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Gartner Sights Supply Chain Initiatives to Protect Workers During Coronavirus Pandemic

April 27, 2020

To improve the safety of transportation workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, supply chain and logistics leaders should implement four technology initiatives immediately, according to Gartner, Inc.

“As capacity continues to tighten and there are fewer drivers on the road, it’s a requirement to keep them safe,” said Carly West, director analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice. “While safety is especially important now, it should be a key issue for logistics leaders at all times. Fortunately, there are a variety of technologies available that increase driver safety and also help run more efficient operations now and in the world after COVID-19.”

Implement and Use Telematic and Safety Solutions in Fleets to Ensure Better Driver Safety and Reduce Costs

Many government agencies have released temporary exceptions related to driver hours to ensure an adequate supply of critical goods during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, longer hours increase the risk of fatigued driving.

Telematics solutions can help mitigate this risk. Organizations can review hours worked and make adjustments to the schedule, such as initiating a handover with another driver. Advanced solutions also collect data on closed rest stops and reroute truckers to alternative locations.

Employ Vehicle Routing and Scheduling Solutions to Reroute Shipments and Redeploy Assets in Real-Time

Rerouting can apply to product delivery in the first-, middle- and, especially, final-mile. Over the road (OTR) drivers may be rerouted with critical products from original plans to deliver to a distribution center and instead go directly to a store. There are also needs to reroute and redeploy products from middle-mile drivers that may be OTR and hand off to another driver for final-mile delivery into a red zone. In some cases, drivers may need to be rerouted away from high-risk locations.

“Enabling flexibility in rerouting and redeploying resources is becoming a requirement of businesses amid the COVID-19 outbreak,” Ms. West said. “Implementing technology solutions that enable things like heat maps and geofences enable understanding high-risk locations and proactive real-time alerts to notify when deliveries will arrive. This could help businesses be nimble and proactive in the future as well. Having the ability to pivot plans quickly and easily by using technology based on the needs of your supply chain could differentiate companies in the future.”

Implement Virtual Practices Using Technology to Help With Social Distancing and Enabling More Efficient Interactions

Social distancing is a challenge for all essential workers, including truck drivers and employees at pickup and delivery locations, such as warehouses, stores or medical facilities. Supply chain and logistics leaders must make it a priority to facilitate these interactions through technology as much as possible in order to prevent infections with COVID-19. The efficiency and time savings realized through these methods could be a benefit to the supply chain long after the impact of the pandemic.

“Technology solutions help reduce physical contact to a minimum. Routine procedures like gate check-ins and paperwork signing can move to the cloud via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. Real-time transportation visibility platforms flag shipments carrying essential goods, so staff can already prepare with protective gear, such as face masks and be in place to retrieve or offload quickly,” Ms. West said. “Proactive alerts are also a good practice for the last-mile delivery to end consumers. Tracking technology allows them to see when the delivery is approaching their home, as well as when it has arrived.”

Use Trailer and Product Sensors to Help Monitor and Locate Critical Items Moving Through the Supply Chain

With all of the panic buying, items like hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, paper products, face masks and related healthcare products have been depleted from the market, creating risk of theft while in transit. The shortage and high demand for these products have created an environment ripe for theft and counterfeit products. Products can be stolen and sold for a much higher price due to panic buying.

“For product safety, supply chain leaders should consider using sensors on products and trailers to keep products safe. Sensors can be used within trailers or product to track the movement of the product on the road and set alerts for deviations or issues,” Ms. West said.” Using technology to track critical and expensive products is a smart practice for companies to have better control on location and safety of their assets.”

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