Nulogy, alongside the Foundation for Supply Chain Solutions (F4SS) and the Contract Packaging and Manufacturing Association (CPA), hosted an industry webinar panel in June on how contract suppliers established their outbreak preparedness protocols, as well as what they’re doing today to future-proof their supply chain operations.
The panelists featured were:
The three industry leaders offered insight into lessons learned from COVID-19, and how they've adapted their business strategies and shop floors to maintain operational success and build resilience against future disruptions.
For all three panelists, the key to pivoting quickly in the face of sudden disruption was empathetic, consistent, and clear communication from leadership teams in order to foster safety, security, and education in the workplace.
At the outset of the pandemic, our president and owner—who is in a vulnerable demographic—came into work every day to help convey calm and common sense throughout the team,” said Kim Egan of GH Manufacturing. “We also kept open lines of communication and worked to address as many employee concerns as we could."
"Open communication helped us thrive and create an atmosphere where employees felt safe coming into work."
AmeriPac’s Greg Wren agreed: “Without our employees, we can’t do anything,” he added. “We wanted them to know that they have a safe place to come to work and provide for their families. Fostering that kind of culture is a huge win for us.”
Steve Light of Accel also added that as a company with its own diverse labor force encompassing more than a dozen languages, it was crucial to be able to communicate effectively. “We really had to think hard about how to be effective in communicating to the company what needed to happen, and how employees could protect themselves and each other,” he said.
The pandemic also spurred new shifts and trends within supply chain—some of which are continuing to evolve. The panelists shared their thoughts on the importance of positioning their businesses to prepare for these trends.
“In our current situation, consumers are thinking more about needs versus wants, and spending more time online than in retail,” Egan said. “In response, what customers asked for yesterday will be different tomorrow—we’re seeing a lot of shifts, changes, and re-packing. Short production runs are something we have to deal with more regularly, and it’s important to execute on them more efficiently.”
Light agreed, citing the “Amazon Effect”: “With D2C and e-commerce becoming more prevalent, there’s more choice and assortment across product categories,” he explained.
“CPGs need faster test environments for fast failing and learning. COVID-19 accelerated this trend, and co-packers should position themselves for it.”
As suppliers adapt their shop floors to new conditions imposed to improve health and safety conditions, as well as to respond to sudden shifts in customer and product demand, the panel discussion turned to the role of software in maintaining previous levels of operational efficiency.
“In the first few days of the pandemic, our customers came back with a myriad of order changes,” Egan said.
“If we didn't have Nulogy and the ability to respond so quickly, I don’t know what we would have done.”
Within hours we had the answers they needed, and it was quick and easy.”
Wren added: “During that time, having a cloud-based system like Nulogy that is accessible by any web browser remotely was crucial for us, in order to work effectively while observing stay-at-home orders.”
Light also highlighted the necessity of technology in handling the increase of short order runs: “COVID is accelerating the trend we’re seeing with CPGs and food companies needing co-packers that can scale but can also pivot to small production runs for market testing,” he said. “This requires a great mix of infrastructure that handles both ends of the spectrum that Nulogy handles amazingly.”
Stay prepared: “Oftentimes, small businesses don’t have the time to step back and take a bigger view, but it’s important to pause and reassess your readiness,” Light said. “Pick the brains of your customers and partners in the industry and leverage their expertise. Then, when an unforeseen event occurs again, it won’t deal permanent damage to your business. An ounce of preparation can pay off.”
Communicate with customers: Wren explained the importance of two-way communication between co-packers and customers to stay prepared: “It’s extremely important to get the stock we need from customers, such as corrugate, plastic, and shippers. If we can’t build anything, we can’t help them, so we want to make sure we’re prepared as well as our customers and suppliers. If we can give direction or implement what they did well, that’s even better and that makes it a collaborative effort.
Stay ahead of industry trends: “As CPGs continue to have products in formats rendered obsolete by our current situation, we’ll be repacking as needed and I believe that will become a bigger, continually evolving trend in the co-packing world,” Egan said. “We’ll be showing customers how we’re saving them money instead of costing them more, and holding our own in a volatile space.”
Click here to watch the full webinar.