Running oil in the logistics and supply chain sector is a tough, highly competitive business that must adhere to the most stringent safety standards in the industry. And certificates and rubber stamped policy documents locked in lever arch files cannot govern safety, says Arend du Preez, MD of Crossroads.
The oil majors don’t use inferior service providers because it’s too risky for them and their brands. The potential reputational damage from even a single incident is significant so even though they have a safety track record the envy of even many aviation businesses they never consider it enough.
As their service providers we logistics and supply chain operators have to ingrain safety into the daily routines of each and every one of our employees. Our large, heavy vehicles operating on public roads where they come into contact with every type of road user, including pedestrians and even stray animals, mean that we must always be on our toes.
It may be a relatively straightforward process to develop the necessary standards required to be successful in this environment if you have a single yard with a few employees and one or two vehicles. But the task becomes exponentially more challenging as you expand your scope across the country and across borders. Many franchise owners will testify to the challenge of delivering standardised service no matter where you operate nor which of your many hundreds of employees is involved. One of the ways to be successful is to keep historical records so that you can measure past performance and establish future improvements.
That stems from engaged managers who understand the fundamental operations and therefore the success factors that stimulate customer happiness and, more than that, their comfort that the risk is being properly managed on their behalf. But managers must effectively communicate the safety activities to employees. They have to have good relationships with those employees or the employees won’t be receptive. And that must be achieved in the countrywide context that includes all the many cultures of our inclusive nation, the different income groups, levels of education, and geographic considerations, among others.
One of the first ways you see the successful outcome of this approach is in the infrastructure. The vehicles are clean and well maintained. The depots are clean and tidy; they look neat. It gives us – and our customers – a sense of satisfaction and comfort because we intrinsically know it is an indicator of good safety procedures. So, while safety is not necessarily about the infrastructure itself and whether or not it’s in good repair – although that is a powerful factor – it’s more about the people and our attitude to running safe and secure operations. If we have the right attitude, throughout the organisation from top to bottom, then the infrastructure will naturally be well maintained and we will automatically live the policies locked in a lever arch file.