Social distancing and the supply chain

COVID has changed how we look at everything from the way we purchase groceries for our family to the interactions we have with strangers and friends alike on a sidewalk near our homes. Some restaurants and stores are now refusing to accept cash as a way of protecting their staff from a virus which has changed how we go about our daily lives. Cash might be king during a pandemic, but the paper we touch creates anxiety and a possible transmission point.

That anxiety around physical exchange of documents is why many shippers and warehouses are now recalibrating the very workflows their businesses were built on. The fact that a truck driver entering a warehouse can now cause a multi-million dollar disruption to a global supply chain has been the catalyst for a myriad of patchwork safety solutions, few of which have actually made facility staff feel protected or drivers feel safe. The stop gap measures that were enacted early on by warehouse managers to protect their staff and create physical distance during the pandemic are now being re-evaluated to be able to sustain an enterprise.

Drivers have also shared a common feeling of being treated like a leper, with makeshift plexiglass barriers, blockaded building entries, being confined to their cab, denied bathroom access, and having requests for a paper bill of lading denied. It’s become a struggle to do their job, as it has even become a challenge to inspect the safety of a load while adhering to ever-changing safety protocols that are vastly different from one facility to the next.

Whether signing a bill of lading at the shipping office or grabbing a cup of coffee from the drivers’ lounge, there’s a real danger of viral shedding and both important processes and basic hospitality have been shrugged off. It’s now clear the first interaction point of a transport driver pulling up to a guard shack or a transportation office within a supply chain, must include minimal contact with physical items as well as strict social distancing.

So, what does physical distancing look like at the guard shack once that gate is raised? What if there was a solution that enabled a truck driver to self identify with a driver’s license and some basic information about their load? That solution doesn’t need to include a physical interaction with your staff, but rather is automated using a kiosk that the driver interacts with and is then directed to the proper location in your yard to either receive the load or await further instruction via SMS text message. All bills of lading are signed electronically at the kiosk or on a mobile device like a tablet on your loading dock, or even on the driver’s cell phone. Not just bills of lading, but any supply chain document that is vital to the transport of that specific load.  All of them scanned, archived, and available for all interested parties. Fully searchable for years into the future at the click of a button. No more searching file cabinets and bankers boxes for a bill of lading. And this transaction happens in real time with the goal of keeping those trucks moving.

While digital documents are easier and more cost-efficient to store, search, access, and share, there are still times when paper is preferred or even required. For drivers and carriers wanting a printed bill of lading, a viable solution must generate a signed paper BOL when necessary. A paperless BOL can also be emailed or texted to the driver for signature and safekeeping. Currently dozens of facilities across North America already use a solution with these tenets – M.Folio and Driver Kiosks – to social distance and safeguard their supply chain.

While M.Folio doesn’t solve every problem in the warehouse caused by COVID, it does redefine the relationship between receiver, shippers, drivers, and documentation, while keeping drivers and facility staff safe and efficient, and protecting business continuity.


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