Coronavirus pandemic: DAMCO outlines response to crisis

By Zera Zheng, head of business resilience and security, DAMCO

Zera Zheng, head of Damco business resilience and security

Zera Zheng, head of business resilience and security at DAMCO, outlines how the freight forwarder responded to the coronavirus outbreak to keep supply chains moving

Our business resilience (BR) program kicked into play at the beginning of January when we started to monitor what was then being described as a possible Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic spreading through China.

Our global BR team responded to information and updates from our Chinese offices, following the Business resilience procedures we have put in place.

Business resilience relies on engaging front line employees, who are the local experts.

As a result, before Chinese New Year, we had undertaken an inventory of face masks, thermometers, and sanitisers, updated staff on risks and precautions to take during the holidays and requested that everyone take laptops home.

Before the global outbreak, offices worldwide were ready to work from home, and we had mobilised a dedicated global crisis management team.

We established incident management teams at all of our locations, bringing together local experts from BR and product, to human resources and safety to mitigate disruption and ensure local business contingency.

Business resilience is about procedure and policy, but it also relies on the right company culture.

Everyone in the process must feel empowered to keep vital information flowing and be aware of what information needs to be passed on.

There must be a sense of ownership and no concern that there might be blame.

We started looking into developing a robust BR program when DAMCO restructured 18 months ago. The management team responded to feedback from customers on which direction to take and took advice from them on expectations and needs.

We learnt a lot from their procedures and developed a program, preparing staff for over 47 different scenarios, which could disrupt the supply chain, including a pandemic.

Last year, our BR team, working with front line staff, successfully managed 94 disruptive events globally, ranging from supply chain disruption in the wake of Typhoon Tisoy in the Philippines, to hold ups due to new air cargo screening regulations in Hong Kong.

Office operations were resumed within 24 hours, where needed, with warehouse operations up and running again within two to five days.

As the Pandemic is teaching all of us, communication is everything in a crisis.

Internally, we have a business resilience app, which allows us to communicate instantly and stores information on everything from procedure to contact information.

We speak to customers regularly, and we have launched a dedicated web page for the pandemic as well as weekly customer updates including latest impacts, recommended actions, and useful contacts.

Business resilience means ensuring employee health and safety as well as keeping DAMCO running and looking for ways to support companies to mitigate impact.

We want to make sure we can keep cargo moving and to do that we have to be sure that when something happens, we have a solution and can explore all of the possibilities.

We are all learning from Covid-19. At DAMCO, it has reinforced our commitment to business resilience planning, and put into sharp focus the need to communicate and be flexible.

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