How to take your supply chain from fragile to agile. By Stephen May, Chief Revenue Officer at FirstCare.
You might not be able to plan for a pandemic, but you can plan during one. Using accurate workforce data, we are helping companies in the transport and logistics sector to chart a steady – and productive – course through the turbulence of COVID-19.
FirstCare data shows that surprisingly, since the start of the pandemic, only 19% of COVID-related lost working days have been due to confirmed cases. Thankfully, the remaining 81% is much simpler to plan around.
The country’s reliance on transport and logistics has come to the fore during the pandemic, with a huge shift to online ordering and home delivery. It’s also thrown up unexpected pressures on supply chains, from pasta and patio heaters, to bikes and – famously – toilet rolls! And just when businesses have needed all hands on deck to meet rapidly changing demands, operations have inevitably been threatened by the risk of staff shortages.
We know though, that with the right information, it’s possible to plan ahead to mitigate disruption. The 19% of COVID-related absence due to confirmed cases is – of course – deeply significant, but the remaining majority is largely precautionary or functional, such as quarantining or caring for a dependant. Provided you have up-to-the-minute data, and follow NHS guidelines, you can anticipate the duration of these absences and plan accordingly.
Transport and logistics is no stranger to tech, with supply chains using SaaS for agile logistics, automated inventory, and shipment tracking. The pandemic has simply highlighted the importance of such systems for accurate visibility over people too – arguably the most crucial link in keeping supply chains productive.
For companies to stay agile and outmanoeuvre uncertainty, real-time data is key. You need to understand where your staff are, what they’re going through, and when they’re going to be back at work. As Accenture attests, “to manage the crisis, planners cannot rely on the steady-state models on which most existing planning systems are based. They need to make decisions using real-time information, acting as the “nerve center” of the flow of supply chain data.”
So, what does that look like in real terms?
We've seen clients use data to pinpoint affected regions or departments and swiftly redeploy workers from other areas. Or act on real-time notifications to close the relevant section of a warehouse for a deep clean, rather than shutting down the entire facility.
With one of our larger clients, we facilitated an immediate SMS message to be sent to employees who recorded a suspected COVID case, directing them to company testing facilities where clear results could be expedited.
Accurate return-to-work dates mean our HR partners can project staff availability, simplifying admin and saving costs on things like agency workers, where block bookings can be made as opposed to day-by-day.
The country has collectively welcomed the Government’s positive new roadmap out of lockdown 3.0 – and its clear intention that this will be the last. But with a number of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ built into the plan, and potential uncertainty for some time to come, the profound national dependence on transport and logistics looks here to stay. Sector leaders should now seek data-driven solutions to keep not only staff but whole supply chains healthy, resilient, and productive.