By Susan Bloom
When it comes to recognizing essential workers during the pandemic, warehouse personnel rank high on the list.
Perhaps no one knows this better than Luc Choquette, vice president of operations at Green Mountain Electric Supply, a nearly 70-year-old Newport, VT-based distributorship with 16 locations throughout Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire.
“Through our warehouse operations in general, we oversee receiving and shipping and provide a variety of other logistical solutions for our customers, including project storage, wire cutting, and other services designed to enhance customer efficiency and convenience,” Choquette said.
However, these activities were truly put to the test over the past year as the Green Mountain team encountered a variety of pandemic-related challenges.
Among them, “our company was involved in many COVID relief and enhancement projects that were deemed essential, including upgrades to medical facilities, nursing homes, grocery stores, food supply/service, and COVID sites, so we had to immediately adhere to state regulations for masking, social distancing, cleaning, and more in the various states we work in,” Choquette said of the ever-changing guidelines they struggled to stay ahead of
“Like the rest of the industry, we also faced many challenges with supply chain issues and still do to this day — a problem which actually continues to get worse,” Choquette noted. “We had to dedicate a team of people to focus on the supply chain problems and have continued to work through these challenges daily to ensure that we have product on our shelves for our customers,” he said. “We also drove various solutions for our customers to make doing business with us easy during the pandemic, including expansion of our free delivery service and creation of a curbside pick-up option, which some of our customers still continue to use.”
“Overall, day-to-day operations in our warehouses needed to evolve and adapt due to COVID and we found a way to adhere to state mandates while also supporting our customers,” Choquette said. “We take pride in our ability to be flexible and change as much as we did through the pandemic.”
As he looks back on their experience over the past year, Choquette said that Green Mountain’s dedicated warehouse personnel made everything possible. “We’re so proud of our team and the way they continued to come to work every day to push forward for our customers,” he said. “We think that all of our warehouse employees and drivers really stepped up to do their job and make things happen for Green Mountain Electric Supply, even in the scariest of times. While many employees were working from home, our drivers and warehouse employees showed up every day to continue to support our customers.”
A Major Differentiator
Warehouse operations are a similar ‘jewel in the crown’ for Colonial Electric Supply, an over century-old King of Prussia, PA-based distributor with 17 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York City, and Maryland.
“We see warehousing and delivery as a major differentiator for Colonial,” shared president Steven Bellwoar. “We can do a lot more than our competition can to support our customers, including preparing shipments in our warehouse in ways that save customers labor on the jobsite. This results in greater customer loyalty,” he said.
While COVID-related circumstances proved challenging over the past year, “our talented production team really came through for us with flying colors,” Bellwoar said. In addition to practicing vigilant masking and social distancing, “we cleaned, cleaned, cleaned, and then cleaned some more, and we also over-communicated the need for those employees who felt ill to stay out of work. This caused some stress, along with the sales shortfalls and industry-wide shortages of material we experienced, but luckily we stock so much that we were less affected than other players.
“While the office workers set up remotely, our essential workers came in, manned their posts in the warehouses and trucks without fail, and deserve a lot of credit,” Bellwoar said. “We worried about the health and safety of our employees, not the budget. Despite a significant drop in volume during that time, we didn’t let any warehouse staff go, and we also paid our essential workers a special bonus to thank them for their valiant service.
Additional Survey of ‘Warehouse Operations’ Now Open!
Given the essential nature of warehouse operations within the electrical distribution industry, NAED is proud to announce that it will be including a separate “Warehouse Operations” survey alongside its popular PAR Survey for the first time ever. Results of the annual performance benchmarking report will enable distributors to compare the success and efficiency of their warehouse operations to those of similar-sized electrical distributors in their area.
The 2021 NAED Warehouse Operations Survey is designed to provide distributors with a baseline view of the efficiency and productivity of their warehouse activities. The new survey covers such critical warehouse areas and measures as fulfillment, accuracy, cycle times, safety, and deliveries, and, like the rest of the NAED PAR Report, will enable distributors to compare their company’s results with those of their peers
However, distributors can only get the new Warehouse Operations report if they participate in the NAED PAR Survey, which closes on Friday, April 16th. Distributors can complete the survey through the online portal at www.naedparreport.com.
The PAR and Warehouse Operations Surveys are administered by Industry Insights; individual company responses will be kept in strictest confidence and will not be shared with NAED or anyone outside of Industry Insights. If you have additional questions, e-mail NAED’s Member Engagement team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Green Mountain Electric’s Choquette is among the many distributor warehouse professionals who look forward to the new tool.
“We currently assess the accuracy, efficiency, and speed of our warehouse operations and are always striving to improve these things with training, technology, or process improvement,” Choquette said. “We’re very excited to see how our metrics compare to the warehouse operations of others in our industry by seeing the first-ever Warehouse Operations PAR Report from NAED.”
Conducting warehouse activities from a fully-automated, 400,000-square-foot, 24/7 Customer Service Center in King of Prussia that oversees more than 25,000 transactions a week, Bellwoar is also excited to see NAED’s PAR Report encompass the critical function of warehouse operations for the first time.
“We’re active participants in the PAR Report, but there wasn’t too much there as far as warehouse benchmarking in the past,” Bellwoar said. “Colonial Electric is very efficient due to the size and automation of our warehouse, but our strategic priority is operational excellence with the goal of zero defects. Thanks to the staff and the systems we’ve implemented, continuous improvement is happening. We haven’t gotten to zero defects yet, but we’re making progress,” he confirmed, adding that NAED’s new PAR Report will be a big help.
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