Inbound Logistics | March 2022

with customers the problems you’re facing, because they are going to face the same problems,” says Lewis Black, chief executive ofcer of Almonty Industries, a Toronto-based mining rm that is a major producer of tungsten. Almonty serves customers in the electronics, medical device, aerospace and other industries. The company’s challenges these days include trouble procuring consumables such as drills, explosives and various grades of oil, as well as slow shipping, tight capacity, and high freight rates. Sometimes, asking for a favor can help. “We ask our customers to send us a spare container if they have one,” Black says. Or, they might ask a customer that manufactures drill bits to send some half- nished drill bit or ones they are going to recycle. “Send them to us and we’ll use them,” he says. The Great Resignation has hit supply chain organizations hard. Companies, especially those involved in e-commerce, are trying to add front-line workers and new facilities to meet increased demand. “But at the same time, you have constant and accelerating workforce turnover,” says Dan Johnston, co-founder and chief operating executive of WorkStep in San Francisco. WorkStep addresses the supply chain labor shortage with two technology platforms— Hire , a recruitment tool, and Retain , which employers use to gain insights to reduce employee turnover. Companies have traditionally treated warehouse associates, drivers, and other supply chain workers as cogs in a machine, easy to replace, Johnston says. But in today’s tight employment market, that mindset has changed. “If you can keep the talent you have, you have to compete less for this incredibly hard-to-nd new talent,” he says. “And you can deliver more goods at a better pace to your end customers.” WorkStep’s customers use Retain to collect feedback from employees periodically, asking their opinions on factors that affect job satisfaction. Using

In addition to high freight rates, slow shipping times, and tight capacity, Almonty Industries, a global mining company focused on tungsten mining and exploration, currently has trouble procuring drills, explosives, and various grades of oil.

heavily today on their lucrative Asia-to- North America lanes. “There are no containers around, but there are lots of old shipping containers in scrap yards,” Black says. Almonty retrieves those old containers, welds them back together and installs new, government-approved security latches. “We have someone driving around who rings us up and says, ‘I saw an old shipping container in pieces in a scrap yard,’” Black says. “We send a truck down there, buy it, and bring it back.” Unfortunately, once Almonty uses the recycled container to ship tungsten to the United States, someone there grabs it and the company never sees it again. While pandemic-related disruptions have prompted many changes, companies are not likely to revert to the old ways as the virus nally runs its course. “These capabilities we are building will be the way we operate in the new normal,” says Bandekar. “It’s a long-term shift.” COVID has thrown a spotlight on issues that have always existed. But when normalcy comes back, other environmental issues, such as global warming and forest res, will continue to disrupt the ow of goods. Says Bandekar: “The way we manage our supply chains in the future will be much different from how we managed them in the past.” n

a mobile phone or similar device, the employee takes a minute or so to answer a survey. Retain aggregates and analyzes the results, spotlights areas of concern, and then, when the company makes corrections, tracks how those changes inuence turnover. Using Retain , a 3PL that runs 350 warehouses learned that managers in some of those buildings weren’t following correct orientation procedures for new employees. “You might see an average satisfaction with orientation of 90% across the organization, but in 10 buildings it was 50%,” Johnston says. By correcting those and other problems Retain uncovered, the 3PL cut turnover among new hires by 36%. Beyond strategies to help navigate the current supply chain environment, companies might also benet from tactical creativity. Black recalls a time in the 2000s when Almonty Industries struggled with a shortage of rubber tires, which the mining company’s underground vehicles consume in large quantities. “What we came up with was very rudimentary, almost medieval,” he says. “We started making steel wheels with wooden tires.” Almonty improvises in a similar way to beat today’s shortage of shipping containers. These are especially hard for Almonty’s European operations to get hold of, since the shipping lines focus so

48 Inbound Logistics • March 2022

Powered by