May 17, 2020

Strike-resistant business, why prevention is better than cure

South Africa
south africa strike season
vsc solutions
Freddie Pierce
3 min
With the South African ‘strike season at its end for some industries, turning the focus on what can be done in terms of risk mitigation during la...

 With the South African ‘strike season’ at its end for some industries, turning the focus on what can be done in terms of risk mitigation during labour strikes is a matter of focusing on prevention rather than cure, according to Grant Marshbank, chief operations officer of supply chain consultants VSc Solutions.

 “Few events are as damaging to a business as a labour strike. However, it is possible that with proper planning - by employing disciplines such as forecasting, business process automation and other innovations - the damage that could otherwise have been caused can be very effectively negated,” said Marshbank.

 Also, the exercise of planning in order to mitigate this risk could help one’s business run more efficiently all year round – and not just in ‘strike season’.

Marshbank added: “Every year, labour strikes cost the economy millions of Rands in lost business and hampered productivity, not to mention reputational risk as investors lose appetite for doing business in South Africa. Yet, as damaging as a strike can be, there’s no reason that it should be, especially when strikes have become so prevalent as to warrant a moniker. Businesses should prepare themselves.”

 Here’s how:

1. Forecasting

With ‘strike season’ having carved out a place in the annual business calendar, no company can say it hasn’t been warned.

“By using Inventory Management and Forecasting Tools, businesses are able to plan their inventory needs based on actual constraints,” said Marshbank.

 These tools enable busineses to improve forecast accuracy using advanced algorithms and processes. Also, early warnings of potential stock outs or surplus orders – via SMS and email – allow for interventions that improve customer service.

 “Such tools allow one to continuously monitor all the risks inherent in your inventory, and set optimal safety stocks to mitigate risks while still delivering on targets,” he adds.

 2. Business continuity

Striking delivery drivers, for example, can severely impact a business. However, by using Planning and Distribution Tools that produce routes for stand-in drivers to follow, it’s possible to get deliveries done, based on an optimised schedule, thanks to technology that offers turn-by-turn navigation.

Marshbank said: “These tools effectively put the power back in the hands of the business owner as people can be engaged to do tasks without on the job knowledge being a critical factor.”

 Another benefit of such tools and technology is the ability of owners to tell exactly where a particular delivery is at any time, and even when drivers are making unscheduled stops.

 3. Business process automation

Marshbank said: “Business process automation is often painted with a negative brush because it’s seen as reducing headcount and taking the people element out of business processes.”

 However, he says the truth is that automation supports administrators and enables them to become more efficient as they have more time to follow up in person on key tasks and queries.

Marshbank added: “Another great advantage of automation is that during strike season, staff can be redeployed to provide support in an area of the business that is severely affected by the strike, without neglecting their own responsibilities.”

 “The various tools that are available today effectively enable business continuity despite labour action,” Marshbank concludes. “It’s the responsibility of businesses to make sure that they use them.”


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Jun 21, 2021

Elon Musk's Boring Co. planning wider tunnels for freight

2 min
Elon Musk’s tunnelling firm plans underground freight tunnels with shipping containers moved on “battery-powered freight carriers”, according to reports

Elon Musk’s drilling outfit The Boring Company could be shifting its focus towards subterranean freight and logistics solutions, according to reports. 

A Boring Co. pitch deck seen and shared by Bloomberg depicts plans to construct wider tunnels designed to accommodate shipping containers. 

Founded by Tesla CEO Musk in 2016, the company initially stated its mission was to offer safer, faster point-to-point transport for people, particularly in cities plagued by traffic congestion. It also planned longer tunnels to ferry passengers between popular destinations across the US. 

The Boring Co. completed its first commercial project earlier this year in April. The 1.7m tunnel system is designed to move professionals between convention centres in Las Vegas using Tesla EVs. It says the Las Vegas Convention Centre Loop can cut travel time between venues from 45 minutes to just two. 


Boring Co.'s new freight tunnels

The Boring Co.'s new tunnel designs would allow freight to be transported on purpose built platforms, labelled as “battery-powered freight carriers”. The document shows that, though the containers could technically fit within its current 12-foot tunnels, wider tunnels would be more efficient. Designs for a new tunnel, 21 feet in diameter, show that they can comfortably accommodate two containers side-by-side, with a one-foot gap between them.

The Boring Co.’s new drilling machine, dubbed Prufrock, can tunnel at a rate of one mile per week, which is six times faster than its previous machine, and is designed to ‘porpoise’ - mimicking the marine animal by ‘diving’ below ground and reemerging once the tunnel is complete. 

Tesla’s supply chain woes 

Tesla is facing its own supply chain and logistic issues. The EV manufacturer has raised the price of its vehicles, with CEO Musk confirming the incremental hike was a result of “major supply chain pressure”. Musk replied to a disgruntled Twitter user, confused as to why prices were rising while features were being removed from the cars, saying the “raw materials especially” were a big issue. 

Elon Musk Tweet

Car manufacturing continues to be one of the industries hit hardest by a global shortage in semiconductor chips. While China’s chip manufacturing levels hit an all-time high in May, and the US is proposing a 25% tax credit for chip manufacturers, demand still outstrips supply. Automakers including Volkswagen and Audi have again said they expect reduced vehicle output in the next quarter due to a lack of semiconductors, with more factory downtime likely

Top Image credit: The Boring Company / @boringcompany

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