Most supply chain companies have employees unprepared for remote work. Workers do not have enough resources and lack the technical skills to operate digital tools.
Supply chain businesses must educate, train, and provide employees with tailored, intuitive, and easy-to-use software applications to achieve efficiency and reliability and improve the business’s overall bottom line.
The Covid-19 pandemic has stunned the world, affecting people, businesses, and supply chains. It has disrupted numerous industries worldwide, and companies and individuals are looking for ways to adapt to the situation.
Employees shifted to work from home almost overnight due to safety measures, lockdowns, and restrictions on travel. Supply shortages became a massive challenge during the Covid-19 pandemic and affected various industries.
The problem occurred when the demand grew for products/goods during the Covid-19 pandemic. Likewise, most supply chain companies were not ready to adopt digital tools and shift their employees to work remotely.
Remote work in the supply chain industry refers to a situation that causes employees to work from home and communicate with the organization via telephone, email, and other digital platforms.
The alternative to remote work is going to the office or company’s locations, such as a warehouse, manufacturing plant, distribution center, etc. The pandemic changed how most employees in the supply chain industry work.
During Covid, there was a massive move toward remote work in various occupations. Current situations entail that working from home is a permanent shift for organizations or at least forces them to implement a hybrid (remote + office work) approach.
So how does remote work affect supply chains? How can companies overcome challenges and streamline business operations even by implementing a remote work strategy? Today’s article will answer these questions in detail. Read on!
How Does Remote Work Affect Supply Chains?
What impact has work from home had on companies in supply chains? Positive changes include improved attendance rates, attentive supervisors, and streamlined communications.
However, recent reports show that remote work in supply chains can reduce overall productivity, leading to disrupted operations and financial losses. Here is how remote work can affect supply chain companies.
Reduces Response Time
In-office work is more appealing for employees in the supply chain industry because it improves productivity. Reports highlight that when employees are in the office, their primary focus is work.
Because response time is fundamental for businesses in the supply chain, teamwork becomes challenging through remote work. For example, teams must immediately resolve the issue if there is a surprise manufacturing plant shutdown or shipping problem.
So, people in the office are more confident that they have appropriate resources to deal with emergencies. On the other hand, remote work may cause problems for the supply chain during emergencies because most problems require multiple groups of employees or teams to respond to the situation.
Similarly, most urgent responses require input from different departments and teams, including planning, procurement, logistics, IT, customer service, etc. Remember, teams can solve problems efficiently and quickly when they are in the same place.
The reason is that they can gather, develop a plan, and respond quickly to a specific problem. Remote work may not allow all employees/teams to work together and resolve the issue on the ground. Thus, this may disrupt the overall business operations and lead to risks/losses.
Remote Work can Lead to Complications
The supply chain industry requires many front-line workers, such as manufacturing and warehouse employees. So, tasks related to these domains require employees to work in person.
Similarly, supply chain operations require managerial and administrative teams to collaborate with employees and work with them on the ground. Otherwise, training, performance, and company culture gaps can lead to disruptions.
Moreover, supply chain networks have numerous co-locations due to the distributed work arrangement. Thus, this demands teams on the ground to identify problems, develop strategies, and implement them quickly.
Security is one of the most significant concerns for supply chain companies operating their operations through remote work. It has become critical for an organization to implement and accommodate remote work arrangements.
Businesses’ potential security problems can increase when they fail to install antivirus software, firewalls, VPN configurations, and other protocols for employees working from home.
For example, a supply chain company’s employees who work from a café another location with public Wi-Fi can compromise the organization’s data. So, before implementing a work-from-home strategy, a company must focus on security.
The purpose is to minimize the risk of online threats, malware, malicious codes, and cyberattacks. Organizations in the supply chain industry are vulnerable to confidentiality breaches because hackers can steal valuable data and misuse it, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in loss.
The shipping supply chain is another significant problem caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Unwinding the crisis will take months, depending on how supply chain networks respond to the disruptions.
During the lockdowns, consumer spending in the U.S swung from services, including entertainment, leisure, and travel, to home improvement, online shopping, and eCommerce.
So, this has unprecedentedly caused strain on the container supply chain networks. For example, online shops require distribution centers, but they were unprepared to streamline these centers.
Today, the problem persists, and many distributors and retailers have bulked up their inventories to prevent shortages. We believe this is one of their ways to hedge against goods/products shortage.
The rise in online shopping contributed to a significant disruptive spiral of making quick shipping a necessity for consumers. Besides, warehousing problems have worsened due to bottlenecks by pushing supplies back to freight terminals or shipping docks.
Although remote work is not entirely responsible for shipping problems, it plays a role in disruptions because teams accountable for these operations do not have digital tools to streamline the process.
Remote Work Strategies for Supply Chain Companies
The Covid-19 pandemic forced supply chain organizations to impose restrictions on free goods movement. Many businesses, including large corporations, like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, recommend remote work to their employees.
Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Australia, and Africa have the same pattern of restrictions caused by the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war. So, supply chain companies must develop strategies and appropriate protocols to encourage employees to work from home and yield better outcomes. Here are a few methods to overcome challenges.
Implement a Sophisticated Infrastructure
Not all employees working in a supply chain company can work from home. For example, warehouse workers, loading staff, drivers, cleaners, and maintenance crews must stay on-site to carry out their specific tasks.
However, employees who work in the office can shift to remote work, but this requires the company to implement a suitable infrastructure. We recommend employers decide who can work from home and who must stay on-site.
In addition, most supply chain employees work through ERPs, management software, and cloud-based applications. Cloud-based tools are excellent for setting up remote access and safeguarding a company’s data.
Organizations that focus on paperless strategies have a competitive advantage because it enables employees to scan and email essential documents and send them through the internet.
A supply chain company must focus on creating a team of qualified professionals with extensive knowledge of IT, programming, networking, and cybersecurity. It would help if you also had maintenance staff and supervisors to resolve issues encountered by remote employees.
Provide Resources to Employees
Supply chain companies looking to streamline remote work must provide their employees with the required infrastructure to ensure efficiency and reliability. Although everyone has a computer, you must determine whether your employees’ systems (PC, laptops, smartphones, or tablets) are suitable for business use.
Evaluate and review what is available and ensure employees have sophisticated workstations in their homes. If you use cloud-based software, provide your employees with a browser that ensures secure connectivity.
In addition, on-premises software requires additional program installations, including antivirus, firewall, malware protection, etc. You may also consider other tools, like PDF readers, document software, spreadsheets, scanning, and printing.
Conduct Regular Meetings
A supply chain company looking to maintain efficiency must conduct regular meetings through online tools, like Zoom, Skype, Team, Slack, or tailored communication software to engage employees, monitor performance, and collect feedback.
You can conduct video or voice-only meetings depending on the available tools and internet speed. We prefer video conferences because it improves social interaction, reduces distraction, and engage employees.
Moreover, create tailored cloud-based software applications with a portal for each employee to improve communication with their teams. Implement a messenger for private messages and install strict security protocols to prevent unauthorized users from accessing sensitive data.
Maintain Information Security
Data security in supply chains can lower the risks of online threats and cyberattacks. At the same time, implementing information security or management software can reduce and control costs.
For example, decreasing exposure to threats and cyberattacks allows your teams to safeguard products, prevent downtime, and protect sensitive data from theft. Similarly, this ensures the protection of proprietary information and promotes client trust. Develop a solid strategy and focus on the following to optimize remote work.
Educate employees via ongoing training
Provide sufficient digital resources to employees
Backup digital documents and apply software updates
Adopt a robust password policy with multi-factor authentication
Install antivirus programs and firewalls
Warn remote workers about Wi-Fi scams
Provide employees with licensed VPN tools
Fewer supply chain companies can afford to close their business and lose money. However, the situation requires enterprises to digitize their operations and encourage employees to work from home.
Therefore, taking preemptive steps is critical to maintain optimal outcomes and manage operations during these uncertain times. While the primary objective of working from home is to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infections, keeping supply chains operational via proactive planning and premium-quality technologies is essential to prevent disruptions.
Not implementing a solid strategy can cause supply chain companies to experience various problems, such as employees not being ready to work from home, insufficient digital resources, ineffective data handling, and increased supplier lead times due to inefficient team collaboration.
The strategies above can help supply chain businesses to overcome challenges posed by Covid and Russia-Ukraine war and better prepare employees to work remotely, increase productivity, and streamline operations. Until Next Time!
Patrick is passionate about manufacturing and operational efficiency. He brings creative ideas to the table seeking to improve business processes. He enjoys forward thinking and innovation initiatives. Patrick navigated through most business functions learning how to address pain points recommending paths for problem resolution and sustainable way forward.
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