As recent events have highlighted there are some jobs which simply cannot stop in a crisis. Whether it’s face masks, pasta or loo roll, the demand for certain items and services doesn’t just go away and in fact these jobs then form part of the crisis relief effort.
During the COVID-19 response and alongside those who work in health, education, public services, food, and security – key worker status has been granted to those who keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating. This status includes those working at warehouses, distribution centres and transport hubs recognising a critical role that is necessary for the continuation of an essential public service.
Nobody joined the logistics and transport profession for kudos. Few chose it, many ‘fell’ into it and to the outsider it just isn’t that exciting. However, it is probably the most complex, multifaceted and interrelated capability in any business operation. Many don’t know how a supply chain works and most probably don’t even care. Until it stops working.
Only when there is a shortage of medical supplies, supermarket shelves are empty of ‘essential’ items or ‘standard’ next day delivery becomes a ‘may be’ next week delivery – is there an acknowledgement of the logistics and transport sector. We may work in an invisible industry that is all too often taken for granted but when a crisis exposes a supply chain vulnerability, it generates uncertainty and anxiety. This leads to fear, fear leads to panic and panic puts further pressure on the supply chain.
We often complain at a lack of recognition for what we do, but when the pressure is on, the logistics and transport sector steps up with diligence, resilience and strength to help protect supply chains. Coping in crisis, overcoming obstacles and demonstrating the capability and capacity to react quickly and sustain. In the context of this extraordinary peacetime circumstance, never before has there been a greater reliance on our industry.
As the fast paced world slows down to a crawl, vital supplies are helping keep us moving. Warehouse staff are processing and packing, and drivers are transporting and delivering medical supplies to hospitals and food to the supermarkets. Then let’s not forget post in the letterbox, milk on the doorstep, waste collection, online deliveries and the army of volunteers delivering essential items to the most vulnerable people in our communities.
It is definitely time to say a big ‘thank you’ to the NHS heroes. From doctor to district nurse, physio to pharmacist and paramedic to porter, all combatting adversity each day of this pandemic. But we should also extend that ‘thank you’ to the front-line transport and logistics staff and drivers who are working tirelessly to keep vital services operating and essential supplies available.
Recognition may not seem that important at the minute but when this crisis is all over and we are learning the lessons from it, let’s make sure we don’t drift back into obscurity.