RUBB Rite

Sharing best practice is one of UKWA’s key imperatives, supporting our declared mission to drive up standards across the industry. Together, we are all negotiating the unknown as we grapple with the challenges of operating COVID-19 secure workplaces, while maintaining productivity as best we can.

Accordingly, when Paul Ponsonby’s Joanne Gumery, a member of the UKWA management board, reached out to colleagues to ask how other companies were coping and what measures were working most effectively, we decided to widen the process and host a peer-to-peer webinar to promote best practice based on the direct experiences of board members.

The panel included an impressive line up of speakers, from a major retail brand to large 3PLs and SMEs, drawn from across the sector operating in different parts of the UK.

On the positive front, the commitment, resilience and widespread co-operation of the warehousing and logistics workforce with the required regulations was clear. While different companies had tried alternative approaches – from carrying out individual risk assessments to appointing COVID marshalls – all speakers said employees had raised their game, looking out for themselves and one another, whilst ensuring any third party visitors to site understood and abided by the rules.

A shared concern, therefore, was the impact of bringing agency staff into the workplace ‘bubble’. John Munnelly of John Lewis, for example, said that at the company’s 2m sq ft facility in Magna Park up to 400 FTEs could be on site during the peak with up to 75% of the workforce being agency. While the protocols are now ‘baked in’ for the existing workforce, he said the unavoidable influx of agency staff presents a real risk to keeping everyone safe.

David McCutcheon said Bullet Express were using QR codes effectively to track employee movement, while Steve Blayden said MiniClipper Logistics had found Microsoft 365 an easy and convenient platform for accumulating and keeping records – both potential routes to managing the risk.

The effect of COVID-secure practices – social distancing, split shift patterns, regular breaks for those wearing full PPE – on productivity was acknowledged, and it seems customers understand and – for now – accept reduced output and longer lead times. However, nobody was prepared to pass on the considerable costs incurred by the one-off investments in PPE, screens, home laptops, hand sanitiser stations, plus the ongoing costs of reduced productivity.

Roger Loveless of Import Services said that while all process had been reviewed to close the productivity gap, the company had no plans yet to pass on charges as ‘everyone is suffering, everyone is in the same boat’. Gary Whittle of Meacher Global Logistics agreed, saying that productivity is down by around 10%. While the company has talked to customers, landlords and vehicle leasing companies, all of whom have been supportive, the marketplace is unwilling to bear additional costs.

Discussions ranged across many more issues, including how to keep records while complying with GDPR legislation, but the top of everyone’s agenda was maintaining communication – with staff, customers and with each other.

To learn more and benefit from our shared best practice, you can view the Coping with COVID webinar at www.ukwa.org.uk/category/videos

Peter Ward

UKWA, CEO

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