Antonio Zurita, is one of the two Operations Managers at STI Spain. He leads the team of planners that supports and organizes transports for our sister companies HAVI Logistics Spain and Portugal. Antonio joined the company 12 years ago and spoke to us about the main challenges he and his team had to face during the full lock down in Spain in March, and how he has overcome the obstacles to continue providing the same level of service to his main customers. “Despite all the challenges COVID-19 threw at us, e.g. some staff members being temporarily off work, we had to do our utmost to continue to deliver highest quality level logistics services”, Antonio says.
By the time the first state of alarm was declared in Spain in March the STI Spain team was already equipped with the necessary tools to work 100 % remotely from home. This was possible based on the fast decision-making process to prepare for any eventuality, the immediate help of the IT team and the proactive support and efforts of all STI employees to make it work and ensure that the business continues to run smoothly.
The team of Antonio, composing four road planners, Maria González, David Marián, Pablo Fernández and Gemma García, have done a fantastic job – despite all the difficulties and changes in working procedures caused by the pandemic they never stopped being there for the customers 24/7. “What worried me most at first was how to guarantee a smooth communication among the team while working remotely. Thanks to the fact that all of us were equipped with the needed tools though we started to work as if we were in the office and were able to continue to provide the service without any interruptions. Going the extra mile and being one step ahead were some of the keys to not only protect the team but also to not lower performance and continue to meeting our client's demands."
Apart from the early adoption of the measures implemented to keep the workforce safe and keep the business going, there was another relevant key from Antonio´s point of view. This was to define a plan B scenario to be prepared and cope with any further drastic impacts caused by the pandemic. That means Operations Manager Antonio does not only make sure to always provide services without interruptions. It goes far beyond the organization of regular road transports for HAVI Logistics. It also requires him to look at alternative solutions, for example seafreight options to import promotion items from Asia. As well as support with customs clearances, or even in particular in the current situation organise urgent transports to import face masks and gloves from China.
In his own words, “My main goal is to make HAVI Logistics life´s easier to meet their customers needs. How? By providing all expertise, resources available and above all ensuring that the equipment needed is always available. One part of this is to look for the right and adequate hauliers and transport providers and make them aware what type of client we are serving. It is important that all carriers understand our client´s needs and the extreme importance of executing all transport orders at highest standards by carrying out temperature checks and in general guarantee the compliance with all rules defined to work with us. That is why I am also involved in the haulier audits to ensure that they fit into our STI family by guaranteeing on-time and reliable high quality services with fair and competitive prices."
The biggest challenge in the COVID context was caused when restaurants where closed down in Spain and complex decisions had to be made, such as temporarily sending some of the team members on Furlough leave. On the other hand though restaurants in Portugal remained open and even though the business declined substantially it was obviously necessary to continue to provide the same level of service. This was when plan B came into action since transports needed to be organized to supply the restaurants in Portugal with a reduced number of staff and fleet and by that equipment. All available resources on a human and logistical level were pulled together to coordinate all transports with HAVI Portugal by optimizing the utilization of the dedicated trucks to reduce costs and number of trips. At the same time by combining loads with goods from other customers STI helped their dedicated hauliers to continue running their fleet and not having to temporarily close.
After the first lockdown ended and by that having the entire team back on board and the business being reactivated, Antonio summarizes his experience as “a difficult and challenging situation from which he has taken 3 key learnings:
- By making strategic decisions quickly and adopting to measures early we have minimized the risks.
- Having a plan B and C in place to tackle situations from several perspectives guarantees that we always are functional and can guarantee the service to our customers
- And the last but surely not least, having a great team that is motivated and does their best to get through challenging times will always enable us to overcome any challenge that comes our way.