What a start to 2022! – MHD

Sue Tomic, Chair of the SCLAA and Managing Director of Chain Consulting.

Sue Tomic of SCLAA reflects on the importance of resilience in supply chain as we head into 2022. 

The current climate of the supply chain can be likened to a tornado, showing that while intricate, it can also be so extremely fragile.

Reflecting on the last few years, the start of the year has brought many firsts – unexpected and, in some cases, catastrophic events. 

  • 2021 – The US symbol of Democracy, Capitol Hill, was overrun and vandalised.
  • 2020 – The year began with raging bushfires – labelled Australia’s biggest natural disaster.
  • 2019 – Millions of women create a 300 mile ‘Women’s Wall’ across the state of Kerala, India, in support of women’s access to the temple of Sabarimala. The entry of two women in the temple led to mass protests. News in Australia was dominated by the Cricket scores as we were all blissfully unaware of the global upheaval that was to follow in the years ahead.

At the centre of each event highlighted above there are two key things at play – people and resilience

These are some examples where people have rallied on a mass scale to make a difference, assist in the hardest of times, stand up for beliefs, or tear them down. 

During this January in Australia, the current shortage of people able to work in the supply chain and logistics industry has visually hit every Australian through empty shelves at the supermarket. Hopefully, the current situation is an anomaly despite the shortage of human resources in supply chain over many years. 

The importance of people in any organisation, business, or industry – not just supply chain – is the key to success rather than chaos. The biggest asset continues to be the one that remains off the balance sheet.

Ironically, it has taken a virus to bring this into sharp focus, as businesses have been forced to re-evaluate how to keep people working, motivated and productive. In turn, people having been separated from co-workers, family, and friends, has led to their own re-evaluation in terms of priorities, career satisfaction and their workplace (leading to many articles on the “Great Resignation” or the “Great Reset”). 

The driving force of employee motivation continues to be acknowledgment of achievement – be it group or individual. This is important. Acknowledging achievement is a passion builder and motivator. With people at the centre of any business or industry, success is a natural outcome of passionate people coming together to achieve a common goal. Whether it’s stocking shelves or fighting a raging fire.

Recognition and acknowledgment of Industry achievements and its outstanding Individuals will once again be celebrated at the 60th Australian Supply Chain & Logistics Awards to be held 18 March 2022. (www.ascla.com.au)

The industry holds very few National awards ceremonies, and having been on various judging panels, the calibre of what has been achieved continues to inspire. There should be respect and celebration for those that not only achieved success, but for their courage in showcasing it and wanting to share with others.

Supply Chain and logistics is not all about big successes. It is an intricate web dominated at its most basic level by a core consideration: people getting things from A to B. Those involved at this physical and most critical level of the process have seen the least changes in the workplace. There is no ability for hybrid or remote working when a container needs to be unpacked or goods delivered to a warehouse or retail delivery dock.

The challenge currently faced by industry is in direct proportion to measures implemented during prior lockdowns: company investment into workplace resilience and risk mitigation at the base level. 

How do you keep a business running if you have to shut down a whole warehouse, food processing plant, or lose a shift or multiple shifts of workers due to the pandemic?

The proactive have taken up the challenge and invested in “divide and conquer” technology that allows quick identification, segregation of workplaces to minimise the footprint of business shutdown, and monitoring of people/personnel outbreaks to mitigate the subsequent fallout. 

Dare I say it … they have taken the steps to manage their assets and haven’t forgotten that people are the most important asset they have. More on that later. 

Resilience. This has been the foremost issue at many Board tables, and in strategic plans and processes. Resilience is the ability to adapt, and bounce back from setbacks and misfortunes. It is categorised as a noun but I personally see it as a doing word. It takes action to become resilient. In the aftermath of the bushfires, the state government formed Resilience NSW. During unprecedented disruption to container trade, Transport for NSW and NSW Ports formed the Empty Container Park Working Group. Action out of crisis. People and organisations coming together. The supply chain is particularly good at that.

There is recognition at all levels of government and business that resilience is an important factor in any country, organisation or individual. It’s the difference between survive, thrive or perish. But it has a connotation of finality, conclusion and having reached a pinnacle.

There is of course no such thing – especially in supply chain, which is ever changing and challenging.

‘Resiliency’ is a word less used, but it should be – as a measure or level reached on the resilience spectrum. Resiliency is future focused and creates new ways of thinking and doing based on avoiding past crises.

Back to the current issue in our industry, it would appear that we have not moved very far on the scale of resiliency when it comes to warehouse and distribution workers. Could resiliency have been increased through technology? Yes and no. The only real mitigation would have been a mass effort by society, government and business to protect the workforce. 

Swift action of detecting and isolating the sick, when the scales are tipped, to ensure there are enough healthy to keep the wheels of the industry turning.

Where we have come unstuck – locally and globally – is we were unprepared with what came after the magic number of 80 per cent, 90 per cent (or whatever it may be) vaccinated eventuated. Closer to home there was the swifter change management of the pandemic from government to individuals and business.

Any business not monitoring the movement and health of its workforce and doing predictive analysis based on that data – including vaccination status and test results – really doesn’t know what it will be doing in coming weeks and possibly months if this pandemic continues to evolve and recur.

The “divide and conquer” technology already being deployed by businesses is prioritising their most fundamental asset – people.

Already a leader in the field in mining, resources, travel and other industries, and deployed by government departments as well for the public sector, is a quiet Australian achiever, the Comply Group with its CovidComply software. Having mastered contact tracing for business purposes, this innovative company has for seen the impacts of time delays and consequences of delayed communication of test results on organisations. It has “cut out the middle man” by partnering directly with pathology labs to provide test results, in line with privacy protocols, direct to employers. This was seven months ago.

Once again having foresight, Comply Group is also exploring partnerships directly with Biotech companies like ThermoFisher Scientific, which will add another level of resiliency to enable businesses to supply their workforce with testing products directly.

Founder and CEO, Ben Richardson, states, “In addition to being a tool for rapidly determining close contact transmissibility after the fact, this tool can also be used for COVID-safe planning to monitor the risk of transmissibility by determining the percentage of your workforce at risk in any given time period as they traverse across multiple zones as part of their work.”

Having real time and immediate data on your cleared and available for work personnel, at any given time on any given day, has increased resiliency for those companies who have already deployed and integrated the solution within their own systems and processes.

The bonus is, the software takes care of the “compliance requirements and health orders [as they] evolve over time, our software is designed to rapidly allow for changes of any level of complexity.”

Currently focusing on the supply and logistics sector, the solution can be deployed quickly and integrated into existing HR/OH&S, shift and payroll software.

The Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Australia is highlighting resiliency in the industry at its next event to be held 08 March at NSW Parliament House.

With guest speakers highlighting resiliency in the ports sector, in the workplace, and on an individual level, SCLAA is taking the opportunity of supporting WAGEC, a Sydney based charity facilitating emergency accommodation for women subjected to domestic violence.

SCLAA is proud to support this very worthy cause on International Women’s Day 2022, with all sponsorship proceeds fully tax deductible.

For more about SCLAA, click here. 

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