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Handling Workforce Management Challenges in a Logistics Company During High Demand

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Handling Workforce Management Challenges in a Logistics Company During High Demand

The ongoing COVID-19 global crisis has caused a spike in demand for online shopping due to the stay-at-home orders that have been instituted by many countries all across the world. Most of the hauling necessary to get these ecommerce products to their intended recipients is being done by truck drivers. This means there’s more work than ever for the logistics industry but more tired workers too.

Keeping fleets properly organized and scheduling the right number of employees to manage all the necessary deliveries is the top workforce management challenge in a logistics company during such a period of high demand. It can be both difficult and stressful to match employees’ availability to demand.

Managers have to be able to track employees’ stress profiles for effective scheduling and also have to be ready to deal with unplanned changes to schedules as drivers could need to swap a shift with a colleague or fall sick (not just from coronavirus, but other ailments too). Companies should have the right tools in place to keep up with unforeseen shifts in demand and update their schedules accordingly.

Communication is important

Efficient, effective communication is absolutely vital to any workforce, but it is particularly crucial for teams that are as remote as those in the logistics industry, especially during this time. It’s important for managers to prioritize communication during this crisis because if communication falters, work progress not only suffers, but truck drivers are also extremely vulnerable to feeling both overwhelmed by the news and isolated from the team and company. This can have adverse effects on employee morale.

Work on employee morale

Speaking of employee morale, that’s another pressing workforce management challenge for logistics companies during this time. If we who are at home are struggling with motivation and mental health, you can imagine how heavy it must be for truck drivers who are out there all alone on the roads driving through deserted cities, staying away from their families as the world goes through such a scary time.

Keep in mind that they are scared to go home because they might accidentally infect their families and have to eat alone due to strict social distancing rules at restaurants. Maintaining high morale in the face of such extreme loneliness can’t be easy, both for the truckers and for their managers. Companies should leverage instant messaging apps to keep in touch with staff and use video sharing/conferencing tools more than ever to make both team updates and employee appreciation more personal.

We have all come to realize just how important truck drivers are to our way of life; that they have always been providing a service that is absolutely crucial to our supply chains and are continuing to do so even with their well-being at high risk. They are driving into places that others are fleeing from to deliver consumer goods to retailers and medical supplies to hospitals. Companies should make sure they are being compensated like the essential employees they are with significant salary raises and bonuses.

Keep your employees safe

Furthermore, employee morale during such a time is greatly tied to a sense of personal safety. Most truck drivers are middle-aged and/or older men who are more likely to suffer immunodeficiency from chronic illnesses such as pneumonia that make them more vulnerable to succumbing to the coronavirus.

Logistics companies should, therefore, make sure their drivers are sufficiently supplied with the necessary protection at all times – from face masks to gloves to hand sanitizer. Trucks should also be thoroughly disinfected as frequently as possible. When it comes to morale during such a time, it’s extremely crucial for employees to feel that their employers are doing their absolute best to keep them protect them.

Managing employees and hiring new ones to help

Managing the multiple locations and mobile employees that characterize the logistics industry was already challenging enough before the pandemic hit and even more now, in this time of high demand. There’s high potential for confusion around tracking hours accurately for payroll. Managers should be able to track employee hours from any location and capture accurate timesheets using geo-location.

Lastly, with the increased demand, many logistics companies are facing a higher need to acquire and onboard fresh talent but unfortunately, even before COVID-19, hiring and retention was already a major issue for the logistics industry according to recent PwC research. The survey found that transportation and logistics companies are lagging behind other sectors in terms of recruiting and hiring. SMEs in particular are not regarded as the preferred employers of the future.

Job seekers still don’t see transportation and logistics as a desirable industry. Logistics is one of those industries that most people looking for jobs, especially for fresh graduates, simply don’t find very appealing. This has to change if the industry is to keep up with this recent spike in demand. Companies have to make it appealing for fresh graduates, as well as people who have been laid off by other industries, by highlighting the potential for career growth.

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Derek Jones  (VP Enterprise Strategy, Americas)

Derek spearheads key initiatives at Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets and communication. With a focus on Healthcare, Derek helps business owners and workforce leaders simplify employment law compliance, keep labor cost in line and build award-winning workplaces. Derek has over 16 years’ experience in delivering data-driven sales and marketing strategies to SaaS companies like MarketSource and Griswold Home Care.

disruption

Navigating Through the Disruption – An Oceania Perspective

Logistics has always been the backbone that silently keeps the world moving but, in this time of uncertainty, its importance has been magnified. COVID-19 has caused disruption globally to all business, in one way or another, and navigating this unprecedented time has highlighted many challenges.

With the evolving landscape, forward planning has become essential to ensure business continuity plans are effective. The need for a recommencement plan for businesses who have temporarily closed and a diversified supply chain for those who operate as essential services is paramount to ensuring business survival for now and success in the future.

What we learned from New Zealand’s Lockdown

The level-4 lockdown of New Zealand has shed some light on the potential challenges that may arise should Australia follow suit.

The Port of Tauranga has announced it is prioritizing the unpacking of essential goods so that the cargo can be handled and transported first. Container loads are able to be delivered to customer’s sites, if the site is accepting deliveries, however, they cannot be unpacked until the level-4 lockdown period has finished. By doing this, the Port and Government are ensuring the movement of essential goods remains efficient and that essential services can continue operations as usual.

Where a customer site is closed, we see the Port of Wellington waive storage fees for shipments that cannot be transported out of the Port.

We are working with our clients to identify if their goods would be considered essential in the event of a complete lockdown. We’d advise that all companies start considering what sort of goods they have incoming and work with their strategic partner to qualify if their goods would be restricted to such delays if a lockdown were in place in Australia.

Be realistic and confirm whether your goods are considered an essential service and put suitable business measures in place.

If you find that your business cannot be considered essential or it is not viable for you to remain open, you’ll need to prepare to get back to production quickly once the lockdown is lifted. We recommend that non-essential businesses put a plan in place for the commencement of reopening. It is important to consider whether the recommencement of operations would be staggered, what goods or orders are required to meet the operation recommencement timeline, and are these urgent.

Diversify your Supply Chain

Sometimes the best solution for a business’s supply chain issue is to consider diversifying your shipment options.

For example, it may be beneficial to combine different transport types by flying goods to Singapore before shipping them to Australia rather than just shipping from their location of origin. Combining the two transport types is a faster and cheaper option than purely using air freight in a volatile market.

Businesses may consider using Less than Container Loads (LCL) if they require certain goods for essential service production because it is more cost-effective than their standard full product shipment in a Full Container Load (FCL).

An alternative to air freight, road, and rail in Australia is the Domestic Coastal Shipping Service. After ships have unloaded goods in Eastern Australia, on their return journey to their location of origin, they are able to pick up and deliver domestic goods as they travel West along the coast. We have seen more than a 20% increase for the quarter year-on-year due to the additional pressure on the Australian road and rail market. Rail is at capacity with customers experiencing damage to goods, severe space, and equipment issues as a result whilst the state border closures are posing potential delays for trucking. Many major clients, especially in the food and beverage sector, are switching large volumes to our coastal service as a solution to ensure continuity of business supply.

This domestic shipping service provides a saving of up to 60% over rail and road services. Businesses would need to take into consideration the increased travel time required over other domestic modes of transport and plan this into their supply chain model.

When new challenges arise, it is best for businesses to discuss their options with their strategic partner, who will help navigate this uncertain time.

As businesses struggle to meet the demands of this new normal, C.H. Robinson’s trusted advisors around the globe are continually looking for the best solutions to keep your supply chain moving.