Overcoming numerous logistics challenges, Amul India has continued to supply milk and dairy products without fail during the Covid-19 lockdown.


Story by Deepti Thore

Along the highway from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, trucks can be seen parked in big numbers by the side of it, and along the various dhabas and petrol pumps. The lack of the right to passage in the wake of the nationwide lockdown due to Novel Coronavirus has got them into their predicament. A fairly common sight are however the milk tankers and reefer trucks with Amul written on them. Their density increases in areas where Amul India has its facilities. Anand for example where Amul India has its headquarters. It is exciting to see so many milk tankers big and reefer trucks plying. They are sporting a sticker on their windshield declaring them as carriers of essential goods. With a vast and wide network that includes facilities not just in Gujarat, but in various other parts of the country, the leading milk and milk products producer Amul India has managed to keep its supply chain from collapsing. In Maharashtra, where it has facilities at Virar, Taloja, Nagpur and Boisar (Vasudhara Dairy) among other locations, the company has managed a stellar performance in keeping its plants running, and its supply chain consisting of tankers and reefer trucks from getting interrupted.

Procuring around 26 million litres of milk daily, Amul India has overcome challenges pertaining to truck shortage, driver shortage and labour shortage, by aiding the drivers and operators of its trucks with the necessary support like identity cards, windshield stickers, masks, gloves and more. With each Amul milk tanker carrying about 8,000 to 10,000 litres, the company has ensured the smooth operation of an estimated 2,600 trucks in a curfew-like environment. Apart from the supply of necessary equipment to protect themselves from Novel Coronovirus, the drivers and crew of the truck have been trained to ensure safety and cleanliness. They have been trained to maintain social distancing and hygiene. Ensuring that its warehouses, distributors and retailers do not run out of the stock, the company, according to its managing director, R S Sodhi, has made sure that its staff and those that work for them are safe and healthy. It has done so by ensuring that they strictly practice hygiene processes. Amul India has also been at the forefront of ensuring its customers of uninterrupted supply of milk and dairy products through various mediums.

Going the extra mile

If such measures have led the staff and those that are engaged with the company to feel confident of being cared for, Amul India has been one of the early movers to stock its warehouses and distributors with products so that they do not run out of them. In terms of safety and health, the company has briefed its staff and those engaged in its work of hygiene processes to be strictly followed. These include sanitisation of trucks and containers carrying milk and milk products for distribution. Continuing to work with less number of people as any given tier, the company has found new ways to overcome challenges in areas like invoicing, logistics, loading and unloading. Faced with a big challenge of trucks returning empty being disallowed to operate by the authorities initially, Amul India officials were quick to hold discussions and ensure a safe passage for them so that its supply chain is not hit and the country is not starved of milk especially.
If the release of new guidelines on April 15, 2020, has made it easier for empty trucks to operate and pick up goods, during the initial period of the lockdown starting March 22, 2020, Amul India staff and all those that are engaged with it, went an extra mile to ensure smooth operations. At the company’s Taloja plant for example, the plant manager Vijaya Shete and the human resources manager, Ritu Tripathi, arranged milk pouches in crates and loaded them onto the delivery trucks! With a capacity to process half a million litres of milk, curd and buttermilk every day, the plant, a sizable part of which is automated, has continued to operate without interruption. If the installation of makeshift washbasins in the premises and the procurement of masks, gloves and sanitisers has ensured confidence of workers at the plant, a yellow line has been drawn to indicate how far the workers can go while trucks are being loaded to ensure social distancing.

For the people, by the people

A 50-seater minibus has been arranged at Taloja to enable a staff of 15-20 people to come to the plant and reach home. A room has also been arranged within the factory premises to temporarily relocate some of the workers to avoid risks associated with commuting in a curfew-like environment. Additional incentives have been offered to encourage workers to stay put and not flee to their villages. To ensure smooth working of the supply chain, identity cards to the drivers of trucks carrying milk and milk products have been issued. They are also supplied with essential goods stickers to put up on the windshield of the truck. To ensure smooth sailing, key personnel at Amul India’s dairies and facilities have been briefed with the steps to be taken in case the supply of goods is interrupted by the authorities, or by forces that may be, once the truck has left its premises. Drivers of trucks and their operators (as well as fleet managers) have been briefed too of the steps to be taken in case they face a logistical challenge.

With all the possible precautions taken involving tasks such as collection of milk at cooperative societies, their transportation to the processing units, and their final packaging and distribution, Amul India is ensuring that no product or packet is touched with bare hands. The company is claimed to have gone so far as to supply the drivers of its trucks, the crew onboard and those at the distribution and retail end, with masks and gloves. It marks a distinct cultural change for those that have been used to touching milk packets and dairy products with their bare hands! Record procuring milk in Gujarat and other parts of the country, according to Sodhi, Amul India is working with close to 3.6 million farmers even in a curfew-like environment. Maintaining a supply chain that involves 20 million cows and buffaloes and a billion consumers, the company is going all out to fill in where others are failing. For example, with many small private milk cooperatives unable to collect milk, Amul India has been filling the void by taking over the task and deploying its supply chain for the purpose. It is by no means an easy task, and involves the first mile transportation of milk from the farmer to the nearest chilling station or dairy. After being processed there, milk is shipped to various market locations for distribution in refrigerated milk vans. In the case of ice creams, butter, cheese and other dairy products a similar supply chain exists, and is made of reefer trucks primarily.

Getting it right

If the task of filling up the void left by the small milk cooperatives has ensured that Amul India is collecting more milk to the tune of eight to ten-per cent, it is the supply chain of the company that is playing a key role in all that it is doing. A part of this chain are many people whose faces are not visible or their names are not written in gold, but continue to go that extra mile to ensure there is enough milk available for those who need it most.

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