Supply Chain Trends

How to rapidly deploy and manage business changes in your supply chain

Written by
Jonathan Porter
Apr 5, 2022
5:14 am
minute read

These past two years have been an upheaval for us all. Collectively, we have experienced changes in our businesses, how we buy things and how we interact with our favorite stores. Retail has had to think quickly and change according to the consumer and global needs.

This has led to a rise in eCommerce, work from home and flexible business strategies. Remote implementations have allowed companies to survive and, for some, thrive. 

We have learned a lot about how to initiate, deploy and manage these alterations to business throughout this time, especially when it comes to supply chain management. There is a greater need for it now than ever before. 

Know How to Grow 

Supply chain management requires several functioning systems to remain a “well-oiled machine.”

The first step to implementing change is knowing what challenges your system is currently undertaking. Creating a team to give a complete overview assessment of the structures in place, their strengths and perhaps stretches is a great place to start.

During this pandemic, businesses required a shift into technology. With employees requiring remote work from home and health and safety dictating so, warehouses sat empty. This halt in production is what every business wants to avoid. Minimizing onsite staff should not mean minimizing production, and therein lies the area for growth.

Seeing Change as Opportunity

It is key to state that during these tumultuous times, change has, in a way, been a real growth opportunity for a lot of businesses. The pandemic opened our eyes to singular business growth and ways all companies can offer a more dependable, flexible and efficient service. 

With the rise of remote work, WMSs had to look deeply at what makes their space efficient and what aids it in production. Then, analyze how remote employee working has affected that. This opportunity to look deeper has encouraged businesses to come up with change management plans which are far more thorough, inclusive and productive than ever before. 

Changes to Systems Post-Pandemic

At PorterLogic, we know each business is uniquely different. Offering one strategy often won't work for all. However, this pandemic has offered a lot of learning in deploying and implementing change that will last and function efficiently. Here are three ways to overcome common challenges we’ve seen during this pandemic shift.

1. “We need a full onsite presence to keep our warehouse moving”

When the pandemic began, this is where many businesses were sitting. That initial lockdown sent many warehouses reeling and change management teams working on overdrive. Having a plan which implements a change in staffing is key. What is the most stable way to take care of the health of your workers as well as the health of your business? 

Looking at this deeper, many companies turned to technology. With employees working from home, the need for a syncable technology that assisted in sharing information and work routines was essential. Meetings become virtual. Inventories were digitized (if they weren’t already). Delivers became contactless. The rise of technology for WMS was a massive shift, and change management teams had to account for it- and still need to. 

Another aspect of technology that business began leaning toward were MHEs (material handling equipment). Deploying these technologies in a warehouse means having fewer staff on-site to manage products while still getting the job done. Staff can work remotely and shift into the warehouse instead of depending on hundreds of staff members to get product where it needs to be. The use of conveyors allows for socially distanced work. Drones allow for inventory tracking without moving around a warehouse. These technologies mitigate health risks while allowing the job to get done. 

2. “Employing new technologies is an uphill training battle”

The only natural next challenge after change management teams employ technology is how people will effectively use that technology. While training can be an uphill battle, the view from atop the hill is beautiful! Paying for employee training outright may seem arduous and costly, but in the long run, companies save more money by employing technologies and allowing employees to work from home. 

Oftentimes employing and training teams on WMS technologies allow for greater coherence between sectors, less product loss, higher delivery tracking ability and more. Production is improved through technology as well as efficient employee work. So while training may seem like a costly expense that requires a lot of time- the risk is pretty low if you’ve done your tech research beforehand! 

The other aspect of this is whether the new technology you are employing will work with old tracking modes, workflows, etc. Choosing software that molds to you, not to it, is essential to keeping the uphill battle more like an uphill learning. 

3. “Our communication between different areas of our WMS is failing”

This is something I think everyone can relate to throughout the pandemic. How we communicated significantly shifted. The way we communicate in business was no different. Change management teams should account for this change and set up structures for employees to follow. With a rise in work from home, we’ve also seen an increase in employees feeling like they can’t turn off or escape work. 

Emails are being sent too late or early. Messages are pinging us during dinner, and more than ever, timezones play a massive role in working hours. In looking at implementing technology to enable a remote working environment, we need to also look at how this technology assists us in our communication for the better. How does the technology allow for effective communication across business settings (from the warehouse floor to delivery, for example)? It is also key to see how the technology honors and tracks employees' time and use. 

New Ways of Thinking and Working

Throughout these challenging times, the silver lining is that our change management teams have found new easy to grow into a responsive business. Technology has played a huge role in helping companies stay afloat, but it's how it has been implemented which makes all the difference. 

Want the latest supply chain insights? When you subscribe to PorterLogic’s newsletter, you’ll get a bimonthly analysis and rundown of the supply chain’s latest trends and challenges in your inbox. 

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