Supply Chain Experts Share Lessons Learned from COVID-19 Pandemic

Supply Chain Experts Share Lessons Learned from COVID-19 Pandemic

Each month, Keith Phillips, President and CEO of Voxware, hosts candid discussions with leading supply chain experts for the Distribution Center Innovation Series. Throughout 2020, a common theme has been the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the shockwaves it has sent through the industry.

The first guest to appear on the series was Carlos Falcon, Business Planning Director for Puerto Rico Supplies Group (PRSG). PRSG is Puerto Rico’s largest distributor of consumer goods, distributing more than 5,000 products across the island.

Carlos described how the PRSG team relied on the lessons learned from Hurricane Maria in 2017 and how that difficult experience allowed them to better respond to the current crisis. Three of these key takeaways were planning, strategic decision-making and leadership.

“We knew that we had to keep moving. We owed it to our customers,” he said. “We were very quick to adjust our business. We moved people and resources around to help account for increased customer demand and provided the appropriate safety equipment for our staff.”

The DC Innovation Series was also fortunate to feature Katherine Ross, the recently retired President of Johnson & Johnson Health Care Services. Throughout her career, she has faced her fair share of crises, although in her own words, “Never one like this before.”

Katherine believes there will be a shift in the industry over the next three to five years as a result of the pandemic. Her takeaway to share with viewers is that automation technology and analytics tools will help companies prevail in the future.

“The leading companies that I see now are taking an opportunity to reposition themselves to get the tools and infrastructure in place. Companies that get on top of their analytics will be the winners in the future. Companies that aren’t layering in analytics are leaving a lot of opportunities behind,” she explained.

Another believer in automation technology and analytics software appearing on the Innovation Series was veteran supply chain and operations executive Sandy McKay, most recently at Haggar Clothing Co. as Vice President, Distribution.

“The importance of automation and robotics and having well-designed workstations for your associates so they can be safe is going to be important going into the future,” he said.

Sandy also shared the importance of looking at your staff and evaluating personnel, saying: “You have to have a well cross-trained team to do multiple tasks in the organization. I don’t believe specialization works. You need to clearly document these roles and job functions so employees can do multiple jobs.”

Through his role at Zebra Technologies, one of Voxware’s strategic partners, Mark Wheeler, Director of Supply Chain Solutions has the ability to work across Zebra’s customer base as well as its own supply chain operators.

“Companies are built on too many assumptions and what this experience has shown us is that many of these assumptions are subject to change rapidly, and you need to understand how to deal with that,” he said.

Mark believes that companies need to be very deliberate about risk assessment and resiliency, “and will need to start assigning dollar values to each capability.”

As we continue to navigate through these unchartered waters, businesses must be as resilient as ever. By listening to peers and learning from others in the industry, companies will continue to find ways to make their supply chains a competitive advantage.

Join the DC Innovation Series on the second Thursday of each month to hear from a new supply chain expert.

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