Working in a warehouse is a demanding job that requires precision in a fast-paced environment. Even more so when you’re responsible for the storage and distribution of life-saving pharma and healthcare products. Kannusamy Sandra, Warehouse Team Lead for Kuehne+Nagel in Singapore, looks the part in his high-visibility safety vest and overalls. During an already busy shift, he takes time out to share his story, pausing occasionally to confer with colleagues who need his advice.
Kannusamy has been with Kuehne+Nagel for five years, working in a central Singaporean pharma and healthcare warehouse. The warehouse has space for around 15’000 pallets, and is split into four sections each catering to a different temperature range. The team are busily preparing for the incoming shipments of COVID-19 vaccines which they will store, repackage and distribute locally.
A team of pharma specialists
Kannusamy and his team work with a variety of products from some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical manufacturers. These products include test kits, analytical equipment, reagents as well as general and controlled medicines. While the world’s focus is on COVID-19, other patients still need medicines for diabetes, cancer and other conditions. Kannusamy and his team enable these life-saving shipments to continue during lockdown. Working in such a dynamic environment, another key focus of the team is their own health and safety. They follow strict protocols and undertake regular training to ensure their safety at work.
As warehouse operators, Kannusamy and his team are responsible for receiving inbound deliveries, processing them and repackaging them as outbound shipments. These products require careful scrutiny to ensure everything is in order and sent on time and in accordance with the correct protocols. These activities include tallying batches, counting the quantity and checking the expiry dates. Maintaining a strict cold chain is a vital part of pharma logistics and the team ensures the products are stored in compliance with their temperature requirements. Once everything is prepared and checked, the products are sent to hospitals and clinics in Singapore and the wider region.
So close, yet so far
The pandemic has caused a lot of personal challenges for people across the world, including Kannusamy. Although he works in Singapore, Kannusamy is a resident of Malaysia, and prior to the pandemic travelled between the two nations for work each day. Early last year, Singapore enacted ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions that closed the border. “Kuehne+Nagel acted quickly to ensure I had accommodation and support,” Kannusamy says. However, being cut off from his wife, children and parents is a huge personal sacrifice. Although they have regular video calls, it is no replacement for being there with them.
New ways of working
The pandemic has also affected how Kannusamy and his team work. First, they’ve adjusted their schedules. To minimise interaction and potential contagion between colleagues, the shift pattern has been split into two shifts, morning and afternoon. “At first this was difficult to adjust to,” Kannusamy says, “because for so long we worked standard office hours.”
Splitting the work into two shifts has also affected communication within the team. The team needs to conduct a handover, to ensure essential information and next steps are shared between workers. To overcome this obstacle, they use an internal chat app to make sure all messages are conveyed to everyone on the team. “This way we are all working from the same updated information,” Kannusamy says.
When you’re responsible for such vital products, you need to stay protected - for your own sake and for others. The team begin each shift by donning the full PPE outfit: gown, hairnet, mask and gloves. Upon entering the facility, the teams’ temperatures are checked and written down to make sure there isn’t any infection. This discipline is essential when working with pharma products, and will be good experience for when Kannusamy and his team begin receiving and distributing the COVID-19 vaccines. Kannusamy attributes cooperation as one of the factors that drive their success. “I am proud to be part of this team,” Kannusamy says, “we have great teamwork.”
Being part of the COVID-19 response not only makes Kannusamy proud, but hopeful. The more people vaccinated, the sooner that life can return to normal. Once the border is re-opened, Kannusamy can finally reunite with his family. Everything he does now is building toward that moment. “I know my hard work is going towards an important goal, not just for me but for people across the world caught in a similar situation.”