With Chain of Responsibility legislation changing this October, ensuring safety at every stage of your supply chain is more important than ever. The changes mean that if a safety breach occurs at any point in the supply chain, regardless of whether it was a result of your direct action, you can be held liable – safety is everyones responsibility.
Now while it’s easy to take responsibility for yourself, the issue is; how do you make sure the other people in your supply chain follow safe practices?
The answer – communication.
Simple enough to say, but significantly harder to put into practice.
Strong communication has a number of benefits including streamlining operations, increasing efficiency, improving planning, creating better relationships with those in your supply chain, and decreasing safety risks.
So, whether it’s a distributed workforce that’s making it difficult or because communication has never been necessary before now, I've found 4 ways to help you improve your supply chain communication.
1. Regular meet ups
Maintaining regular interaction can be difficult but it’s vital if you're trying to improve your communication. Planning and committing to a formal, set time to meet face-to-face every week (or every couple) will give everyone an opportunity to better understand what’s happening in each person's particular field to help improve and maintain efficiency.
It may not seem like there is anything to discuss with your supply chain on a regular basis, beyond your everyday operations, so if you’re struggling for talking points in your meetings, make sure you include:
- Safety practices and systems – CoR laws will hold everyone accountable for proactively managing safety and make them liable for any safety breaches. So it is essential to ensure that you and others in your supply chain have a set safety management system to prevent any breaches. By making each other aware of what you are doing to promote safety and what you can do to improve it, you will reduce the chance of an incident.
- Goals, expectations, and values – by operating under a common goal, you can work together more efficiently. Communicating your expectations and capabilities will also eliminate any communication and set in place a standard that workers can adhere to.
- Crisis plans – if something does go wrong, everyone should be aware of what to do and how to do it. This should be discussed and reevaluated regularly (not just when an accident occurs).
- Changes to methods, practices, or operations – if you are changing anything in the way you operate, letting those in your supply chain know can help maintain efficiency and make sure those changes are implemented seamlessly.
- Anything upcoming to note – this is anything coming up that may impact operations.
- Updates on any issues – if an issue does occur, even if it doesn't necessarily involve everyone, your chain should be aware. They may even have a suggestion on how to help!
- Update any wins! – a supply chain is all part of one system, so make sure to celebrate when the good things happen!
2. Be transparent
You may think there’s no point in telling your supply chain anything that doesn’t directly involve them, and you don’t need to tell them everything, but the more people understand about the whole picture the less likely they are to make mistakes.
By being transparent and letting everyone in on your practices, people not only feel trusted, but they gain a better understanding of how things work, how their individual role fits into that, and of any issues that may arise (as well as how to respond if they do).
It also allows you to spot any gaps in safety practices, both theirs and yours, and gives you an opportunity to fix them or, in other words, be proactive (segue alert).
3. Be Proactive, not reactive
If it aint' broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, we all might take that sentiment a little too far sometimes and not address potential issues until after they've turned into a crisis.
For you individually, being proactive may include updating your safety practices to minimise risk or initiating a new training program. To be proactive with your supply chain, notify everyone of any change you may make to operations and ask to be in the loop on their practices to ensure you are aligned with each other.
This could also include discussing with your chain how you could incorporate new technology into your operations seamlessly, to both improve safety and stay ahead of competition (yet another segue!).
4. Utilise technology
This is probably going to be the most important point in actually maintaining communications. When you don’t have the option to see everyone in your supply chain everyday or hold regular face-to-face meetings, using technology can give you the means to maintain transparency and active communication.
A simple technological integration would be to use video calls when in-person meetings are not possible and have an active instant messaging system for a live communication stream.
A step up from that is to use technology for training. Technology makes having a holistic training program a lot easier. Through mobile training, it’s possible to ensure that every worker, in every part of your supply chain, is aware of their responsibility to safety and is able to perform tasks using safe practices.
A more complex (and harder to organise) way to utilise current technology is to use a single digital management tool across your entire supply chain. This will allow for greater transparency – without you having to be the constant source of information. But, as you may already have a system in place and one system may not work for everyone, just building awareness about your system will help.
Improving communication with your supply chain requires time, commitment and cooperation – there’s no quick fix. Maintaining communication once systems and standards have been put in place gets easier as time goes on - so don’t worry!
If you have a way to improve communication that we've missed, let us know. We’d love to chat!