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3 tips for logistics companies to help maintain the supply chain during a crisis

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, even the best supply chain and logistics companies have run into snags keeping up with demand and getting supplies to customers on time. The lessons learned can provide valuable insight.


Image: RistoArnaudov, Getty Images/iStockPhoto

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As companies and institutions of all sizes and industries still grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, their supply chain and logistics teams need to be able to refocus their efforts to keep up with the continuing demands. 

Here are three things we’ve learned from the early days of the pandemic that can help logistics companies—or any other companies—when they struggle to keep up.

SEE: Inside UPS: The logistics company’s never-ending digital transformation (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Prioritize crisis-based essentials

Under normal circumstances, keeping customers happy means consumer and business products need to reach their destinations on time. But these aren’t normal circumstances. People and institutions around the world are relying on life-saving and sustaining items like food, medical supplies, and personal protective equipment (PPE). While there are no guaranteed delivery dates these days, some items simply need to be prioritized. 

SEE: Zoom vs. Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Cisco WebEx and Skype: Choosing the right video-conferencing apps for you (TechRepublic)

With the increasing volume of online shopping, large e-commerce companies such as Amazon began prioritizing essential products, including household staples and medical supplies, as it struggled to deal with a surge in demand. Other items such as toilet paper, bleach, and sanitizing wipes have been taking top priority, and non-essential items such as flat-screen televisions were put on hold. Delivery service providers, like FedEx, Purolator, UPS, and others, also got behind in shipments and worked to focus on hospitals and care center needs. Leveraging its global network and logistics expertise to help organizations with mission-critical needs, FedEx focused some of its efforts on 1,000 special shipments delivering protective equipment from Direct Relief to help health centers, clinics, and hospitals. 

Focus on front-line workers and those most vulnerable

We’ve all heard about the impact of the pandemic on front-line workers such as doctors, nurses, care-aids, and also those most vulnerable, including the elderly and those with lower immunity. Some online grocers were prioritizing by delivering to those more vulnerable first, including the elderly and support workers. Some online grocers have offered free delivery to medical staff and volunteers. Recognizing how busy front-line workers have been, some grocery chains have been providing them with front-of-the-line access when shopping in person. While it may not seem fair to some, these prioritizing measures are helping to save more lives.

Keep logistics and supply chain workers safe

Keeping workers safe means logistics and supply chain companies are more likely to continue to keep pace with the escalating demands for essential and non-essential goods. One delivery worker whose wife is a nurse said that while the hospital is taking steps to protect its staff, his employer could be doing more. He said he interacts with about 75 to 100 people each day and never thought he or his coworkers would be front-line workers in a pandemic. With all of the doors, handles, railings, packages, and other things that they touch each day, PPE supplies and equipment are needed by all delivery company staff. Sanitizing wipes, gloves, masks, and other PPE are essential for front-line delivery, stocking, and other staff to ensure they can deliver PPE equipment to hospitals and care centers or food to the vulnerable. 

By prioritizing crisis-based essentials, especially for front-line workers and those most vulnerable, and keeping front-line staff safe, logistics and supply chain companies stand a greater chance of success during the pandemic.

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