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How Your Company’s Supply Chain Can Flourish After COVID

Many supply chains are facing a people crisis right now. Even with high unemployment numbers across the country, it’s been difficult to find employees in some markets. Workers are skittish about returning to jobs they don’t know are safe, especially when they’re receiving unemployment compensation.

How can manufacturing and distribution supply chains safely go back to work, or safely expand operations back to pre-pandemic levels? That is the question of the day.

Just as “new normal” was beginning to seem a bit like just plain old “normal”, everything is changing once again. 

Like some kind of bizarrely delayed Spring, the world is slowly opening back up. As some shuttered stores figure out how to safely re-open, and a handful of major sports leagues test the post-COVID waters, manufacturing and distribution supply chains once again face this question: what do we do? What must we, as accountable businesses, do now to work responsibly?

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE TO “RESPOND AND ADAPT”?

If there is to be a post-COVID world, we have to learn from the tests we’ve faced these past few weeks and apply those lessons to our management. The most important of those lessons is the need to respond and adapt with confidence and clarity of purpose. 

This need — this vital requirement — for quick, sure-footed adaptation and responsiveness is at the core of every successful measure we’ve taken to slow the virus’s progress. It’s something we might as well have borrowed from an adopted slogan of the United States Marine Corps: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.

For us at nGROUP, and for our manufacturing and distribution supply chain clients, improvising and adapting has been especially crucial. Because our clients — ranging from fresh food production, to e-commerce retailers and direct-to-consumer distribution — have become an even more obvious part of the global economy’s lifeblood, they (along with us) have remained hard at work over the past few weeks. 

Everyone involved, from the production floor to the executive suite, had to learn to work safely and responsibly. Masks went on, distancing rules went into action, tape marks started showing up on production floors, temperature checks began, and sick employees were immediately sent home (or told not to show up in the first place). 

Even though they were (and are) at significant risk, everyone kept working. They responded. They responded by showing up for their shifts, following new necessary protocols, and adapting to the new workplace.

This ability to adapt is by definition the “new normal” everyone is talking about. 

THE SECRET IS PEOPLE — AND PROCESSES

The only way to get through this crisis — and the only way to readjust to a more open world — is by relying on people. Especially people who have been equipped with the right processes, and who benefit from clear-headed leadership.

  • Without people actually doing the right things — wearing masks, socially distancing, limiting travel, and more — this virus would have spread like wildfire. 
  • Without the people who manage the supply chains we all depend on, everything would have ground to a halt. 
  • And, without people in leadership positions devising and disseminating intelligent processes, the world would be facing a much graver crisis. 

Now, we must continue that reliance upon well-equipped, well-led people and processes. 

At nGROUP, we find that reassuring. People have been our secret weapon for decades. We know what motivated and incentivized people can accomplish. When people like that are empowered with the supporting structure they need, and inspired through powerful leadership, there’s little they can’t accomplish.

NOW, LET’S GO FORWARD AND LEAD THE WAY

Back to our original question: What do we do? We keep up our commitment to our people.

As supply chain leaders, the responsibility lies with us. It’s up to us to convince people to return to work. But how?

By telling them who they are: the hero. The secret weapon. Through their hard work — protected and empowered by the structure we, as leaders, have built — they will be the ones who bring the world back from the brink. They’ll be the ones who really do end up saving us all. 

Our people are “the hero” we’re all looking for in this season of uncertainty, and they need to know it. They will rise to this calling. 

So, when it comes time to convince people to become employees again, be sure you’re ready. Be sure you have that guiding, guarding structure in place. Be sure you really have gone further than ever in your protection of the safety, health, and wellbeing of everyone who works with and for you.

It’s important to appreciate the role technology and processes played (and will continue to play) in this crisis. It’s crucial to understand the even more vital role of people. Only by leading, motivating, and guarding our people can we, as supply chain leaders, do our utmost to help the world now.

BY: BOB DURON, COO

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