Whilst the lockdown measures are set to continue for a while longer, the Government appears to be keen to get certain industries moving again, sooner rather than later. We have previously talked generally about the steps to consider in order to prepare for the “new normal”. In this article, we will take a more detailed look into what that looks like from an operations perspective.
No matter what your business does, it will have a number of different processes, all of which will be impacted by the pandemic. Logistics, operations, as well as the underpinning infrastructure will all need to be reviewed.
Before even beginning to look at the actions for each process, businesses will need to recognise that the social distancing rules will need to be implemented. Thinking about what measures you can realistically implement to ensure that your business can comply with the social distancing rules will be essential. Gone are the days (for the time being at least) when people can stand or sit side-by-side. It is therefore likely that you will need to adjust your staffing requirements, including shift patterns and working patterns to ensure that the social distancing can take place.
Communication remains key as we move towards an exit from the lockdown. Speak with your suppliers to understand what challenges they are facing. Identify any weaknesses in their ability to supply and research alternatives, especially if there is a heavy reliance on imported goods. Determine whether you need to source certain products from elsewhere and what those time frames will look like.
Once you have carried out the above, you will be able to ascertain how quickly you will be able to get moving again.
Most delivery companies have implemented measures when dropping off orders to consumers but what does that look like in the business-to-business arena? Reducing contact points will be vital in the short to medium term.
Thinking about how you count deliveries so that you can sign the delivery note is unlikely to be top of your list of priorities, however having an adapted process will ensure that you can keep track of deliveries. If the process is going to change, make sure that this is communicated to your teams and that it is followed. If your changes reflect how visitors are dealt with, think about having additional signage to communicate the changes to visitors too.
Use the opportunity to speak to your suppliers so that they are up-to-date and can communicate to their drivers what the new process will look like upon arrival.
Before you restart operations, consider whether you will be able to recommence at the same levels prior to closure, taking into account the enhanced social distancing requirements. If this is going to have an adverse impact on your turnover, reviewing the impact that it will have on your operations will be a good exercise as it will help you to determine your purchasing and staffing requirements in the short to medium term.
Once you have established what your operations will look like, the next step will be to ascertain whether you have the necessary stock in-hand to complete outstanding work in progress. Speak to your customers whose orders are outstanding to determine when/if they need the order/s completing.
Once you have an understanding of those that do, ascertain where the gaps are in your stock system and communicate with your suppliers to see whether they are able to provide you with the goods you need to complete the existing orders. Identifying any potential issues with throughput in advance will also ensure that any such problems can either be dealt with ahead of time, or any risk of delays can be communicated to customers early.
Many businesses will be opening up at similar times. Make sure that you confirm your haulage and other logistics requirements in advance so that you can minimise any delays to customers. Consider whether you need to adjust how deliveries are made to maintain social distancing and whether drivers need to be provided with PPE.
Given the current situation, it is likely that you will be operating differently to how you operated prior to the lockdown. Reviewing your message to the market, taking into consideration what that will look like to potential customers is important.
In addition to your marketing message you may need to adjust your sales process, especially if prior it was all face-to-face. Taking some time to reflect on any changes that need to happen will likely be beneficial as it will give you an opportunity to think about your pipeline for new work.
Given the social distancing measures, it is likely that you will have to adjust how you deal with customer/client queries. If your business is used to having visitors, consider increasing the signage to provide guidance for visitors to your business. If you need to limit the number of visitors, review the process for making appointments to ensure that contact is reduced to an acceptable level. You may be able to use technology in a different way to meet the needs of the remote end user, including using an online booking system to make appointments. Finally, if you provide an after-sales repair service, consider how this can be appropriately implemented.
Once the return to work is imminent, consider a phased switch-on to avoid overloading the system. Where you have multi-user equipment (such as photocopiers) and telephones, consider updating your guidance to ensure that cross-contamination is reduced. If you intend to continue to utilise remote working, determine who is going to be doing that and, for the employees who are back on site, consider how they will be able to interact with those at home.
If you have furloughed workers, it is likely that there will need to be a phased return to work for those employees. Consider who is returning and when, as thought will need to be given to those who are in the shielding group, any public transport constraints and child care. If your operations are not going to recommence at the same rate, you may need to consider adjusting shift/working patterns.
Given the changes being implemented, it is likely that there will be variations to the guidance produced by the Health & Safety Executive (“HSE”). Follow all your normal safety practices, referring to existing and any new regulatory requirements, policies procedures and risk assessments, for example using support documents published by the HSE. Determine whether you have sufficient appropriate personal protective equipment if required. Consider a deep clean of offices and other workspaces prior to any return. Review your cleaning chemicals and stock to ensure the right level of materials are office ready and re-brief cleaners on areas which are touchpoints or heavy usage and explain the new protocols.
Whilst there are still many concerns about the risks of contracting COVID-19, the Government is trying to look at ways in which it can get the economy moving again. Taking a step back will enable you to reflect on your current operating practices (pre-lockdown) and how they need to be adapted to make the environment suitable for the “new normal”. If you are concerned about the impact that this will have on your business, please get in touch with our experts who will be able to assist you in preparing your business to return to work.