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The supply chain is disrupted but will rebound even stronger

The average person rarely thinks about the supply chain. We take for granted that when we want something, we order it and it magically arrives or we go to a store and the item is waiting on the shelf.  In a blink of an eye our entire way of like has been adjusted and we now understand that an interruption in the supply chain has a dramatic impact to our everyday lives.  Paper manufacturers are working overtime to produce toilet paper to meet the demands of a panicked public and segments of the trucking industry are flourishing keeping up with the hoarders and delivering medical supplies, however the rest of the supply chain has significant issues they are contending with.

Shipping Industry

The shipping industry has already taken a hit due the trade war, and now is suffering even greater losses.  China is home to 10 of the world’s busiest seaports.  The coronavirus lockdown means sea vessels are not allowed to port.  This means delays to loading of goods and to reduce the spread of the virus most shipping companies have reduced the number of ships coming out of China.  This reduction is reporting to cost more than $350 million in loses each week. According to reports out of China they have contained the virus and are returning to normal production. “Chinese manufacturing and transportation will need time to ramp up” said Carl Larry, performance director at Refinitiv, “but once it does, consumer spending may remain below healthy levels.”

The Airlines

Forbes has reported that the airlines have seen a $1.5 billion dollar loss in the first half of March as compared to last year.  The International Air Transport Association originally estimated that the airlines losses would be in the $29 billion dollar range, that estimate has risen to $113 billion in a matter of weeks. In the meantime, some carriers including American Airlines and Delta are putting their commercial travel planes to work as freight carriers. There is not a way to determine when Americans will be willing to fly again when the fear of airborne contaminates run rampant. The airlines will receive financial assistance as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), but the $60 billion is 10% of what the airlines were requesting.  There is an additional $25 billion in loans for employee retention and 4 billion for cargo carriers.

Trucking

Projections for the 2020 trucking industry were already concerning and now the issues from the virus have lowered volumes even further.  There is a temporary spike in demand due to consumers stockpiling and the need for medical supplies.  People are in a frenzy now to buy supplies, but when all the cupboards are stocked, we will likely see a significant decline in spending. The hours of service regulation was lifted which allows some truckers to work longer hours but prevents companies from having to hire more drivers, leaving some drivers with loads. The concern is what will happen on the other side of spike. Experts say that fear is the main cause of economic disruption and consumers may continue to tighten their spending. The CARES act will give any one who makes less then $75,000 a check for $1,200 in about 3 weeks.  Many people will have over due bills to pay, some will save the money but the hope is that majority will spend the money on goods and services.

The Good news

When we look at the numbers, it’s certainly scary, but economists offer some comfort.  The first good news is that we started off strong.  The unemployment rate was at a 50-year low. The government is doing all it can to make sure the financial and credit markets stay afloat.  The stimulus package will put spendable cash in the pockets of the consumers. The first and second quarters are going to be down but Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told NBC he sees a good rebound in subsequent quarters and pledged the central bank will do whatever it can to ensure that the recovery is “as vigorous” as possible. The stock market is already in rebound as it does not directly coincide with the economy.  The stock market is based on what will be happening six months for now so its rise is a much-needed sign we will recover.

When we contain the virus hopefully, we can contain the fear and begin to recover.  The American people may be divided on a great many issues but if we unite, and in trying times we do, together we can rebound even stronger than before.

Stress and Safety

Under normal circumstances the average employee deals with a certain amount of stress.  Our current circumstances include the coronavirus and citywide shuts downs so it’s natural for our stress levels to be increased exponentially which could lead to workplace accidents. Dr. David Spiegel, medical director of the Stanford Center on Stress and health, said there is a direct correlation between an increase in worker stress and an increase in workplace accidents. “It’s very clear that a big proportion of safety problems are due to human error, and some of that is related to stress,” Spiegel said. Stressed out workers are prone to thinking more about the source of their stress and less about the task at hand. In a nutshell, poor attention can lead to accidents and injury.

How employers can identify and address workplace stress

There are many signs of stress some that can be identified by employers and some that only the employee is aware of.  The main things to look out for: Fatigue, Low morale, anxiety, irritability or short temper, change in appetite, frequent headaches, fighting in the workplace and difficulty concentrating.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offers training resources for employers and they advise employers to review the design of tasks including heavy workload, infrequent breaks hectic routines or long hours. The NIOSH also recommends employers look at work roles including conflicting job expectations or responsibilities and interpersonal relationships. NIOSH found the long-term impacts of stress lead to increased incidents of cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, psychological disorders and most importantly in today’s climate-impaired immune systems. Once the stress is identified there are some steps an employer can take:

Communication is key

Talk with your employees to help them feel understood and to learn what workplace issues may be contributing to their workplace stress.  Ask for input on work policies or other factors that impact their work environment. This will increase their sense of control over their situations.

Clarify roles and expectations

Create roles for workers that highlight the employee’s strengths and then be clear about the expectations for the role.  Make sure deadlines are reasonable. I.f there are times when the workload will be overwhelming, reduce the workload for the period after.

How employees can identify stress

We tend to believe in our ability to handle anything that comes our way.  That belief has its advantages but can prevent us from recognizing when we are having a harder time coping. There are some telltale signs that you may be more stressed out: feeling anxious, irritable or depressed, stomach issues, fatigue or trouble sleeping, headaches or muscle tension, lack of appetite, trouble focusing, lack of sex drive and a loss of interest in work.  Before the issues cause a safety issue there are steps you can take to deal with and reduce stress.

Seek support

Isolation is a factor in stress so seeking support is an essential step to combat it. Engage in conversation with coworkers when it’s appropriate, put your cell phone down during breaks or participate in outside of work functions. Reach out to your friends and family even if its been awhile.  Once the shutdown is over join a league or team to increase your socialization.

Start your day earlier

If you tend to get to work at the last minute you may be adding to your stress level.  Getting to work 10 minutes earlier will allow you to ease into your day.

Get plenty of rest

Sleep is a factor in every aspect of our daily life and directly impacts our productivity, ability to focus and our ability to cope with stress.  Simple steps like going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, shutting off electronic devices an hour before you got to bed and avoiding other stimulating activities, and being smart about caffeine intake during the day will all add up to better sleep.

Nutrition and exercise

One of the quickest ways to boost your mood is to exercise.  30 minutes of any activity that raises your heart rate will provide stress relief and cause your brain to release endorphins that give us a positive feeling. What and how we eat can also affect mood.  Eating small healthy meals more often instead of heavy meals helps maintain an even level of blood sugar and creates more energy.  People tend to “stress eat” sugar and refined carbs, while this gives us a boost of energy it leads to a crash in mood and energy later. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants that lead to higher stress levels.

Change your outlook

The way we view things can certainly impact our stress levels.  There are some legitimate fears and struggles right now, but there are still positives we can focus on.  Our media does not focus on the good, so we must seek it out our selves.  If we choose to focus on the positives instead of the negatives, we can help ourselves reduce stress. Find a neutral news source and avoid the sensationalism. Spend time each day reflecting on the things we can be grateful for. Avoid negative co-workers and pat yourself on the back when you do a good job.

Dealing with the workload

If you have a task that you dislike, do it first and get it out of the way. If you have a task that seems overwhelming break it up into steps and manage them one step at a time. Set realistic goals for yourself. Talk to your employer if there are issues that are contributing to your stress level but be willing to compromise on resolutions.

Dealing with stress is a part of everyone’s life during the best of times.  In more difficult days its even more important to take care of ourselves and to focus on what we are doing.  Let’s not add to overrun hospitals with workplace injuries that can be avoided. Stay safe by staying focused!

Supply Chain Heroes

The supply chain is always working to keep life as we know it functioning, but in our current crisis the supply chain is working even harder. The last few weeks have seen consumers scrambling to purchase supplies for an uncertain duration of time. One of the main commodities that everyone is aware of there being an issue with is toilet paper.

According to Procter & Gamble it is shipping record-high levels of Charmin and other brands of toilet paper, they released the following statement: “Demand continues to outpace supply at the moment, but we are working diligently to get product to our retailers as fast as humanly possible.  We continue to manufacture and ship Charmin to our retailers.”  They just can’t keep up with the hoarding that panic has caused in addition to supply chain challenges.

Georgia Pacific is stepping up their operations to produce more paper products and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) lifted regulations on the hours that truckers can operate to make sure we get the medical supplies, toiletries, and groceries we need. The FMCSA took the time to thank the truckers with a message: “The hard-working men and women of the commercial motor vehicle industry drive our nation’s economy. As our nation works to address the #COVID-19 outbreak, the CMV industry is playing a critical role in ensuring deliveries and maintaining America’s supply chain. Thank you for all the work that you do.”  Now is a great time to thank trucker drivers and to reflect on where we would be if trucks were to stop rolling.

 Day One

Hospitals will run out of basic supplies

Affected areas will go without delivery of medical supplies

Service stations will run out of fuel

U.S. mail and packages will cease

Day Two

Food shortages will become an issue

Lack of fuel will raise prices and create long lines

After just a few days

Due to hoarding the food shortages will escalate and essential supplies will disappear

ATMs and Banks will run out of cash

Garbage will start piling up creating sanitation issues.

Due to a lack of fuel automobile travel will cease including emergency vehicles                              

Hospitals will run out of oxygen supplies

Our clean water supply will run out

In addition to the drivers there are many people working tirelessly to produce, store, transport, and stock the products we are buying in bulk. There is no doubt that our doctors and nurses our heroes, but let’s not forget all the supply chain heroes who every bit as important! Thank you for all that you do!

5 ways to stop the spread of the Coronavirus

The news about the Coronavirus reaching the United States has everyone concerned about the spread of infection. There is conflicting information and confusion over some of the details, but what we know for sure is that we have some control over the affects of germs on our immune system.  Everyone knows that hand washing is the number one way to prevent the spread of germs, yet only 5% of Americans use proper hand washing techniques.  The CDC recommends washing with soap for at least 20 seconds and often!  Beyond hand washing here are few more ways to prevent infection

 

1.Reduce or Quit Smoking

Tobacco smoke has a harsh effect on the immune system and creates a greater susceptibility to infections and influenza.  Smoking also lowers levels of antioxidants. The benefits of quitting smoking are endless but when it comes to the immune system, they include improved circulation, increased oxygen levels and lowers inflammation.  While quitting completely is ideal, even reducing can make a difference.

 

2. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient and an antioxidant that is helpful to booting your immune system.  In addition to citrus fruit there are many other sources such as kiwi, red and green peppers, broccoli, and strawberries.  Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant and can be found in almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and peanut butter. Zinc increases production of immune cells.  Cashews, oysters, and chickpeas all contain high levels of zinc. Vitamin A is an anti-inflammation vitamin and enhances immune function. Eggs, broccoli, spinach, carrots and citrus fruits provide vitamin

 

3. Increase Exercise

One way to reduce the chance of getting a cold, flu or other infection is increase exercise levels.  Exercise causes changes to antibodies and white blood cells.  The other thing physical activity helps flush out bacteria from the lungs and airways.

 

4. Consume Alcohol in Moderation

The fear factor may have us tempted to drink more, however now is the time to reduce alcohol consumption.  Unfortunately, alcohol lowers the immune system. Moderation is key.

 

5. Get more Sleep

Sleep is the most important thing we can do for our health and especially for the immune system.  While we sleep the body helps redistribute energy resources that are used to immune the system.  The immune cells actually get out of circulation and start getting ready for the next day.  A good night’s rest is our best defense.

 

Our health is our number one resource, so it makes sense whether or not there is a virus making headlines to protect it. Small changes beat out no changes!

 

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