Keep the supply chain moving during shutdown

During the current difficult period, when a movement control order has been imposed throughout the country due to the Covid-19 outbreak, logistics companies and those associated with the industry are suddenly much more in demand.

Overnight, their services are brought into focus and their ability to deliver has become more critical than before.

Their services are much more important now in providing much needed deliveries to places such as:

  • Hospitals and pharmacies where medical supplies and medicines are urgently needed,
  • Supermarkets and grocery stores, where fresh produce is high in demand;
  • Factories waiting for raw materials so production of essential items can continue; and
  • Warehouses and storage outlets where goods must be kept sufficiently safe and secure, with easy retrieval, stock control and transport access.

In other words, the supply chain process cannot be broken during this crucial period. The channels must be kept open to function more efficiently than usual to fill the gap resulting from the closure of many offices and commercial outlets which partly played the role of storage facility in the past.

Without commercial outlets, supplies have to come directly from the factory or warehouse. Logistics staff and employees, in whatever capacity they work, whether in backroom functions such as order taking and stock control, packaging, transportation and on-site deliveries, ought to be considered and recognised as frontline workers, too.

Their contributions in the current MCO situation are equally crucial.

Thousands of them are constantly on the move to ensure timely deliveries of items that people pick off the shelf in the pharmacy, grocery shop or supermarket chains.

Without them and their dedication to teamwork, shown at a time when others are safely at home, orders would not be achieved and deliveries would be hampered.

To ensure that food supplies are replenished in grocery stores and supermarkets, the backroom operation of receiving, sorting and re-packaging plus other supply chain activities such as cold storage and loading work, become more critical in order to meet the delivery cycles and the time management constraints that are now in force.

Most storage warehouses are actually working round the clock to meet early time deliveries. Logistics or supply chain management is now about delivering much-needed goods on time, to the right location and with the right quantities and quality too.

Because of the critical situation, many hospitals, for instance, are demanding more medical supplies and items like food and drinks, but do not have the capacity to store and manage them by themselves. So, deliveries and logistics scheduling becomes more critical in hospital management.

This is where logistics companies are being asked to play the crucial role of applying the just-in-time delivery systems.

Some deliveries are also dependent on imported goods received at our ports and airports. They need to be received, declared and cleared in a timely manner. They also need to be handled efficiently, brought to factories or warehouses for value-adding production, repackaged and sent out to various sales outlets and locations throughout the country.

Such is the challenge in managing the supply chain functions and their activities. That is why expertise in the field is often required to handle these roles and functions, which are now very much linked to IT-based management systems to maximise the level of efficiency, accuracy and effectiveness.

Any unforeseen bottleneck must be attended to and resolved immediately, otherwise it could spell disaster both in production and sales, resulting in an out-of-stock situation.

I trust the recently announced stimulus package by the government takes cognisance of the crucial role played by the logistics companies in Malaysia today.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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