Tranzone has been able to maintain its work momentum and usher in new performance efficiencies even in the long shadow of the pandemic thanks to new work protocols, guidelines and regulations. Overseas expansion is also in the horizon, affirms Biju Joseph, the company’s Operations Manager.
It is now abundantly evident that the raging corona virus pandemic has dented processes and disrupted operations of virtually every industrial sector in the world. The logistics, supply chain and distribution chains have also been adversely impacted following tactical moves by companies requiring employees to stay home to limit the spread of the virus.
This has led to reduced inventory production in many sectors, and the resulting shortages have been felt in many industries, including that of medical supplies, which has seen emergency purchasing push demand. Distributors buying goods from factories that have continued or resumed operations have had their own struggles. B2B resellers may find it difficult to ship items from manufacturers to their international clients because efforts to contain the virus have led to policies restricting air travel and ocean deliveries.
Global Supply Chain recently caught up with Biju Joseph, Operations Manager, Tranzone, Dubai, UAE where he heads the warehousing and distribution systems to discuss how the pandemic and efforts to reduce its spread are impacting global supply chains as well as identify the lessons companies should take from this emergency.
The impact of the pandemic has been widespread and all-pervading, and logistics services providers are doing their best to rally and keep operations running as smoothly and as efficiently as possible. In this exclusive interview Biju Joseph provides his take and dwells at length on all measures taken to keep interruptions to the minimum and increase efficacy and ensure streamlined operations.
Global Supply Chain (GSC): Briefly, what are key takeaways and broad observations of the Covid-19 pandemic from the Tranzone corporate perspective on your warehousing operations?
Biju Joseph (BJ): As a result of Covid-19, we have had to make a number of changes to the way we operate to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our employees. To maintain operational continuity in the warehouse and with physical distancing in place, we implemented a 24h-hour split shift operation reducing the number of employees working at any one time.
By taking suitable and effective action it ensured our employees maintain social distancing whilst working in a safe and hygienic environment. It also guaranteed that operationally our quality and service levels were maintained at optimum levels with shipments being both processed and dispatched on time.
GSC: How is the onset of the pandemic impacting your warehousing business?
BJ: As a Pharmaceutical 3PL we are exempt from the lockdown or any mandatory restrictions put in place by Dubai Government. As a vital sector it was important that Tranzone maintained operations as normal with essential employees only working on site.
All remaining support functions and departments worked remotely. So as far as our customers were concerned it was business as normal whilst maintaining and enforcing strict health protocols and safety procedures.
GSC: How much of your professional work environment and ecosystem in the warehouse has changed as a result of the Covid-19 virus onslaught?
BJ: On account of the nature of the products we store, we operate in a very clean and semi-sterile environment. Hand sanitizer stations have always been in place throughout the warehouse and offices. The real change for the employees has been the wearing of masks and adjustments to the shift patterns to maintain social distancing.
GSC: With the Pharma, Food, Cold Chain and critically required medical / PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies industry in the frontlines of the fight against the virus, how have your priorities been rearranged and what kind of new demands and pressures are being put on your business now?
BJ: Currently nothing has really changed in the way the operation functions day to day. Tranzone operates a very flexible business model which allows us to adjust or modify the way we operate fairly quickly and without detriment to service we offer our customers. What we are now seeing are
more enquiries from European companies for both storage and distribution.
GSC: How can the pharmaceutical industry and specifically ‘warehousing’ better prepare to possibly avert and deal more effectively with this current situation?
BJ: Firstly, given the sensitive nature of the business we operate in, we definitely need to create a safe work environment for the employees to work safely and comfortably. This can be achieved by reducing the on-site presence to essential workers only.
We have increased the warehouse operating hours by adding additional shifts. This ensures that productivity and customer service levels remain uncompromised but with less employees in the warehouse at any one time.
We need to continually remind and educate employees on how to prevent infection. The wearing of Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) in the workplace is important. Washing and sterilizing hands on entering and leaving the warehouse is now compulsory.
We ensure adequate stocks of PPE on site to maintain these levels of personal safety. Finally, it is vital to plan and prioritize operations and the workload daily. As the old Benjamin Franklin adage goes—‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!’
GSC: How can the pharma logistics services providers such as Tranzone better contribute to ensure more streamlined and speedy transportation and availability of badly needed pharmaceuticals and protective supplies?
BJ: Unfortunately, there are some things you can’t control. For example, flights being cancelled or shipping companies changing the departure date as a result of the impact Covid-19 are clearly outside of our jurisdiction.
What we can do as a business is to ensure we have more options available in case of cancellations. In light of what we’ve seen we have started to increase our portfolio of service providers giving the operations team more flexibility or choice.
Internally we’ve already made changes to meet the growing demand. As part of our business continuity plan we’ve made those adjustments that will ensure if we again face another global pandemic we are ready and prepared.
GSC: With a virtual paralysis and freeze in global aviation, how gravely might this affect the pharma chain and warehousing segments?
BJ: The freeze in aviation has impacted not only pharma but every product and industry. What airlines did very well was to realize the global impact this situation would have on Pharma and other essential products and make these flights a priority.
The biggest impact to the customer has been the increase in freight costs as a result of less flights, high demand and available space on these flights.
GSC: Briefly, what lessons to date are we learning from the Covid -19 outbreak as far as the pharma supply chain / warehousing is concerned?
BJ: As a business you have to act fast and make changes. This virus has forced many businesses to re-evaluate and reboot their business model. When faced with a global challenge like Covid-19, you can either take your time making the necessary adjustments or like Tranzone you react quickly taking all necessary precautions to avoid operational failures, reducing the risk on employees, maintaining service levels and the supply chain of pharmaceutical products.
This is also very evident around the world. Countries that were quick to respond to the risks of Covid-19, and embrace enforced lockdowns and change were able to overcome devastating effects or lessen the fallout versus those that didn’t and resisted change or didn’t react by taking the necessary precautions.
GSC: What measures has Tranzone taken to better equip its warehouse team and maintain a safe environment for the employees?
BJ: We have a well structured plan and playbook to ensure safety in the workplace. PPEs, masks, gloves and hand sanitizers are liberally used. We have 24-hour split shift operations to minimize the number of employees working at any one time.
At another level, we encourage remote working for those that can. This has helped reduce any unnecessary active and employee density in the workplace. We have hand sanitizers placed at multiple locations in our offices and warehouse premises. Furthermore, all employees and visitors have their temperature taken before entering the building.
GSC: How is the healthcare-life sciences warehousing different from other industrial warehousing sectors?
BJ: The obvious and main difference is the condition our products need to be stored. Pharma plays a key role in the health and wellbeing of everyone. These pharma products are key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and have to be stored and transported under very stringent and properly enforced temperature and quality-control conditions.
GSC: What are your goals short and long term going forward?
BJ: For the short term, Tranzone will continue to support its customers through this difficult period by offering the best service possible whilst maintaining a safe working environment for the employees.
For the long term, expansion plans are on the cards. Tranzone plans to open an independent operation in Oman. Initially this was scheduled for 2020 but as a result of Covid-19 has now been pushed back to 2021. In addition, we looking to increase our market share in Saudi Arabia utilizing our five pharma warehouses located in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam in the Kingdom.