and organizations must establish themselves as better, more equitable employers. These changes are important, but they won’t happen overnight.

In the meantime, supply chain organizations may have to rely more heavily on automation and outsourcing. These temporary fixes shouldn’t distract companies from longer-term cultural changes, but they can help alleviate the issue.

  • Growing Cyberthreats

Supply chain managers must also address the growing cybercrime problem. This issue has been building as supply chains have implemented more digital technologies, with attacks increasing by 51% in the last half of 2021. This trend will continue as more companies use technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Incidents like the SolarWinds hack highlight how destructive supply chain cyberattacks can be. Given this potential and the industry’s lack of experience with cybersecurity, hackers will likely target supply chains with increasing frequency.

Supply chain managers must take cybersecurity more seriously heading into 2023. That likely means purchasing more security software, training employees and possibly appointing dedicated information security officers. New technologies can provide a crucial edge, but only if businesses secure them first.

  • Globalization Challenges

Managing international relationships will likely be another prominent challenge for supply chain managers. Many supply chains are becoming more distributed, with 55% dual sourcing raw materials and 23% expanding backup production sites. This can improve resiliency, but companies may face some obstacles in this initiative.

Increasing tensions with China and the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict are making international business increasingly difficult. As every nation takes steps toward post-COVID recovery, supply chain managers may face limited options for expansion, higher fees or similar roadblocks.

At the same time, some supply chain managers are trying to reshore or near-shore operations. This could hamper relations with other countries or lead to delays from regional infrastructure struggling to keep up. Globalization and regional changes as a whole will require more strategy and forethought in 2023.

  • Extreme Weather

Extreme weather is another easily overlooked but equally important supply chain challenge. This has always been a factor, but 71% of extreme events have become more likely due to climate change. Consequently, supply chain managers can expect more weather-related challenges in 2023.

Already, nearly 6 million car crashes occur annually because of extreme weather conditions, posing dangers and delays to truck drivers. Large storms or events like earthquakes could impact other parts of the supply chain, too. Factories, warehouses and distribution centers, especially in coastal areas, may see increasing weather-related disruptions.

Supply chain managers can’t control the weather, but they can adapt to it. Building more resiliency into operations and moving mission-critical centers away from storm-prone areas could prove useful.

  • Pressure to Go Green

Relatedly, supply chains will also face increasing pressure to become more sustainable in 2023. Eco-friendliness is already an increasingly important buying decision for consumers, and as it grows, attention will turn to supply chain companies.

Scope 3 emissions, which come from outside sources like supply chain partners, often represent the majority of pollution in an organization. Consequently, as consumer pressure to go green increases, B2C companies will look for greener B2B partners to ensure their entire value chain is sustainable.

Sustainability is an important goal, but achieving it will be a challenge. Supply chain managers must start looking for areas to become more eco-friendly today to enable larger changes in the future. That could entail powering warehouses with renewable energy, using electric vehicles for last-mile deliveries or taking similar actions.

  • Changing Legislation

Supply chain managers in 2023 may also have to navigate changing regulatory and legal landscapes. Supply chains have garnered more attention from government bodies as stock shortages and delays have grown. Because 2022 is an election year, 2023 is also ripe for legal change.

What may change is uncertain, and many potential developments could benefit supply chain organizations. However, any significant change involves disruption, whether the results are ultimately positive or not. Supply chain managers must keep a close eye on legal developments to see how they may have to adjust.

Legal shifts have already begun. The Ocean Shipping and Reform Act of 2022 became law on June 16 and will regulate ocean carriers more closely. Similar acts may address other parts of the supply chain in the future.

Supply Chain Managers Face a Challenging Road Ahead

Managing a supply chain is complicated work, regardless of the year. Supply chain organizations are no strangers to challenges, but they must understand that these obstacles are far from over. Businesses hoping to avoid similar crises in the future must anticipate and adapt to incoming hazards.

These seven challenges will likely drive supply chain changes in 2023. Understanding and preparing for them ahead of time will enable more effective responses, preventing wide-scale disruption.

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5 Advantages of Tinted Truck Windows for Fleet Managers

Aftermarket customization is a fairly standard practice among truck fleets. New parts and peripherals can transform stock vehicles into more efficient, longer-lasting or safer equipment to meet specific needs. Window tints are one such modification that can fly under the radar for many fleet managers.

At first, tinted windows may seem better suited to consumer vehicles than commercial trucks. Despite this preconception, they offer several practical benefits for truck fleets. Here are five advantages.

1. Prevents UV Damage

Trucks can be on the road for 11 hours a day, not including the time they spend parked. That adds up to a considerable amount of sun exposure, which could damage the interior through ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Fleets can prevent this damage by installing window tints.

Most windshields today block most UV rays, but side windows are not required to offer the same protection. Tinting these windows will block more potentially harmful wavelengths, keeping the truck’s upholstery and dashboard safe from damage. This protection, in turn, can reduce long-term maintenance costs.

Blocking UV light can also protect drivers. People who spend too much time in the sun without protection could harm their skin, but UV-blocking tints provide shade to stay safe.

2. Blocks Sunlight From Drivers’ Eyes

UV radiation is not the only danger the sun presents. At the right angle, bright light could also make it hard to see, especially if it reflects off other surfaces within or nearby the truck cab. Tinted windows can block excess light to prevent this glare and the danger it poses to drivers.

Studies have found that life-threatening crashes are 16% more likely in bright sunlight than in normal conditions. These risks also contribute to roughly 5,000 more patient days in the hospital for people involved in these accidents.

Just as window tints block UV waves, they can also reduce the harsher end of the spectrum of visible light. This lessens glare, making it easier for truck drivers to see where they’re going and what’s happening around them.

3. Protects Against Thieves

Window tints can also help fleet managers by reducing theft. Trucks and buses account for 16.9% of all stolen vehicles in the U.S. and as much as 20.5% in some regions. Thieves may also steal company property or drivers’ valuables out of cabs if they can see what’s inside. Tints aren’t a comprehensive safety solution, but they can help prevent these crimes.

Tinted windows make it harder to see into a vehicle’s interior, especially at night when drivers are more likely to be away from their trucks. As a result, opportunistic criminals are less likely to see anything of value in the cab, preventing the temptation to break in.

Preventing theft can save fleets on repair costs and reduce expenses from lost inventory. Drivers will also appreciate the extra sense of security for their own belongings.

4. Maintains Comfortable Temperatures

Tinted windows also keep interior temperatures cooler in the summer. Because tints block UV radiation, they also prevent sunlight from creating a greenhouse effect within the truck cab. This has several advantages for fleet managers.

First, cooler interior temperatures make things more comfortable for drivers. People that aren’t distracted by the heat on a long drive find it easier to remain focused. They’ll drive safer and experience higher on-the-job satisfaction as a result.

Reducing in-cab temperatures can also prevent ongoing maintenance issues. When the interior doesn’t get as hot, the truck’s air conditioning won’t have to work as hard to cool it. Consequently, fleets can avoid complications from overworked or overheated AC systems.

5. Secures Broken Glass in an Accident

Another easily overlooked advantage of tinted windows is their resistance to shattering. Tints don’t necessarily make glass stronger, but they can hold broken pieces in place, preventing lacerations and other injuries from broken glass in an accident.

Adding tint to a window involves applying a thin layer of film over the glass. If a truck gets into an accident, shattered glass will stick to this film instead of falling onto the road or into the cab. Any accident can endanger drivers, but keeping this sharp debris away from them will help minimize injuries.

Fleets can’t assume drivers will never get into an accident. In 2020 alone, more than 100,000 large trucks were involved in injury-causing crashes. Steps to prevent these incidents are crucial, but additional mitigation measures like keeping glass in place are still necessary.

Considerations for Tinted Truck Windows

Given these benefits, many fleets may choose to tint their truck windows, but their efficacy hinges on their implementation. Here are some key factors to consider when tinting commercial truck windows.

Choosing the Right Kind of Tint

First, fleet managers must determine which kind of tint is best. Each type offers unique advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to consider fleets’ specific needs and goals carefully.

Dyed film tints are the least expensive option and one of the most popular, but they’re also the least durable and don’t block as much UV light. Metallic and ceramic tints offer more resistance and light-blocking, but they’re more expensive. Metallic coats may also interfere with radio communications.

Fleet managers should list what they want from their tints and their budget, then compare estimates from various vendors. It may be most economical to start by tinting just a few trucks before slowly modifying the rest of the fleet.

Legal Considerations

Fleet managers should also consider local regulations in the areas drivers pass through. These laws vary by state, so it’s important to find the most stringent regulations drivers may encounter and abide by those.

Tint laws address how dark these coatings can be for different windows and how large the tinted line on the windshield can be. Both can vary widely. For example, Alabama allows side window tints of 32% and a 6-inch windshield line, while California lets side windows use up to a 70% tint but permits just 4 inches for windshields.

As with other legal considerations, it’s best to err on the side of caution. If resources say different things about the law, opt for the stricter option to remain in good standing.

Tinted Truck Windows Can Have Surprising Benefits

Many small changes can have substantial impacts. Something as straightforward and seemingly insignificant as a window tint can protect drivers, reduce maintenance costs and prevent theft.

Fleet managers looking for ways to improve any of these areas should consider tinting truck windows. With a careful approach and enough research, making these modifications can result in impressive benefits.

Choosing the Right Trailer: 8 Tips for Supply Chain Managers

There are many ways to manage a supply chain. Every logistics operation has unique factors to consider, and different strategies and equipment are ideal for many situations. It’s essential to
remember this for decisions like selecting the right trailer for a given rig.

Using an unideal trailer can have serious consequences. Mismatched equipment could incur unnecessary costs, create operational inefficiencies and even affect shipment quality. Supply chain managers can help avoid these mistakes by following these eight tips when choosing a trailer.

1. Determine Load Sizes

Load size is one of the most important considerations for choosing the right trailer. That includes both the physical dimensions of an average shipment and its weight.

Federal regulations restrict maximum loads to 80,000 pounds, but most trailers’ maximum payloads fall far below that figure. Logistics professionals must ensure any trailers they purchase can manage the loads they’ll carry, which varies depending on the products and
company in question. It’s also vital to include the weight of any moving equipment like pallets and straps in these calculations.

Physical dimensions are also crucial to consider. Some trailers may have enough weight capacity but lack the internal space to fit a company’s average shipments.

2. Review Loading and Unloading Requirements

Another determining factor is how a trailer accommodates the company’s loading and unloading practices. If it’s too low to the ground, it could fall below the loading dock, making it challenging
to move loads on and off the trailer. Alternatively, some may be too high, creating similar problems.

Supply chain managers must measure their loading dock heights and that of their clients to determine their needs in this area. It also helps to consider the space within the trailer. Wide clearances can make moving things in and out easier especially when forklifts are involved but some loading docks may have width restrictions as well.

3. Look at Size and Axle Regulations

Opting for the largest trailers possible can be tempting to provide more room for error. However, fleet owners should consider how trailer sizes affect their expenses. In addition to carrying higher upfront costs, larger trailers may incur extra fees from size and axle number regulations.

Oversize permit fees change depending on the state and load in question. What constitutes an oversized load also varies between states, so supply chain managers must review regulations in
their areas of operation to determine their size limits. Not accounting for these laws can considerably increase operating costs and introduce legal trouble.

Similarly, it’s crucial to review fees for axle numbers on any toll roads that shipments must take. If businesses can use trucks with fewer axles and still meet their stability and weight needs, they
can save money.

4. Go Over Specific Shipment Needs

Some shipments come with specific needs outside of size and weight clearance that not every trailer can meet. Transporting cars requires larger, flat surfaces since uneven weight distribution increases the chance of an accident and vehicles must be able to move in and out. They’ll also require additional anchoring that not every trailer type can support.

Produce and medical goods will need refrigerated trailers and the level of refrigeration they need will vary. Some clients may also have specific requirements for product quality, climate control, special anchoring, support for wireless sensors or other features. Supply chain managers must review their clients’ wants to determine what kind of trailer they need.

5. Consider Weather Factors

One factor decision-makers might easily overlook is the weather. While it’s one of the most influential factors in supply chain management, it’s also uncontrollable. Weather should play a
role in selecting the right trailer. Different trailers are better for varying conditions, so logistics professionals must review what they expect to face.

More than 70% of U.S. roads are in snowy regions, so most supply chains must prepare to encounter this element. That rules out open trailers for most deliveries and routes in northern areas may want to watch traction and weight distribution more carefully. Similarly, trailers serving rainy areas should pose minimal slippage and fishtailing risks.

6. Compare Multiple Vendors

Once supply chain managers have narrowed down the specific trailer they need, the process still isn’t over. Multiple vendors likely offer the same inventory, so fleet owners should compare
these listings to find the best deal.

Prices can vary widely between trailer vendors, even for the same equipment. Some listings can feature price ranges more than $2,000 below MSRP, so it’s important to explore various stores even when managers find relatively good deals. There’s always a chance another vendor has a lower price and these savings are worth the time spent looking.

Logistics professionals should also compare warranties, loyalty programs and discounts. Savings and benefits from these offerings could make up for higher upfront costs.

7. Research Vendors

After narrowing selections to a few vendors, supply chain managers could look into them further. Some companies may post competitive prices, but that’s not always worth it if they also have poor customer service and limited support. It may be better to pay more for more reliability in some circumstances.

Customer reviews are some of the most helpful resources to turn to. Managers should look for customer stories from businesses in similar positions to find the most relevant information. Keep
in mind that people are more likely to share negative experiences than positive ones, so take some ratios with a grain of salt.

Awards, certifications and fast responses to inquiries are positive signs to look for. If any business has many poor reviews, won’t respond quickly or doesn’t have much information available, it may not be trustworthy.

8. Communicate With All Stakeholders

Decision-makers should communicate with all relevant stakeholders before purchasing a trailer. That includes talking to drivers to see if they have any insight on what features they need.

Similarly, warehouse workers can advise which trailers are best to load and unload in a specific environment. Fleet owners should also talk to vendors about their needs. If they explain their specific goals
and budgets, a reliable store should be able to help find what they need faster. This is particularly important for newer companies with less experience.

Find the Right Trailer for Supply Chain Needs

If supply chain managers follow these eight tips, they shouldn’t have much trouble finding the\ right trailer from the right vendor. They can then rest assured that they’ve made the most of their
investment. Following these steps can help businesses find the optimal equipment for their specific needs.

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5 Areas of Production Significantly Affected by Supply Chain Disruption

Supply chain disruptions have become an unfortunate and often inescapable reality for many companies. Virtually every industry has experienced at least some ripple effects as persisting woes impact production.

These disruptions have become the norm, with 94% of Fortune 1000 companies experiencing them and 75% facing negative business impacts as a result. Organizations that hope to minimize these effects must understand how these challenges affect them. Here’s a look at five production areas that significantly impact supply chain disruption.

1. Raw Material Availability

One of the most significant production aspects suffering from supply chain disruption is the availability of raw materials. Early COVID lockdowns limited the acquisition and production of
materials like metals and plastics. Factory shutdowns lead to considerable supply constraints, with U.S. polyurethane and polypropylene production falling 10%-15% in 2020.

Subsequent demand spikes from limited supply and rising consumer spending in some areas exacerbated this strain. Production facilities face considerable backlogs from these early disruptions even as workplace restrictions fade. As a result, demand remains remarkably high, making it difficult for all facilities to acquire needed materials.

Manufacturers need more materials than usual to resolve backlogs, but supply chains are still slow as they recover from early disruptions. This is an almost universal issue, so it’s also harder
to get enough materials everywhere they’re needed.

2. Material Costs

A related consequence of supply chain disruptions is that material costs are rising. About 86.6% of global manufacturers cited rising material costs as their leading business challenge in early 2021, and this issue has persisted. Slowly recovering supplies and skyrocketing demand from other producers foster higher prices.

Material supplies will eventually reach their pre-pandemic levels, but supply chain disruptions will likely outlast these initial challenges. High demand will persist until manufacturers can fully
address their backlogs, contributing to higher prices without an increase in supply. This demand could also lead to the bullwhip effect as facilities over-adjust if new risks or changes arise.

These higher costs, in turn, translate into greater expenses for consumers on the other side of the supply chain. For example, boat prices have risen by almost 10% over the past year as manufacturers have to pay more for raw materials.

3. Freight Rates

The materials themselves are not the only production factor with surging prices. Supply chain disruptions have also driven up freight rates worldwide. These higher expenses may further  strain manufacturers’ economic mobility and contribute to rising end-user costs. This could affect demand, leading to further disruption.

The global container freight index rose from $1,733 to $4,359 between January and December 2020. Shutdowns and tighter restrictions on cross-border traffic made international shipping
slower and more complicated, leading to this price hike. Backlogs and continued delays pushed these disruptions further in 2021, with the index reaching a record $10,361 in September.

Freight rates have since declined, but they still linger above the $7,000 mark. These rates will fluctuate more and remain well above their early 2020 lows as COVID variants and international tension create more obstacles in global shipping.

4. Labor

Some production areas may not seem directly related to supply chain disruptions but have still experienced substantial changes. Labor shortages have proved particularly challenging, with
manufacturing seeing the largest growth in job quitting of any sector. This is due to many factors, but supply chain disruptions are part of it.

Continued supply chain disruptions have led to skyrocketing demand in some segments, especially considering early pandemic backlogs. Production resumed and working conditions became increasingly stressful as companies rushed to meet this demand. Jobs in this sector are already among the most demanding in the world, so these extra stressors push many workers to quit.

These labor strains create a cycle of challenges, too. As more employees quit amid rising stress, the remaining workers must do more to compensate for lost productivity. This creates even more stress for the workforce, exacerbating the labor crisis.

5. Forecasting

Supply chain disruptions have also muddied production and demand forecasts. Raw material shortages and international shipping complications persist, influencing consumer demand. How this demand responds to these challenges can be difficult to predict, leading to forecasting trouble.

In some circumstances, slower supply chains and stock shortages may lead to rising demand, as the toilet paper shortage early in the pandemic exemplified. However, consumers may stop buying a product type because of higher costs. Either option could happen, so responding to forecasts one way or another can be risky.

People’s uneven responses to supply chain disruptions make it virtually impossible to forecast demand shifts accurately. As a result, production facilities can easily end up with surpluses and shortages. Adapting to a forecast in either direction could result in losses.

When and How Will Supply Chain Disruption Resolve?

Challenges in any of these five areas can hinder companies’ success, and most production facilities will experience most, if not all, of them. These factors are closely related, stemming from similar supply chain obstacles or one another. That means each disruption has a larger impact, and it also means strategies that improve one area could strengthen them all.

Manufacturers, logistics professionals and other supply chain parties should adapt to prevent similar issues in the future. One of the most important steps is to maximize visibility. It would be
easier to spot and respond to potential disruptions as they arise if all supply chain partners collected and shared more real-time data.

Visibility and communication are critical, but they’re only part of the solution. Supply chains must also become more flexible to respond to these insights faster. That may mean moving away from lean principles in favor of distributed sourcing, reshoring and establishing production buffers.

It’s also important to realize that even with these steps, current disruptions will last for some time. Federal reports suggest manufacturers can anticipate supply chain issues for another six
months, though it may be safer to expect more delay. Preparing for at least another year of delays and shortages may help avoid premature expansion or over-corrective steps.

Businesses Must Anticipate and Adapt to Disruption

Supply chain disruptions affect production along almost every factor. Current challenges may last several months, but businesses can now act to mitigate future obstacles.

These widespread disruptions highlight how impactful supply chain shifts can be across various processes. Businesses must reorganize their operations to be flexible and transparent, considering the scope of this impact. That allows them to adapt to incoming challenges more effectively.

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Avoiding Downtime: 8 Strategies to Maintain Productivity Across the Supply Chain

Every organization wants to avoid supply chain downtime, yet it’s rife throughout the industry. Delays and disruptions are all too common, but that doesn’t mean they’re unavoidable. Supply chains can prevent these scenarios by implementing the right strategies.

Even in the most efficient supply chains, there’s room to improve. Downtime costs $1 million or more per hour for 40% of organizations today, so businesses should aim for no downtime at all.

Here are eight strategies to help reach that goal.

1. Maximize Visibility

One of the most important steps in avoiding supply chain downtime is increasing transparency. If businesses had more real-time insight into their supply chain partners, they could see disruptions as they arise and adapt faster. These quick reactions can help mitigate or even eliminate downtime.

More than half of all businesses have poor supply chain visibility and 63% don’t use any technology to monitor them. The two are related. Supply chains can maximize their visibility by implementing more technologies like the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

IoT devices can provide real-time insights and AI can analyze this data to predict incoming disruptions. Supply chains should partner with businesses willing to implement more IoT technologies and share this data to gain comprehensive insights into their operations. When that happens, they can enable faster, more effective reactions.

2. Improve Workplace Safety

Workplace injuries are another leading cause of downtime. Responding to safety incidents translates into lost productivity and injured workers may be unable to work at their full capacity for days. If supply chains improved workplace safety, they’d enable higher productivity.

Fall hazards are some of the most important risks to address, as 20% of all workplace injuries come from falls. Using proper safety harnesses and lift platforms can help, but removing workers from hazards entirely is the safest option. Warehouses can use automated systems to handle the most dangerous work, like retrieving items from high shelves to minimize risks.

3. Employ Predictive Maintenance

Supply chains must also address machine maintenance. Equipment malfunctions make large industrial facilities lose 323 production hours annually, costing $172 million overall. Supply chain organizations can minimize these errors and their expenses by switching to predictive maintenance strategies.

While implementing predictive maintenance can be expensive, its long-term benefits outweigh the costs. By enabling need-based repair, these practices prevent unexpected, costly breakdowns while simultaneously eliminating downtime from unneeded repairs. Conventional preventive maintenance only addresses downtime from the former and run-to-failure approaches address neither.

Predictive maintenance will also improve safety, further reducing unplanned downtime. When equipment runs in better conditions, it avoids breakdowns or errors that could endanger employees.

4. Create Buffers

While supply chains should do all they can to prevent disruptions, some are unavoidable. Since it’s impossible to avoid unexpected situations entirely, supply chain organizations should ensure
they can maintain productivity when things don’t go as planned. Buffers are a crucial part of these backup plans.

This practice goes against lean principles, but lean operations quickly fall apart in the face of disruption. Businesses don’t need massive reserve inventories, but they should avoid just-in-
time practices for some critical parts and products.

Companies should multiply their average daily use of a product by its average lead time. Then, they can subtract that total from the product of maximum daily sales and maximum lead time. The resulting answer is their ideal buffer inventory level for that product.

5. Keep Employees Engaged

Maintaining an engaged workforce is a crucial but often overlooked part of avoiding downtime. Having unengaged employees leads to turnover, hindering supply chains’ productivity, but an engaged workforce will be more productive. Businesses can maximize engagement by listening to and meeting their workers’ needs and wants.

Financial support like higher salaries and better benefits help, but they’re not the only ways to improve engagement. Since one in five American adults experience a mental health issue every year, businesses should also ensure they provide support for these concerns and encourage communication. Flexible schedules, opportunities for upward mobility, recognition for commendable work, and workplace fairness initiatives can also help.

6. Emphasize Training

Another employee-related strategy to prevent downtime is to train workers more thoroughly. As much as 70% of unplanned downtime results from human error, so more knowledgeable and skilled workers will translate into less downtime. Process improvements to simplify operations help prevent these mistakes, but businesses shouldn’t overlook the importance of training.

Onboarding and training should cover what to do in various unexpected or uncommon scenarios. If employees don’t know what to do when something unusual happens, they could take longer than needed to look into the situation or ask around. In contrast, if there’s a set protocol to follow, they can minimize downtime and adapt accordingly.

7. Diversify Suppliers

Single dependencies in supply chains can reduce operating costs, but they’re prone to disruption. Supply chain organizations should eliminate these if they want to minimize downtime, which means diversifying their suppliers. If businesses can source parts or products from multiple facilities, a disruption or delay at one won’t jeopardize the entire supply chain.

As supply chains diversify, they should re-shore or near-shore some of their sources. Shortening the distance between facilities can enable faster reactions if an unexpected scenario arises. International travel is also more likely to encounter difficulties, thanks to uneven regulations and government relationships between countries.

The need for diversification has become increasingly clear over the past few years. In 2021, 55% of supply chain leaders began dual sourcing raw materials to make their networks more resilient and 25% embraced regionalization.

8. Track Downtime

Regardless of what other steps a supply chain takes, it should monitor its downtime. When a disruption or delay occurs, businesses should record its source, how long it takes to resolve,
what fixed it, and similar data. This information will reveal ways supply chains can improve in the future.

Downtime tracking will also help organizations set relevant KPIs and benchmarks, guiding their long-term improvements. Since every operation is unique, this data is essential, as it provides real-world context for what does and doesn’t work in a specific scenario.

Maintaining Supply Chain Productivity Is Crucial

Every business wants to maximize productivity, but supply chains face more pressure than most. Disruptions in this industry will ripple across other companies and sectors, and by the same token, supply chain optimization will improve entire industries.

Downtime may be common, but it’s not necessarily unavoidable. If supply chain organizations implement these eight strategies, they can minimize unplanned downtime and mitigate it if it does occur.