While manufacturers are working feverishly to keep up with demand, the products they make still must get to the end-user and that happens through distribution.
The supply chain has its own set of challenges, yet the system seems to be keeping up.
Here are what three successful distribution companies are doing and what they have to offer as guidance to the global cleaning industry.
Western Paper Distributors
Nick Morris is a distributor director with the ISSA board of directors, and the CEO of Western Paper Distributors, handling cleaning supplies, equipment, and related services.
“As an essential business, we are presently focused on meeting our current customer’s needs and prioritizing healthcare, grocery, and first responders,” Morris said. “The past few weeks we’ve been in crisis management mode prioritizing taking care of our team members so that they can in turn serve our customers and community.”
As to keeping up with demand, that hasn’t been easy, Morris said. Western Paper Distributors has had a major surge in the volume of inbound orders and requests, which has gone beyond the company’s capacity. “We’ve been actively communicating daily with all of our team members, customers, suppliers, and community to keep everyone abreast of our current situation. Currently, we are in an oversold position on sanitizer, wipes, and certain disinfecting products. Otherwise, we are in relatively good shape.”
To help with what’s needed to deal with this crisis, his company has had to build product allocation systems to monitor critical items, so that they are sent to the most critical customers when they arrive.
His advice to others in the industry is to stay calm. “This too will pass. Now is a time where increased communication with our teams and our customers is a must. We must stay positive and keep the energy up. During this time when the business slows down, we must be looking for ways to help our customers to get up and running and to help them with future challenges that they will have as they ramp back up.”
Morris added: “If you are healthy now, it is not a time to rest. Now is a time to work harder and to build for the future.”
And… Western Paper Distributors has toilet paper.
North American Corporation
A second distributor director with the ISSA board of directors is Paul Barrett, the vice president and general manager of North American Corporation, a facility products and equipment, packaging products and equipment, and specialty product distribution company.
“Leadership is essential in times like times like these, to help separate fact from fiction and to provide a sense of calm during what can be emotional frenzy or panic,” he advised. “We’ve established protocols for our remote, office, distribution center, and delivery workers in putting them first in our actions.” This keeps his people safe and ensures products the industry needs are still moving along in the supply chain.
Barrett has experienced challenges in determining which orders to fulfill. “We’ve had to make choices in manually reviewing orders to allocate inventory and to balance our resources to most effectively focus on the most critical customers that need supplies of soap, sanitizer, N95 masks, disinfectants, paper goods, and more,” he said. Most recently, with the shelter-in-place orders, his company had to do some manual juggling to determine who will even be open when they attempt delivery. “We have orders to fulfill and the products to do it but have to separate it all and find out who can receive orders and who can’t.”
Barrett sees all in the industry uniting and coming through this crisis, although with some changes. “I suspect we will create or find a different sense of what ‘normal’ looks like,” he explained. “Unfortunately, this will not be the last pandemic that we face and the learning, for all, is to take away the need for a more diligent society in how we clean, how we protect ourselves, how we train and how we mobilize to be more effective in getting ahead of the next virus that comes our way. Now is the time to shine. Now is the time to plan for the future. Focus on cleaning, protecting health, and concentrate also on education and training.”
And…yes, North American Corporation has toilet paper, too!
Ailene Grego, who reported in a previous article on manufacturing challenges as president and CEO of American Formula, is also a distributor director with the ISSA board of directors, and president and CEO of SouthEast LINK, a janitorial supplies and cleaning products company.
“Distribution is running at full speed,” Grego said, “however, the inability to source everything in a timely manner is becoming more of an issue, and every order is an emergency.” She explained her company is “working all angles to see if we can source products from multiple vendors.”
To keep the supply chain healthy, SouthEast LINK is protecting its employees by closing walk-in business and visitor entry to their building.
To everyone, Grego said: “Protect your people. They are the backbone that keeps this industry alive.”
FYI, SouthEast Link also has toilet paper.
Share your thoughts
ISSA wants to hear your voice. Please contact us with questions and concerns and tell us how we can help you in this crisis. Share your own observations and what you are doing to handle this COVID-19 outbreak. What are you doing? How will you cope? How will you move forward when the crisis is over? Share your thoughts.
Look for An Industry Unites: A Focus on Facilities Shows True Professionalism Abounds on Monday, March 30. For more information on the coronavirus and the cleaning industry, visit issa.com/coronavirus.