Finding the ‘New Normal’ for Transport & Distribution in Greater Western Sydney

By Scott Baker, Cumberland Business Chamber and Alba Fernandez, TAFE NSW Enterprise Western Sydney

Transport & Distribution is one of the largest and fastest growing sectors in the Western Parklands City, with Distribution Centres, 3PL facilities and warehouses spread along the length of the M7 Motorway from Marsden Park to Casula, extending north and south along the M5 & Hume Highway corridors, but not without challenges that have come to light recently due to the COVID disruption.

Notwithstanding the sector has been quite resilient and very responsive to changing consumer demand & purchasing behaviours in the last two decades, according to the recent ABEIS survey conducted by REMPLAN around 60% of sector respondents believed there are no positive outcomes to be observed from the COVID crisis, whereas others saw opportunities as to more efficient staffing, flexible work arrangements, increased use of local suppliers & a wider customer base.

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We would hope that since the survey was taken in April that the actions being taken by the 40% to pursue the opportunities they identified back then are starting to influence the 60%, because as any decent leadership coach will tell you, challenging adversity breeds inspiration, innovation and opportunity.

So what’s the ‘new normal’ look like for Transport & Distribution? Highly unlikely anyone knows the answer to this question at the present time, however, by now business owners should have identified at least some of the capacity, capability & resourcing gaps in the business and put some thought into medium & longer term solutions. However, we can be 100% certain things won’t return to the ‘old’ normal, because they never have after such major disruptive events as COVID.

Three things you could do now to understand the ‘new normal’ that will cost nothing except your time:

  1. Understand the problem. Are you looking at the right one?

Issues such as how to deal with capacity utilisation, peaks & troughs in demand, supply chain disruption affecting availability of parts, etc need to be brought into context, analysed rationally and prioritised. The solution won’t necessarily be to lay off trained staff of course. Perhaps, with the advent of smart containers & digital tracking technology it’s time to revisit those plans you had to up-skill your staff to better engage with the digital economy,  or look at 3D printing (additive manufacturing) truck parts such as the initiative Daimler Trucks in North America are piloting rather than accepting future delays caused by disruptions to supply.

  1. Understand the ‘current state’ of your sector using all available data sources.

Two really useful (and free) demographic resources our Chamber and local government bodies use to tell the story of a local economy and how it is changing are (i)  economy.id  produced by .id the population experts and (ii) the  Region Explorer app produced by REMPLAN.

Here’s a summary of insights into the Transport, Postal & Warehousing sector in the Fairfield Local Government Area we were able to glean using economy.id data.

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Other than making the ‘Western Sydney Airport-driven future jobs and growth’ estimates sound rather bullish, what else does this tell us?

  • The Transport, Postal & Warehousing sector has sustained significant growth in the past decade, well above the mean for all industry sectors within Fairfield LGA.
  • The Jobs to Resident Workers ratio indicates that employment locations within the LGA are easily reachable by public transport (bus, rail or combination of both) for local resident workers with experience in the sector.
  • 29% of the total number of jobs added in the last decade were shed in the first three months of COVID.
  • For businesses with a plan to rebound – that’s 560 candidates trained and now looking for work, to reach out to.
  1. Understand your ‘future state’ and the changes you will need to make to get there.

Despite the pandemic, global e-commerce giant Amazon has announced it will build its fifth and what is touted to be its largest fulfilment centre in Australia at Kemps Creek, on a site the size of 22 rugby fields and deploying the latest robotics technology the company has available.  While the jury still seems to be out as to the attractiveness of working for Amazon Australia, the reality is that with the facility set to create more than 1,500 jobs, and with Kemps Creek being in Liverpool LGA close to the new M9 motorway and Sydney Metro Greater West rail corridors, your employees will have greater choice as to where to pursue their careers in the not too distant future. Not that they would ever want to leave such an engaging, innovative & forward looking business like yours, right?

As for the changes you will need to make to get to your desired ‘future state’, something you can do now is an audit of the skills, certifications and accreditations required of your employees and management to operate your business in its ‘current state’, and develop an understanding of what your ‘future state’ requires.

Now, more than ever, is the time to evolve, develop and have sight of the horizon not just the runway! And you don’t have to pay consultants tens of thousands to see it, or find all the answers yourself.

Fortunately, TAFE NSW has always been a key connector between industry and the workforce and continue to evolve their training solutions on offer to align with the training needs of industry, and not just the traditional & future ‘hard’ skills, but also the ‘soft’ skills needed to bring businesses like yours up the ‘digital curve’, and sharpen your Management, Governance, HR, Marketing & Administration competencies.

Some of TAFE NSW Enterprise’s programs that you can access right now at little to no cost while minimizing your & your employees’ time out of the workplace are:

Training Needs Analysis: A Training Needs Analysis (TNA) is a review of learning and development needs within an organisation. It considers the knowledge, skill and behaviours that people need and how to develop them effectively. In order to deliver appropriate and effective training which meets the needs of individuals and the organisation, and represents value for money, a TNA is essential.

Upskilling of existing staff: Funding is available to business’ and industries to help them upskill staff into other roles by providing skills and formal qualification so staff within a business can progress into more senior roles to make way for more entry level roles. It also allows you to identify different roles with similar skill sets that with the benefit of some training could be used across different areas of your business. There is a strong focus around training and upskilling of smaller skill sets rather than full qualifications so that industry can be nimble and react quickly to its needs.

Fully Funded Training for New Entrants: Some industries have been severely impacted by an increase in demand (Transport and Logistics for example) and have found it a challenge to find potential employees that are skilled for the role. There are funding opportunities that allow for the training to be delivered at no cost to the employer to new employees. There has also been a greater need for casual staff to account for potential quarantine periods that can impact a business. Ask yourself – should there be a positive COVID case within your workplace, would you have enough casual staff on call to continue operating?

Fee Free Apprenticeships and Traineeships which allow you to give new employees real on the job training as well as a qualification. In many instances TAFE NSW works with business to deliver the training through ‘workplace learning’ and can potentially assess learners at your work place to minimise disruption to your operating rhythm.

Lastly, but certainly not least, TAFE can also help connect you to Apprenticeship Centres and students nearing completion of their qualification to help give you the edge on your competition.

Be ready for the ‘new normal’ – whatever form it takes.

Your TAFE NSW Account Manager is available to help you gain a clear vision of what’s on the horizon and explore new opportunities to support you into the recovery & through growth phase.

To get connected to an account manager, feel free to drop Alba Fernandez an email at: alba.fernandez@tafensw.edu.au

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