ALDI prioritises staff safety, hygiene during pandemic

A responsible and expansive focus on proactive hygiene practices has helped define the approach supermarket powerhouse ALDI has taken for its drivers.

Now considered one of the big three supermarket retailers in the country, ALDI at present staffs more than 530 transport operators across Australia with drivers embarking from one of the company's eight distribution centres (DCs) to deliver essential groceries to Australians, daily.

Given its national presence, transport operations for ALDI are committed to developing safe and efficient routes to reduce total kilometres and drive times according to Tremaine Spillane, Logistics Director, ALDI Australia.

“We have recently extended measures to protect our employees,” she said. “Freight workers delivering into our distribution centres go through additional checks including temperature checking, symptom screening, and face masks for all drivers across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. We have also introduced new measures to limit interaction between drivers from different states.”

With COVID-19 caseloads flatlining in most states while Victoria continues to surge, the current environment across the country is still very fluid for logistics workers.

Spillane said ALDI was fortunate to have an agile supply chain in which it could work with its driver teams, asset base and valued business partners to make changes swiftly when needed.

“We have been able to have more flexibility in delivery times with the removal of curfews,” she said. “This has assisted the operation to be more sensitive to national supply chain delays. We also introduced the use of safety pendants for drivers during the day and at night to ensure our teams felt safe in this new environment.”

Spillane told Prime Mover that the extensions for lifting curfew restrictions allowed the ALDI transport teams to re-adjust delivery timings and continue to deliver groceries into its stores.

“We are grateful for the local communities and councils who extended curfews for freight,” she said. “All of these new ways of working will be continually reviewed to establish whether they deliver ongoing safety and efficiency benefits for our supply chain.”

The business, according to Spillane, has also kept up-to-date with government implications, such as cross border travel to ensure any restrictions caused minimal disruption to the day-to-day roles of its transport operators.

“We have kept our transport teams informed on the changing situation to best prepare transport operators for any changes they may encounter,” she said. “The volume of our operations continues to fluctuate as developments occur, such as the recent lockdown in Metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire region. We are grateful that in recent months movement has stabilised as the nation has adjusted to current circumstances.”

ALDI prioritises safety and efficiency across its commercial vehicle fleet by maintaining one of the most modern fleets on the road. All new orders are compliant to the latest European emission standards (Euro 6) which are greater than Australian requirements.

The average age of the ALDI commercial vehicle fleet is four years, which measures well against the average age of the Australian fleet at 14.8 years.

Each truck, usually a Mercedes-Benz or Scania, is equipped with safety features and low particulate emission technology. Safety features include ABS, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.

ALDI also confirmed that a new fleet management system is expected to be rolled out across its commercial vehicles in the next few months.

Telematics is relied on for fridge and engine fault reporting, integrated safe driving plans, fatigue management, cold chain compliance, dash cameras and live traffic updates. Fleet managers and drivers also consult telemetry data when it comes to the integration of fridge motor low range mode for noise in sensitive environments, Easydocs to store paper documents electronically and driver tablets with vehicle checklist to report faults.

“Telematics is one of the many investments we have made in our transport teams to ensure the highest standard of safety and efficiency for our transport operators,” said Spillane.

Following the onset of COVID-19 in March, ALDI recruited for roles across its network to ensure more Australians had access to everyday essentials.

“As we said at the time of peak purchasing, there was more than enough food to go around,” said Spillane. “Australia’s primary producers and manufacturers are world class and they have been great partners in meeting the needs of Australians.”

Since then the company has been proactive in implementing preventative measures to protect the health and safety of staff on its extensive supply chains

Each Aldi commercial vehicle operator now carries a hygiene pack in their prime mover. 

What's more, personal protective equipment (PPE) was provided to its 13,500 employees across stores, warehouses and offices.

This included gloves, hand sanitiser and masks which are now mandatory and must be worn in its NSW and Victorian DCs which have signs in place at key points in the employee's journey to ensure best practice hygiene is front of mind.

All machinery is cleaned prior to and after use with cleaning stations in multiple locations. Break rooms undergo extra cleaning before and after use.

“Personnel have specific working groups that they break with to ensure social distancing and contact tracing can be maintained effectively,” Spillane said.

According to Spillane, the key, throughout the pandemic, has been to share clear and concise messages to its employees which includes an internal ALDI staff application that has been utilised to push important messaging to its 13,500 employees in real time.

“We have also used our online learning platform to educate our employees on the importance of hygiene practices and also increased our signage at key operational points for employees in our warehouses, offices and throughout our stores,” she said.

“In stores, our focus is on social distancing to protect the health and safety of both our employees and customers,” said Spillane.

To protect employees, ALDI has installed clear screens and 1.5 metre social distancing floor markers at all checkouts, with hygiene stations now located at every store entrance.

As is now common practice at many retail supermarket stores, antibacterial wipes are provided to clean trolley surfaces and hand sanitiser for customers to use before they enter any of its stores.

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