Supply Chain

The Business Sense Behind Health and Safety

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How occupational health and safety is starting to occupy our thinking.

No one bats an eyelid when terms like “logistics” and “safety” are lobbed in the same sentence. For decades there have been certain members of our supply chain and logistics workforce that have been identified as more prone to risk than others. Examples include long-haul, truck drivers, shift workers who have to adapt to physiological disruptions and now FIFO workers whose alienation from home and family, and changing routine increase their susceptibility.

Due to the increasing prevalence of a variety of illnesses from Depression to Diabetes Mellitus in the larger workplace, there is a need to own, grow and develop the awareness of health and wellbeing across the entire industry.

Furthermore, there is a need to recognise that any workforce can be susceptible to illness and that there is a responsibility to own this through awareness and the implementation of health interventions by employers across industries, geographic boundaries and occupational segmentations.

Though conditions at work have immeasurably improved over the last century, factors such as the increased pace of change, the growth in an aging working population and the extension of geographic boundaries and technology in our daily lives have challenged us all.

Through simple measures and reasonable adjustments most employers can circumvent the pitfalls and capitalize instead on the benefits that these change factors can bring to their workplaces.

It all starts with awareness.

If we take the example of an aging population, it is clear that an older workforce will probably have a greater need for health interventions. The benefits of diversity and experience that an aged population offers is highly sort after and hugely enriching for the workforce. Simple measures in the workplace, such as health surveillance initiatives present little cost and have enormous benefit in ensuring these members of the workforce remain healthy and active. Measures could include heart and diabetes tests that are aimed more towards keeping people healthy and decreasing the likelihood of illness occurring in the first place.

Health is not just an individual but a common responsibility and something we all need to share and illness also needs to be shared. There are some afflictions like Depression which are very common, yet highly stigmatised. In fact, depression has a higher incident rate amongst males who are supposed to be the highest achievers in our workplace. Yet it is stigmatised as “not a real illness” and “a sign of weakness”.

The Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) 2006 Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey found that employees said that these issues interfered with their relationships with people at work. Employees stated that stress and anxiety most often impacted their workplace performance (56 percent) relationship with coworkers and peers (51 percent), quality of work (50 percent) and relationships with superiors (43 percent). Yet due to the fear of stigma, mental health problems are not addressed and therefore exist as a negative undercurrent in most workplaces that lead to high workplace absenteeism and attrition rates.

It is interesting to note that even though health issues resulting from aging, and mental health seem very different, they can both be effectively managed in the workforce, using similar strategies.

Bottom line is good health management is good for business performance to avoid the costs involved, the impact on service delivery and the consequences on individuals and teams. This approach is holistic and usually not costly. It includes:

  • Sustained leadership from management
  • A proactive occupational health management and promotion
  • Training, awareness and support for staff
  • A close understanding of workforce vulnerabilities through data and systems that enable managers to target potential problems

Employers can also seek the help of governments in tackling these issues as most governments around the world now offer resources with an emphasis on promoting health improvement and wellbeing strategies in the workplace that build on the Bangkok Declaration (World Health Organisation, 2005). This advocated promotion of health through empowering individuals to manage their own health through the workplace.

In conclusion, it cannot be overstated that improvement starts through awareness and acceptance. Simple measures can be put in place that significantly improve productivity and workplace morale. If leaders value mental health and appropriate resources are available in the workplace, there are proven, real benefits to business. Policies, Practices, training and programs that help employers identify risks and encourage employees to speak up and ask for help, will greatly lower the incidence of mental health conditions and increase productivity.

Creating a healthy workplace is the best way to position ourselves, our staff, managers and our colleagues to better meet change and deliver in all situations and succeed, now and into the future.

The Supply Chain is Knitting Up a Storm

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Take note: next season’s big fashion statement will be “Responsible Innovation”

Supply Chain fashion innovation, aka the science behind the manufacture of garments, first disrupted the fashion industry and then the entire world all those centuries ago and became the catalyst for change that we now know as the industrial revolution.

Today if you were asked to think of “fashion” and “revolution”, you would probably conjure up a Vivienne Westward design or Kim Kardashian’s infamous Paper Magazine cover. This is all thanks to the clever marketing of fashion houses. The more fashion has become a tool of mass manufacturing and market consumption, the more it has tried to persuade us that it actually stands for the opposite: the rarified, exclusive, customized, individualized creations that are tailored to our “specialness”. I’m sure we have all succumbed, to have fallen head over heels with the idealization, the grooming of our inner narcissist by the flattering, fashion ads that promise to bring out our inner James Bond or Audrey Hepburn with the spritz of an eau de perfume (probably manufactured in China under quality controls and chemicals they are not obligated to disclose).

The reality is that the revolution of fashion manufacture has been stifled by the opening of third world markets because there was no longer an impetuous to produce technological efficiencies if money can be as easily saved through the use of “cheap” labor.

Not surprisingly, fashion manufacture started to lag in the innovation stakes… until now.
A constant stream of news articles has forced us to face the fashion folly of our ways. We would still like to believe that those expensive, Italian branded sweaters have been hand-knitted in the rarified air of Milan and not in the same Bangladesh sweatshops that push out product for Kmart, but we can no longer deny what has been tagged in the media as “fashion’s dirty little secret”.

So the fashion bigwigs have worked out that the love affair will soon be over unless they change their ways. That is where those buzz words come in: “Responsible Innovation”. The overused decrier “sustainability” is so yesterday Darling..

In Copenhagen in May this year, over 1,200 fashion, political, and business leaders gathered, from all over the world to address the worrying turn in consumer sentiment towards the industry. The dilemma was how to stem the jaded, popular sentiment without damaging profits? How to acquiesce without sacrificing the bottom line?
The answer was there the whole time of course: technology… and so the wheel comes full circle.

Once again it is predicted that the fashion world will become a major disruptor by using its high profile to revolutionise. Of course the technology was there the whole time but now, due to public pressure, it will be used and we will no doubt be hearing all about it on the catwalks from Paris to New York. H&M have already pushed out their “sustainable,” “Conscious, Exclusive” range. Chanel have even started doing a “Green” collection with “high fashion ecological” materials.

Of course this may all be feel good tokenism… or it may be the beginning of a new way of order, a new way of doing the business, just like the industrial revolution that started in the weaving rooms of England and Scotland of so long ago. Sustainability will be replaced with Innovation as the whole industry is exposed to the technology of an open transparent media who insist on closing the loop and pushing towards change.

This could be yet another new avenue for supply chain professionals to demonstrate their finesse as business leaders and augmenters of change. Supply Chain and Logistics Leaders everywhere, grab your algorithms, your ERPs and dashboards, from Copenhagen to New York and Paris, the revolution is nigh!