The distribution of goods is an essential part of every business. The system allows business owners to reach more customers, beyond their state and even outside the country.
By definition, distribution in businesses means making products available to target customers by disseminating them throughout the country or the rest of the world. The distribution process involves transporting the products, packaging them, and delivering them to resellers and customers. It is an integral part of the business as it connects the manufacturer and its consumers, wherever they are.
Business Impacts of COVID-19
It is not surprising that one way or the other, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected local businesses. For instance, as of September 2020, 64% of businesses were operating in modified conditions due to the pandemic. In October of the same year, businesses showed signs of recovery, and by November 2020, 1 out of 4 businesses had increased revenue.
By December of 2020, the economy was moving in a positive direction. When 2021 came, employment was also starting to recover. However, lockdowns and border closures in some states were still happening.
The transport industry is one of the most heavily affected industries due to border closures, different COVID-19 protocols, and lack of manpower due to virus infection.
The Effects of Covid on The Distribution Industry
While land transport was not as severely affected as air transport, it still experienced changes in operations and reduced activities. Here are some of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on distributions in the country.
1. Supermarkets experienced empty shelves.
Even when fully vaccinated, distribution staffs are not completely invulnerable to the virus. That is one of the reasons why in September 2021, some supermarkets in New South Wales and Victoria suffered from empty shelves.
More than a thousand distribution workforces had to isolate themselves, and some tested positive. This created a disruption in the distribution of the supplies, leaving some shelves in the supermarkets bare.
The good thing was, as troublesome as the shortage in supplies was, it was short-lived. Distribution companies were soon able to plan on how to mitigate these risks and exposures.
2. Online shopping made delivery trucks busier than before.
Stay at home orders and the fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus made online shopping the safer and more practical option. This made express delivery trucks more active than before. As a result, businesses had to think of ways to make the distribution of their goods more efficient. An efficient distribution strategy will lessen the movement of goods even with the frenzy of online shopping.
Over the past two years, the increase in social media shopping has been staggering, rising by 700%. According to a report, 75% of Australians did their shopping online for groceries, clothes, electronics, and furniture. This meant that more items were being delivered by delivery trucks than ever before.
3. Distribution staff must strictly follow all COVID-19 protocols.
While these protocols and rules may introduce some delays in the distribution of goods, distribution and logistics companies must follow them. The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has set the COVID-19 National Safety Plan for transport and logistics operations. Transport and logistics businesses should:
- Declare their freight type.
- Document their travel plans and itineraries.
- Train and educate their staff.
- Practise and enforce physical distancing.
- Practise personal hygiene.
- Keep detailed records of all stops, including for work and rest.
Freight staff are also advised always to carry and wear the correct personal protective equipment or PPE. Each region has its own set of rules for admitting logistics and distribution workers.
In the Australian Capital Territory, travellers coming from declared COVID-19 affected areas must accomplish the ACT Freight and Logistics Travel Declaration Form. In New South Wales, symptomatic freight workers must undergo testing for COVID-19. It does not require border passes unless the traveller comes from areas of high concern.
Logistics workers coming from other states and wishing to enter the Northern Territory must secure a border pass. They must have also completed their double vaccination against the Corona Virus. Workers of freight companies must also undergo mandatory testing every seven days while still in the territory.
The same is true of Queensland, which requires all incoming logistics and distribution workers to:
- secure an F-pass,
- keep proof of complete vaccination, and
- comply with the mandatory testing every seven days.
Victoria and South Australia do not require incoming distribution and logistics staff to get a border pass.
4. Additional orientation and education for staff were needed.
It came as no surprise that differing COVID-19 protocols applied to distribution, freight, and logistics caused some confusion. Therefore, for a smooth distribution operation, logistics businesses must educate their staff on different safety and COVID-19 protocols. This is not merely for uninterrupted operations but also for the health and well-being of the staff as well.
Aside from the truck training that distribution truck drivers must take, companies must also educate their workers about COVID-19 protocols. This way, drivers will be prepared if they need to undergo self-isolation or quarantine when they reach their destination. This will help avoid interruptions in the distribution of supplies, ensuring business continuity and work safety.
Staff and drivers must know what action they should take if they display COVID-19 symptoms. Besides, this will reduce the infection rate and manage the risk that may affect other workers.
5. Companies had to implement measures to mitigate risks.
While vaccination is generally voluntary, employers must encourage their employees to get inoculated. Under the model Work Health and Safety laws, employers have the duty to minimise or even eliminate COVID-19 risks in the workplace.
Aside from vaccination, employers had to implement changes such as:
- Encouraging the practise of personal hygiene,
- Increasing the rate of cleaning and disinfection of the workplace and fleet,
- Imposing the wearing of face masks,
- Improving ventilation where needed, and
- Ensuring that workers who do not feel well inform their superiors and do not come to work.
Employers must also have a plan in place if their employees cannot come to work due to contracting the virus and quarantine protocols. Having these contingencies in place can ensure work and business continuity.
The End is Not Yet in Sight
Covid-19 is still evolving and still catching the global scientific community by surprise. The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been making waves the world over, Australia included. That said, distribution businesses must be ready to adapt to any change in protocols that may affect their operations.