Keeping business running: Teamwork keeps processing safe in the pandemic
Welcome to our article series in which we shine a spotlight on how different teams across our business are adapting to support your supply chain needs during these challenging times.
Our equipment processing centres (EPCs) and vehicle processing centres (VPCs) have changed the way they operate to keep staff safe as the world returns to work. Anthony Miner, continuous improvement manager for Americas at WW Solutions, explains how we’ve dealt with the health and safety challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
How have our EPCs and VPCs adapted as the Covid-19 crisis has developed?
Our established ‘Way of Working’ and ‘Safety 1st programme’ are the frameworks that have enabled us to introduce measures to cope with this new situation. All our facilities have done a great job. Being part of the global Wallenius Wilhelmsen network and community has put us ahead of the curve for some of the changes and adaptation that needed to take place.
For example, each week I sit on a call with counterparts in the UK, Belgium, Germany, Australia, India and Korea and the three terminals we operate in the US. Early on in the pandemic, we heard about best practice in South Korea and measures that had been put in place to combat the virus. We started early, looking at our operations very closely to see where interaction between people was a risk and could be minimised.
What are some of the specific measures that have been taken at our EPCs and VPCs?
We’ve been following World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health agency guidance regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and the law. At the beginning of February, all locations enhanced employee safety and hygiene practices. This included adding antibacterial hand sanitising stations, training, and reinforcing responsible practices around coughing, sneezing and touching of eyes, nose and mouth.
Following these efforts, we adjusted break times and implemented social distancing in breakrooms. Just as importantly, we put in place physical barriers like plexiglass to help maintain social distancing. We’ve also installed ‘drop-off’ windows to reduce foot traffic in operations. Where possible, remote and flexible working arrangements were implemented on March 11th, and have remained in place.
We use shuttle vans for workers in some of our operations and that makes it hard to maintain a six-foot distance between people, so we have taken out van seats, reduced capacity, and limited the number of employees on each trip. We also marked the remaining seats, requiring employees to sit on the same seat each time, reducing the risk of transmission within the vehicle.
We installed plexiglass in vans to protect drivers, too, just like many bus operators are now doing. Shuttle vans are thoroughly cleaned multiple times each day.
At our Pacific RoRo Terminal on the West Coast, the supervisors have painted white dots six feet apart from each other on the floor. All the staff stand on the dots during their daily operations meeting. It used to be a big cluster, but now employees are in small socially distanced groups – that happens quite naturally now. In all cases, we strive to look hard at where the multi-person contacts are and eliminate them.
Some facilities have installed wash bays and sinks near the shopfloor entry or in the middle of the yard to increase handwashing capability. There’s lots of cleaning – every two to three hours in areas where there is heavy traffic. We carry out deep cleaning of vans and areas where equipment needs to be shared at the start, middle and end of shifts.
What do you think some of the long-term impacts of Covid-19 might be on the business?
We’ve all pushed for digital transformation, but I think Microsoft’s chief executive put it best when he said we’d seen a digital transformation in the last couple of months that would normally take two years. On the terminal side, there was formerly a lot of paperwork in terms of bills of lading – processes are principally digital now. Truck drivers used to have paper documents and are now strongly encouraged to pass those bills of lading via email or a tablet: we’ve moved closer to eliminating paper transactions.
How have you been working with our customers in the automotive and construction sectors during the pandemic?
We’ve been working with OEMs across the world very closely. The safety community has really come together and been very generous in terms of sharing information. The spirit has been, ‘let’s do whatever we can together to stop this virus’. That will continue as manufacturers re-start production across the world.
Are the health and safety measures being taken at our EPCs and VPCs likely to change in the coming months?
They will be revised and changed as the situation on the ground changes. As a global team, we need to make sure we continue to share ideas and maintain compliance with regulations. Change is in our nature and we’ll do whatever it takes to keep our employees safe as the threat posed by Covid-19 evolves.