WTDC, Miami’s family-owned Foreign Trade Zone company that specializes in logistics for spirits for the duty free/travel retail and cruise industries, has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with a three phase plan designed to keep its employees safe and the supply chain uninterrupted.
WTDC is categorized by Florida and Miami-Dade County as an essential company and has remained open during this crisis, but it is not business as usual, Sean P. Gazitúa, WTDC President & CEO, tells TMI.
“Miami is the cruise capital of the world so that is a big part of our business. But right now with the pandemic and the cruises not cruising we had to change gears. No shipments are leaving the facility that are related to the duty free and travel retail industry, with the exception of one every two weeks,” says Gazitúa.
“The commodities that are moving now are the commodities related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily we are part of a worldwide agent network so we were able to move shipments globally for those products.”
Gazitúa tells TMI that it was imperative that WTDC’s 30 employees remain safe while working.
“Phase 1 is making sure we are all safe. We wanted to make sure that we took care of our employees and we have a safe environment. Most employees are working from home, but we have two people in the office as well as the entire warehouse staff. We purchased hospital grade cleaning supplies for WTDC as well as hospital masks for WTDC warehouse personnel, plus anti-bacterial solution for WTDC. We have a cleaning crew come every single morning to clean the common areas.
“We also purchased laptops for the Brokerage, Customer Service and Transportation Departments to work remotely from home. WTDC IT installed software, firewalls and antivirus on laptops.”
As the day to day business for the Cruise, Duty Free, Travel Retail, and Export markets has stopped, WTDC Management implemented a number of projects for different departments.
These projects include performing physical inventory on accounts; maintenance on equipment and racks; cleaning and organizing the warehouse; performing Warehouse Management System Maintenance; auditing previous US Customs documentation; and updating Foreign Trade Zone Annual Report data.
“We want to make sure that we are better than before. We are investing because we feel that it is important,” says Gazitúa.
As part of WTDC’s plan for its employees to stay busy and improve during this crisis, the company has begun WTDC Continuous Education.
“We have created a mission statement, syllabus and content in which our managers will be the ‘teachers.’ Our team will meet virtually at 10 am and 2 pm to learn about various aspects of Logistics. For example, Week 1 will be Transportation, Week 2 US Customs Brokerage, Week 3 Customer Service, etc. Transportation will include Airway Bill, Bill of Lading, difference between House and Master, Shipping Terms, etc.
“The managers are being refreshed on things and the employees love it. It is interactive and good for cross training. Also, at 12 pm daily we are going to have a company-wide virtual Stretch / Yoga class. We believe it is important to keep your mind and body active during these times.”
Another key part of Phase 3 is the diversification of WTDC’s sales.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand globally for various commodities (hand sanitizers, masks, gloves, ventilators, etc…). WTDC is currently working with suppliers and consignees in managing the supply chain for these products.
“Specific to the spirits industry, many of our clients are now making hand sanitizer. These distillers are not familiar with managing logistics for hazardous materials cargo. WTDC is now coordinating the ground and ocean freight, plus receiving the invent-tory for many of these distillers to be distributed either within the U.S. or for Export,” says Gazitúa.
Changing the outlook
WTDC has had to reinvent itself during this COVID-19 crisis, says Gazitúa.
“We were able to act and move quickly and we are learning as we are going. Nobody knows exactly how long this is going to last. We were lucky that we got a heads-up from our Asian and Italian agents in January about how serious the virus was. We are part of the supply chain so we realized that this was eventually going to come our way. That is when we started researching products and buying cleaning supplies, gloves, and masks. We were proactive.
“It has been rewarding moving these COVID-19 products that are going to help people.
“Right now we are working on moving two 747 charter aircrafts from Shanghai to Chicago for COVID-19 supplies just for the state of Illinois. We are moving product to the Bahamas and Latin America. There is a lot going on that is definitely new to us. We did our research and we adapted and moved forward.
“Our bread and butter is spirits. We will still stay focused on the duty free/travel retail industries, but we have possibly opened a new vertical with these medical supplies. We have moved medical supplies before just not at the volume we are moving at right now.”
Gazitúa tells TMI that WTDC’s actions during this pandemic are setting the company up for success post-crisis: “We’ve been through hurricanes and 9/11 in the past. Obviously this is different from both of them, but this will just make us stronger.
“We are taking care of our employees and customers. Once this pandemic finishes we are going to be better and stronger than when we came into it.”