Flexible staffing is key in optimising container logistics during peak season and beyond

By Tania Govender, Sales Director at Worldwide Staffing

With peak season upon us, ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, demand for supply has increased considerably. Any delays in the supply chain will have a significant cost impact on the industry, and the recent week-long strike at Transnet has resulted in major backlogs. Container loading and offloading is a critical link in the supply chain, but it is also one that is difficult to predict due to a variety of external factors. A flexible workforce is critical in optimising container logistics, and a Temporary Employment Services (TES) provider is the perfect partner to assist.

Supplying the demand

Ensuring timeous turnaround of goods is essential to meeting consumer demand and growing the retail sector, and with the peak season nearing, the urgency to supply increases significantly. If companies cannot meet demand, they could suffer heavy financial loss, and any delays will have a knock-on effect to the rest of the supply chain. These challenges are exacerbated by rising fuel costs, poor infrastructure, port inefficiencies, load shedding and more, which all further impact on delivery times and operating costs.

Going into peak season with an existing backlog due to the strike puts extra strain on an already highly pressurised environment, and with load shedding, weather inconsistencies and other external disruptors, the schedule for container offloading has become impossible to predict.

Maintaining a permanent workforce is completely unsustainable because the overheads would be incredibly costly while staff have no work, but when a container arrives and needs to be offloaded, resources with appropriate skills need to be available at short notice. Flexibility is critical to quick turnaround and offloading efficiency, which in turn is essential to maximising profitability.

Safety first

Taking on additional labour as and when required means that a flat rate can be applied per load or offload, effectively controlling costs and catering to flexible demand. However, for companies trying to perform this process in-house, it can be an administrative nightmare. This often leads to shortcuts in the recruitment process, as the urgency to get hands on deck becomes critical.

This could result in contravention of labour laws if due process is not correctly followed. In addition, inexperienced staff can be more of a burden than a benefit, because the process takes longer, delaying operations, and the increase in damaged goods costs money. There may also be increases in stock loss or theft if staff are not vetted properly.

Strategic placement of materials into containers, and orderly offloading of containers makes the process quick, safe, and efficient. The right staffing service provider will save businesses money and protect against damaged goods, unnecessary delays, and other costly hindrances.

Partnering with a reputable TES provider ensures that qualified, experienced warehouse staff are available on demand as and when the services are required, and for as long as they are needed. The right TES partner will have highly trained warehouse labour on hand to ensure tasks are completed quickly and efficiently, with safety remaining a high priority.

Value beyond offloading

An experienced staffing service provider with knowledge of working with loading and offloading containers understands that the process does not stop there. A TES partner will be able to provide added value through staff with the necessary knowledge and experience to perform additional tasks like taking inventory of stock, palletising and shrink-wrapping products, packing according to specific patterns, or offloading according to outbound orders.

These additional functions can be included into the flat rate per container, increasing productivity and cost efficiency. Additional services like picking, packing, stacking of warehouse shelves and despatching functions can also be staffed by a TES provider, with fully screened and vetted staff available on demand as needed.

Reputation is everything

Container logistics is often difficult to plan and predict due to external disruptors, port inefficiencies and backlogs resulting from strikes, among other factors. Labour requirements therefore need to be flexible enough to ensure operational efficiency, so employing additional labour permanently can add significantly to operating costs whilst providing an insufficient return.

An increase in demand can put pressure on companies to cut corners, which may lead to challenges including inefficiency and contravention of labour laws and can permanently damage a company’s reputation. Partnering with a reputable, trustworthy, and experienced staffing provider will ensure additional labour is available on demand and that all staff are properly screened and vetted to ensure they are able to do the job right the first time.

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