Warehousing, Supply Chain Management, FulfillmentAs the world grapples with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, global supply chain leaders are busier than ever and working hard to keep workers and customers safe—even as they keep millions of products moving.Of course, the threat of COVID-19 has dominated the national dialogue. But responsible warehouse managers know that safeguards to protect workers, drivers, and the supply chain itself are always a top priority. They are important during this pandemic, and they will remain equally important beyond the recovery period. In addition to staying vigilant against COVID-19, suppliers must minimize exposure to influenza, norovirus, and the common cold, as well as E. coli, salmonella, and listeria. This is not only an ethical obligation, but also a business imperative.Throughout this outbreak, fulfillment centers have adapted accordingly. Many have supplied workers with masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Others have suspended in-person meetings; hastened investments in supply chain automation; distributed more sanitizers; and enhanced their cleaning protocols. Even beyond the pandemic, we recommend that suppliers remain cognizant of best practices and lessons learned. Viruses are known to linger on surfaces, and easy-to-clean plastic pallets and comprehensive sanitization procedures provide many benefits. In addition to increasing the distribution of disinfectants and PPE supplies, supply chain managers should consider implementing the following policies so these tools can be used to full effect: Review your employees’ daily processes to find less commonly used or less obvious surfaces that may not be sanitized at regular intervals. For instance, writing instruments should be sanitized frequently, as they have a high chance of transmission and often go unnoticed. Identify problem areas. Different kinds of surfaces are harder to clean at regular intervals. Non-plastic pallets are more absorbent than plastic, so they are havens for pathogens and are not as easily sanitized. Non-plastic pallets can also carry an increased risk of splinters and nails, which can potentially damage PPE and cause injuries. Invest in efficient cleaning applications for the future. The industry changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on are not reversing anytime soon; finding ways to disinfect quickly and inexpensively, but still effectively, is vital.Regardless of what materials suppliers are using, it’s important to remember that the threat of a pandemic will come and go. We have an obligation to keep workers and products safe and free of contamination all the time, now and in the future. With diligence and sensible solutions in place, we can all play our part.Jeff Pepperworth serves as president and CEO ofiGPS Logistics, a provider of plastic pallet pooling solutions. Pepperworth is a supply chain and logistics industry veteran whose extensive experience includes senior-level positions at CSafe Global and UPS Supply Chain Solutions.
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