A crisis of this scale has forced companies to reimagine business models, not just for short-term survival, but for long-term resilience. Reliable estimates cannot currently be made about the business development over the remainder of the year, but offerings like Jungheinrich’s rental solutions can help organisations respond to the challenges of a 24×7 marketplace as well as face economic uncertainty and rising customer expectations. Manojit Acharya, Managing Director, Jungheinrich Lift Truck India informs Upamanyu Borah, how the idea of using a flexible hire service goes along way to effectively manage market volatility and complement traditional contracts, while also giving an overview of the sector.
Don’t you think the pandemic has reminded us how critical supply chain and logistics are at the foundational level?
Not only this, what this pandemic further brought into the limelight is how digital and physical assets have to work together and coexist. Specifically talking about the logistics industry, there is always going to be a coexistence of both, and how well that is managed would ultimately define success for both service and customer organisations.
You are a thought leader in materials handling. What was the single biggest perceptible need you have found in the mindset of the customers amid these volatile times?
Talking about operation-level aspects, in the last few months, what has come out quite noticeably is the importance of service levels. How well an organisation is geared up to service its customers was the biggest determinant to come across.
It’s not only about having the best of equipmentbut going the extra mile in terms of serving your customer and keeping their equipment in the best of operating conditions.
Can you describe your company’s own business continuity plans and how have you helped your clients in times like these?
At Jungheinrich, our operations were always running. Even when lockdown started, we had a special approval from government for serving essential service sectors for which our warehouses were open, serving the aftermarket requirements with continuous spare parts supply across regions. On the other hand, supply of our rental trucks also kept running to support business covering essential operations with short and long-term rental solutions.
Initially, our business continuity plan was completely dependent on our essential service customers as our objective was to keep their businesses running. Our service engineers used to be in constant touch with our customers, and our customers responded very well by providing necessary approvals for our team as well as providing logistics (pick up and drop) support.
Post-lockdown, we have started full-fledged offerings to customers. Our sales and after-sales teams are working and keeping the agreed deadlines with customers.
Do you have a crisis toolkit? Crisis processes, resources and technologies are in place and understood?
At Jungheinrich, we took note of this situation very seriously. All necessary measures were put in place very early. A central crisis team has been formed globally working in close coordination with the board of directors. A local crisis team has been set-up in all our sales units and plants to develop and initiate all necessary steps, including preventive measures. In addition, regular information is provided on necessary hygiene measures, customer communication, standard operating procedures (SOPs) on operating offices/warehouses, etc.
As part of the crisis team in India, we looked at each parameter, the entire processes and their functioning. We have guidelines and checklist for everything like SOPs for safety measures, visiting customers, maintaining and sanitizing our equipments and so on. We have provided masks and sanitisers to all our employees. We frequently connect with employees to keep a check on their health status as well as their families.
For instance, in the case of our head office, we already had the permission to operate with around 10% staff. Our checklist regarding the immediate priorities before and after opening the office was ready almost about a month before. Additionally, we had been sanitising and fumigating the office and warehouses premises.
At present, we can say that we have everything in place and well communicated to every employee of the organisation.
Today, when people are talking of industry 4.0 and IoT, what is the impact of technology invasion on storage and materials handling considering the Indian market?
Jungheinrich has not only been talking about industry 4.0 but also prepared for it. With a comprehensive portfolio of material handling equipment, logistics systems and services, we are able to offer customer tailored solutions for the challenges posed by Industry 4.0.
The concept of 4.0 is widely used in Europe, as market there is much more advanced and matured. In India, the market is unique and has requirements of all equipment, from basic handling machines to high-end automated machines. The revolution is happening at a fast pace but intra-logistics has still a long way to go. Automation and its related influence, although being felt, have to catch up.
Therefore, we tend to look at both the ends of the spectrum. At the higher end, there are customers who are hopeful about automation and their requirements have to be met, while on the other end, there are businesses who are satisfied with simple basic solutions.
Apart from pioneering solutions in the sector, is there a way you have tried to roll up the biggest challenges warehouse/DC managers face considering this new environment?
One of the biggest challenges the operations and warehouse managers are facing today is managing demand fluctuations. Lot of efforts are needed for capacity planning, manage throughput and ensure productivity within limited cash flow.
Junghneinrich Rental solution can help warehouse managers in managing productivity and demand planning without high demand on CAPEX investment. Our long-term rental delivers productivity by optimising truck performance; these are maintained by us directly. Short-term rental caters to high demand for few months, e.g. we top up existing fleet with trucks for seasonal demands.
Going forward, we anticipate that short terms rental will become more popular in the coming years.
Are there opportunities for cost-efficient maintenance during this period?
Downtime can be expensive. That is why we recommend our customers to carry out regular maintenance of our truck fleet. Especially, during this time when trucks were in non-operative conditions and our service engineers cannot visit them, it is important for the customers to take the necessary steps and precautions to ensure their trucks run smoothly.
We rolled-out a complete guide and conducted virtual trainings for our customers on how to maintain our trucks post-lockdown, covering precautions and measures to ensure life of trucks and batteries.
We offer different preventive maintenance options to the customer as per their needs like annual maintenance contract, full service contract where we work closely with customers to plan the maintenance of trucks, repairs, training to operators, etc. This helps our customers to focus and efficiently carry out their core business operations.
How can stakeholders inform and exchange insights with each other looking at such a global pandemic disaster?
We are actively associated and participating in events organised by associations and industrial bodies through virtual meets, webinars or knowledge and information sharing platforms. The sessions are excellent and have been able to address many of the augmenting concerns.
Additionally, there has to be a lot of exchange of information between the leadership and organisational level. Right from financial matters to managing human resources, every aspect needs to be evaluated and discussed in detail.
Also, while we keep trying to think of new ways to adapt to the current environment, we should also look at and understand how other companies are handling and overcoming the crisis.