March-April 2020

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PalletCentral • March-April 2020 15 As for the intensity of sales orders, one-third says they are coming faster, one third says they are same, and the remaining survey participants noted things have slowed down. While no one expected such a time as this, NWPCA members sprang into action and proactively engaged protocols to protect workers and their business, with 86% of respondents saying they "have reviewed, refreshed, and communicated its emergency business continuity plans and procedures." When asked, "What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenge to maintaining business continuity?," participants noted a significant list of concerns that included communication, employee wellness and safety, labor shortages, pallet demand, customer business closures (short-term and long- term), and panic in the marketplace that impacts revenue. One respondent summed up the concerns of many. "I think some of our customers have and/or will close, while others will be working 24-7 to keep up. This challenges our milling capabilities and planning. Also, the fear of our employees contracting the virus – it is a non-stop effort on our part to support them and try to discourage those fears, but everyone is their own person. Many now have children at home and not only have to work, but do home schooling when they get home. This is a challenge for them as well." Remaining optimistic, another says, "As long as trucking stays going and supply chains keep running we should be okay, fingers crossed." Some have workforce concerns, noting, "Maintaining employees to work through the crisis [is challenging], however, employees seem more available as thousands across the country have suddenly become unemployed as a result of the crisis." Other comments about the economy of COVID-19, saying they are concerned about "customers paying, due to the financial strain on companies" and "panic in the market place and freeze on consumer spending." Upcoming economic slowdowns and how the business will face lost sales and productivity are looming issues. The Workplace The struggle to keep up with ongoing updates to new and existing regulations has left the pallet industry scrambling. Approximately 60% of the survey respondents were fielding questions from customers specifically on how they were taking precautions at their facilities. In fact, about 70% of respondents restricted visitors to their location. Customers who inquired into the processes and procedures of pallet companies were concerned with direct contact with drivers – some barring them from their buildings; specific steps the company was taking to minimize any spread of the virus – even asking to see the written plan of action; and concern if the pallet provider would be open for business. "Many customers are asking if we are considered 'essential' by the government. Others are asking if we will be able to continue to supply during this pandemic. Others are asking to share our continuity/ contingency plan," said one survey participant. Another commented, "Several customers have asked for our statement/commitment for COVID-19. We had a formal statement about what we are doing and that has been sufficient so far." In general, it appears that NWPCA members responded responsibly and rapidly to protect their business, employees and customers. All survey participants reported they had instituted and were enforcing health, hygiene programs, including handwashing policies. "One of the challenges is to make sure that employees are practicing social distancing and handwashing during their workday and also at home," says Carolyn Beach, Vice President of Westside Pallet, Inc. "So, we have more frequent meetings with our employees to remind them to take those precautions."

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