Supply Chain and Logistics Industry Leaders Share Perspective on COVID-19 Pandemic

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we are finding that each industry has its own unique challenges and experiences. A key area, supply chain & logistics, has been important as we navigate the pandemic. Our Supply Chain & Logistics team has been speaking with thought leaders in the industry in regards to their specific companies, the industry as a whole, and the impact COVID-19 has had. Thank you to all participants for your helpful perspective and thoughtful advice.

Greg Quast, Vice President of Operations, Freight Consolidation
RLS Logistics

In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, how has it impacted your business?

There are many tangible ways in which the COVID crisis has changed our business, but most importantly, the crisis has given us pause and demanded that we not only act, but it has forced us to think outside the box in order to manage the changing landscape of business as we have come to know it.

As a transporter of frozen and refrigerated foods, RLS was identified as an essential service, so we knew we would remain open. In late February we began to prepare for the possibility of a shutdown and began to equip and train our teams for remote work. Initially, (early March) we saw a huge spike in business followed by a slowdown in early April. Business is now steadily beginning to return to normal.

In a crisis, finding yourself behind the curve can be disastrous, so we anticipated the tough situations, brainstormed solutions and worked to be proactive, knowing it was only a matter of time before the virus would find its way into our workplace. As anticipated, we have had to deal with positive test results in our warehouse the associated labor shortages. We have increased our cleaning schedules, ramped up disinfectant fogging regimens and provided all employees with PPE. We take each employee’s temperature upon arrival and are paying employees to stay home if they display COVID related symptoms.

The costs associated with COVID prevention have been tremendous and are certainly a strain on our profitability but finding ways to reinvent and innovate our business model to accommodate the current climate will keep us moving forward. Things are not the same, and the reality is that change is the only way we can move forward together as individuals, teams, businesses, and communities.

The real question is how do we return to work? What does it look like post pandemic. That’s what keeps me up at night.

Has your service changed for customers that you work with and if so, how?

We have seen no change in service for our customers.

How are you keeping employees engaged and motivated right now?

We are paying incentive bonuses to our warehouse workers. Our office workers are all remote and we have team chats via Microsoft Teams 2X daily. We have really tried to over communicate to make sure employees feel engaged and informed.

What message would you like to share with the Supply Chain & Logistics industry in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Try to keep perspective. We have had other pandemics and have survived; this too shall pass. I am thankful that this is the industry I am in and I am thankful for all the carriers and warehouse workers who are out there making sure the job gets done. They are the heroes of this pandemic.

Mike Chalfant, President
Clay Holden, Vice President of Sales
MyFreightWorld Inc.

In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, how has it impacted your business?

For us at MyFreightWorld Inc., it has been business as usual. We have been blessed that as a little over 20 years old, our company has a solid foundation of house accounts, and we have a deep understanding of their supply chains. While some of our accounts are down in their volumes, we have our account managers working from home and  haven’t seen any drops in service.

How has your leadership been handling the current situation?

Certainly, this has been a different type of challenge to tackle. Setting up the proper remote infrastructure was something we had to handle but we have a good grasp on it now. Our employees are very well-tenured, so there is a great amount of trust and strong communication links that allows us to work remotely efficiently and effectively. In addition, we are fortunate we have trust from our account managers, who have a mixture of tenures anywhere from 5 to 20 years. They are invested in the success of the organization. One of the biggest challenges is from a sales aspect, with so much of sales being in the moment, so it is hard to do it remotely.

Has your service changed for customers that you work with and if so, how?

Most of our service is phone calls, so that has not changed, but we do have to be more cognizant of what’s going on right now. Since we are setting up pickups and deliveries in different locations, each customer we talk to is different. Those in New York are having a much different experience right now than here in Kansas City, because they are extremely affected by coronavirus. We need to keep that in mind to be more patient and connect on human element first, then go into the supply chain aspect secondary.

It is also important to us to grow our business and employee base. People want to work, good or bad. One good thing is that people are taking a step back and looking at what is essential business and what will not be impacted by something like this. Being in supply chain and logistics gives a sense of security in times like these.

How are you keeping employees engaged and motivated right now?

Being understanding, patient, flexible, and allowing people to work from home while keeping the same expectations has been key for us. We understand that people have a life outside of work. Right now, all schools are cancelled for the year, and almost all our employees have kids, so we are cognizant of that as they balance working from home and taking care of their families. To add, we are constantly checking in, making sure they have resources they need to be effective with their job. We are communicating with the team throughout the day, providing updates on how the company is doing on a higher level, and just being aware of how they are doing. In the meantime, work is getting done. Our staff doesn’t want to let their customers down. Being open, accepting and instilling trust in our employees both before and after the virus started has gone a long way.

What message would you like to share with the Supply Chain & Logistics industry in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic?

We need to do our part in helping end the spread of this virus. Aside from having employees work remotely, we’ve found other ways to help “flatten the curve” . For example, we work with a local company who has shifted their business model to start manufacturing hand sanitizer. We’ve done our portion of the work at cost, because every little bit helps and we want to do our part to keep people healthy and safe. Shipping volumes are down as the economy is down, but we will be ready when it comes back with a full staff eager to help.

Our main message is to stay positive, stay upbeat, follow directions of officials telling us how to stay safe. If we do our part, we will get through this together and we will be stronger in the end for it.

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