Supply Chain Management and Covid-19: What You Need to Know

At the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic, there were widespread fears that global supply chains would collapse. Fortunately, these fears appear to have been unfounded. That could all change, though; covid-19 is nothing if not unpredictable.

Supply chain managers should take a proactive role in ensuring their business’s supply chains are set up to withstand the virus’s impact.

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Establishing a Risk Management Strategy

The first and most important thing to do to protect your supply chain is to implement a comprehensive risk management strategy. Appoint someone you trust to oversee your strategy’s implementation if you aren’t going to be administering it yourself. Once your risk management strategy is in place, workers throughout your business should feel confident that you are putting their safety first. It is also vital for them to know that you have plans to deal with any incidents where workers or contractors are infected.

Devising and implementing an overarching risk management strategy in your own business is one thing, but the real challenge is going to be getting your contractors on board. You should make it clear to anyone who does work for your business, whether you employ them or not, that they need to adhere to the risk management policies that you put in place.

Remember that while most people think of covid-19 as spreading through breathing the same air as an infected person, there are many ways it can spread. It can spread via indirect means, such as touching contaminated surfaces. The virus can survive on a range of different surfaces, sometimes for days or weeks. All it takes is one person not taking your risk management strategy seriously, and a virus can easily spread from one facility to another.

Streamlining Operations

The impacts of covid-19 on a national and local level are hard to predict. Many workplaces have been emptied of staff as key team members have been taken ill with the virus. Other businesses have managed to continue operating virtually unaffected. But for businesses that rely on complex supply chains to keep products and components flowing, it only takes the loss of a few people along the way to throw a spanner into the works.

It is wise to put contingency plans in place so your business can continue to function with a fraction of its usual workforce if necessary. Learning to manage with as few workers as possible is worth doing. You never know when another unforeseeable situation is going to reduce your numbers, even if only temporarily.

Investing in the right equipment can allow each of your available workers to accomplish more. For example, this article from Kettering University highlights two examples of affordable, low-tech products that can give you noticeable efficiency gains.

Vetting Your Contractors

Whether you are working with a contractor for the first time or you have a years-long relationship with them, you should assume nothing when it comes to covid-19. Talk to your existing contractors about the measures that they have in place to minimize the spread of the coronavirus and whether they will be enough to meet your standards. If your contractors have an independent risk management strategy that you are satisfied with, you don’t need to insist that they follow your plan to the letter.

Don’t work with any contractors who you don’t feel are taking their obligations seriously. Remember that having a robust policy in place doesn’t mean anything if no one is enforcing it, and workers aren’t following it.

For example, many businesses are going to need to work together to maintain their supply chains. Minimizing the number of workers from different businesses who interact with one another is an important measure for limiting the virus’s spread. But if the contractors you work with don’t care about these details, they could be undermining the steps you’ve taken to keep your workforce safe.

Whenever you have a contractor or temporary worker entering your workplace for the first time, ensure that someone gives them a proper orientation session to know where everything is and what you expect of them.

Implement Clear Procedures for Keeping Workers Safe

As well as implementing a risk-management strategy for your entire supply chain, you should also devise a set of clear policies that individuals throughout your business can stick to. By getting your workers to do just a few simple things, you can drastically reduce the chances of covid-19 spreading throughout your business.

First and foremost, get as many people wearing masks as possible. Not everyone can wear a mask, but everyone who can should be doing so at this point. Wearing masks reduces the rate at which the virus spreads by providing a physical barrier to capture contaminated droplets of saliva that we emit when we talk, cough, or sneeze.

Social distancing is also important. Your workers should aim to stay at least 6 feet away from each other at all times. Of course, this isn’t always going to be possible. Briefly coming within 6 feet of another person is unlikely to be dangerous, especially outside. If most or all of your workers are wearing masks, these will offer some protection when they can’t remain distanced.

Frequent handwashing with soap and water will kill the virus. Some people prefer to keep a bottle of antibacterial gel on them to use. Either method is fine; both soap and alcohol kill the coronavirus.

Finally, your workers must share responsibility for keeping their workplace sanitized. Surfaces that workers frequently touch throughout the day should be regularly wiped down with antibacterial spray to kill off any virus’s lingering traces.

Protecting our supply chains’ integrity during covid-19 requires everyone who uses them to do their bit to limit the spread of the virus. No matter how diligent you are, you can’t guarantee 100% that your workers will be safe, and the virus won’t take hold. But by sticking to the advice outlined above, you can at least keep the chances of an outbreak to a minimum. Supply chain managers need to make their voices heard if they feel that there are weaknesses in their current approach.

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