Learnings from ECR Italy on reducing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in supply chain operations

Chris Irish
Head of Insight - Supply Chain Analysis

Date : 25 March 2020

With the COVID-19 outbreak challenging supply chain teams around the world, the ECR community in Italy has developed some best practice for teams operating in affected areas.

The guidance, which is aimed at reducing COVID-19 risk in logistics, has been developed by a group of companies and academics with the support of the Italian Logistics Association.

The advice pulls on observations from the Italian market and details practical steps people working in supply chain roles can take. Individual government approaches differ, and these recommendations reflect restrictions and guidance in Italy at the time of writing. However, much of what has been outlined has broad applicability.

Management of warehouses and truck drivers

  1. Segregating warehouse operations that are in contact with the external environment (goods reception and shipping) from those that are not (storage, order fulfilment).
  2. Warehouse operators in contact with the external environment, in addition to lorry drivers, should be wearing protective masks and disposable gloves while handling documents and/or goods. In addition, they should be advised to use dispensers of anti-bacterial products (which must be made available to them) to wash their hands after any contact.
  3. Similar to what’s being implemented currently in hospitals, separation elements (tapes, partitions, etc) should be put in place to separate warehouse staff. Lorry drivers should also enter the warehouse one at a time.
  4. Where a waiting room for drivers exists, a sign with “for your safety, do not sit here” should be placed on every other chair, which will prevent drivers from sitting next to each other as there will be an empty chair separating them.
  5. Lorry drivers must wear face masks while unloading and loading goods. In case they don’t have face masks, one should be made available to them. Otherwise, organisations should refuse to accept the load. This situation creates a virtuous circle.
  6. Staff should be allocated separate, non-changeable shifts, whenever possible, and shouldn’t be given the option of changing them. For example, two shifts can be set up in a way that staff working in one shift don’t meet with staff working in the other shift, even during shifts changeover.
  7. The body temperature of staff should be measured at the beginning of each shift (with electronic thermometer), to check whether they have a high temperature.
  8. Staff shouldn’t exchange tools (trolleys, barcode scanners, manual devices and terminals for producing shipping documents, etc) during a shift. Parts of tools and equipment that are in contact with staffs’ bodies should be sanitised before being picked or stored. To this end, antibacterial products must be provided.
  9. Staff should wash their hands (preferably with hot water) before they start or end shift, or when changing activities.
  10. Any unnecessary activity, such as inventory checks, cleaning performed by external parties, non-essential projects or staff update meetings should be avoided, unless these activities are carried out to manage the ongoing outbreak.
  11. Sanitisation cycles for warehouses, offices, and rooms in general should be carried out, whenever possible.

Supply chain prevention

  1. In-person meetings should be avoided, and replaced with remote / online meetings. If that is not possible, then the number of participants in these meetings should be limited, whilst ensuring that the safety distance is observed.
  2. Increasing the size of replenishment orders (i.e. placing larger orders, whilst avoiding unnecessary stockpiling). For example, if the size of orders is doubled, the shipping frequency is reduced by half, which, ultimately, reduces the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
  3. Staff that exhibit – even negligible- symptoms of a flu syndrome must stay at home. It’s important to note that logistics operators tend to stretch beyond their limits, which means they will likely try to keep on working despite not feeling well, especially if they are being paid on an hourly basis.
  4. Hiring new employees should only be done if it’s absolutely necessary. The appropriate health checks should be carried out to new employees. One measure would be to ask them to sign a declaration stating that, in the past 14 days, they haven’t met any person at risk of COVID-19 contamination.
  5. Prioritising shipments directed to hospitals and the most affected geographic areas, and prioritising the shipments of products used to treat the population affected by COVID-19, whilst speeding up the speed of deliveries, even if this means higher costs incurred. Generally speaking, priority should be given to the supply of essential and emergency goods.
  6. Employees working in the logistics department must work from home, whenever possible, hence reducing the probability of spreading the virus to other co-workers that are based on-site and cannot work from home.
  7. All forms of car-sharing should be suspended. Organisations should spread the arrivals of staff to lower the risk of contacts being made within crowded areas (entrances, turnstiles, check-in / check-out areas and changing rooms).
  8. Reducing payments made on delivery. If unavoidable, payments should be made with contactless credit cards (instead of cash payments) which should be handled solely by the customer.
  9. All canteens should be closed. Direct delivery of meals to the offices should be encouraged, whilst access to coffee machines must be prevented, since the risk of spreading the virus in such areas is high.
  10. Training staff on these prevention measures and monitoring their rigorous application by being a role model for the staff.
  11. The measures outlined have the potential to reduce productivity by 15-20%. Senior management should be ready to implement overtime/additional shifts to manage efficiently the end-of-month peaks.
  12. Supporting teams in this critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, and providing them with clear and exhaustive information and communications, while listening to their suggestions and/or concerns. It’s important also to nurture a “sense of community belonging” that makes people feel emotionally close, although physical distant.
  13. Adopting a proactive and transparent communication approach with stakeholders. For example, sharing with trade unions the measures being taken by the organisation to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading.


Source: Best practices for reducing the spread of COVID-19 in logistics, ECR Italy

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