Through this ever-changing pandemic, many of us have faced new challenges in our roles, and have had to shift our job duties in unexpected ways. One member of our staff who is very familiar with pivoting during these unprecedented times is Procurement Officer, Matt Newlon.
Matt was initially part of the Charlotte Water task force team, which was formed earlier in the year to do some initial planning, before the pandemic really began to affect our country. Eventually, a logistics team was formed as a response to COVID-19, and Matt became the procurement representative for that team. His role was primarily focused on securing safety supplies for the department.
Along with Matt, the logistics team includes representatives from other divisions across Charlotte Water:
- Jackie Jarrell, Team Leader
- Terra Neal, EMD
- Matt Newlon, Procurement
- Ben Smith, Facility Maintenance
- Demetria Butler, Human Resources
- Kara English, Field Operations
- Don Keaton, Field Operations
- Kathy Gibson, Fleet Management
Navigating the New Normal
It immediately became apparent that this pandemic was having an unprecedented effect on our supply chain. Many countries that were initially affected by the pandemic were the ones who produced many of the supplies that our department needed. Many organizations across the nation were trying to secure many of the same supplies at the same times. Matt and the team quickly realized that they needed to think outside of the box to obtain the PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies that our department needed – and fast.
Many of our usual vendors either had no supply, supply on back-order, or could not provide a shipment status for orders. The Commodities and Services Procurement Team stepped in and work tirelessly to assist with finding vendors who had immediate availability, which is where the creative thinking came in. They reached out to all types of vendors for the supplies we needed – such as chemical manufacturers, auto supply, and dental supply vendors. They really had to work together to keep their spirits up – there were many times where they would lose supplies in a matter of minutes. In those situations they had to think and act quickly, and move on to the next vendor. The team proactively identified alternative vendors to have ready if they lost a supply source, so they would not lose momentum. The goal was always to keep moving, and not get frustrated.
The team soon learned that a plan was needed to manage inventory. They consolidated all of their inventory at a warehouse at one of our Zone locations to manage all of the COVID PPE supplies. Another important piece of managing their inventory was to create an internal supply chain request portal. This allowed our divisions to request supplies, and gave the team the ability to track and deliver the requested supplies across the entire department.
Making the Best of Every Situation
Matt has been very proud of the fiscal responsibility of the team – there were many times where they would find products that were available, but at a much higher than normal cost. In those cases, they had to turn down products that were available, and work harder to find the same quality product for a better price.
Needless to say, navigating this pandemic has definitely been a learning experience in many ways. When working to obtain sanitizer for the fleet safety kits, the team had to look for sanitizer with a very short dwell time – which is a fancy way of saying how long it takes for the sanitizer to dry. When Charlotte Water got creative and began making our own in-house hand sanitizer, the team had to work to procure the bottles we needed for the sanitizer, which is also something that’s never been done before.
As the pandemic continued, and staff began our phased Return to Standard Operations, Matt helped with the procurement of temperature checks with a third-party nursing vendor, and is currently working to procure temperature scan kiosks, which will replace the in-person temperature checks. Being the first department to outsource the temperature screening services and kiosks, it has given us the chance to work with other departments in the City, such as the Fire Department and Risk Management, to assist them with advice and guidance to help them with their potential procurement for these types of services and equipment.
Of course, out of all of this hard work and perseverance, there were some silver linings. Working with the logistics team gave Matt the chance to work closely with various staff members across multiple divisions, and through that he has developed new friendships from working with a new team. Matt also learned new processes that will benefit the team, even after the pandemic.
Taking Time for Self-Care
No matter what situation you are in, this pandemic has put added stress on our everyday lives. During Matt’s time away from work, he has been able to enjoy more of his hobbies such as spending time fishing out on Mountain Island Lake (which is one of our water sources)!
We are so thankful for all of the hard work done by Matt, the procurement team, and the logistics team! We couldn’t do our jobs safely without all of their efforts, and all while maintaining a positive attitude. Keep up the great work.