Few industries had to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in the way that the logistics sector did – as unprecedented demand for everything from medical supplies to lockdown online shopping purchases rose in a way no one could have predicted.
Many warehouse and transport operations, and suppliers reported that the onset of lockdown created a situation similar in scale to a Christmas peak; a scale of operations that is usually months in the planning. Nonetheless the urgency of the situation commanded a swift, efficient and effective service, regardless of the unavoidable lack of planning, which is exactly what the sector has achieved and will continue to be responsive too until a new normal is reached.
This year’s Northamptonshire Logistics Awards 2020 will celebrate the sector at a time when accolades will be more deserved than ever, both within the industry and for those outside of it that are simply grateful for the effort that went into keeping the country going.
In the past four years, the sector has celebrated achievements and success through the Northamptonshire Logistics Awards, which has seen those who keep the logistics sector working smoothly gain the recognition they deserve; from apprentices to HGV drivers, small and large businesses, and recruitment agencies, to those who do so much to support and promote the sector within the community.
The Northamptonshire Logistics Forum, supported by the University of Northampton, is made up of businesses in the county who are key players in the logistics sector, working collaboratively sharing best practice and new ideas. The forum focuses on the development of the sector locally, while helping to shape the conversation at a national level by identifying issues affecting businesses and working through solutions. Forum members also get involved in a number of social initiatives like working with schools and students to supporting armed forces personnel, through to lobbying on issues such as emission zones.
Meetings are usually held at host companies around the county, but have moved online since lockdown to keep the channels of communication open and to support companies in the sector. Regular email updates are circulated to support members.
Tony Bellott, from Fortis Logistics Consultancy and Chair of the Northamptonshire Logistics Forum said: “COVID-19 pandemic has made a lot of people realise that goods don’t suddenly appear in our hospitals, schools and shops. Almost everything we use in our everyday lives involves a supply chain, including warehouse operations, a lorry and delivery teams. It becomes more evident in a disaster situation, when there are shortages or an emergency to overcome, that the logistics industry can deliver the magic to ‘make it happen’.”
“This year is the fifth year of the Northamptonshire Logistics Forum Awards – the awards will be a fantastic celebration of the way those in the sector continued to keep the country going. One in seven workers in Northamptonshire are employed in the logistics industry, a vital sector in the county and we’ve shown that all the knowledge and expertise we have here is invaluable.
“Our feedback was that despite the sector suddenly facing a situation akin to Christmas peak - where seasonal variation is planned for and everyone is prepared – no one was prepared for this, and yet the industry stepped up and put measures in place to ensure needs were met whilst maintaining social distancing and the safety of colleagues across the sector.”
The emergency situation not only called for increased capacity but led to a need for additional temporary workers and drivers, working in round-the-clock operations. This was crucial to complete all deliveries, whether essential healthcare supplies, online shopping for the vulnerable, or simply orders from those forced into isolation. It was also important to support other sectors relying on key workers, like nurseries and other support organisations.
Charlotte Patrick, University of Northampton added: “What we saw was the strength of the forum, which is well established now, and how it came into its own when the pressure was on”
“We have close links with organisations such as Public Health Northamptonshire and we have run a number of webinars with them to pass on their expertise, as just one example. Everyone has come together and done whatever it takes to ensure the smooth transportation of goods and it is testament to the logistics industry that it has adapted and innovated so well.”
“In addition, members of the forum have built up good relationships over the years and that meant they were on hand to share information and advice that was invaluable when firms were having to keep things steady against considerable odds. If someone had a query, or needed specialist advice, the forum was a fantastic source of guidance and support.
“The Northamptonshire Logistics Awards are always a special occasion but I think this year we will have more reason than ever to celebrate, when we come through this incredibly challenging time and see that we did what needed to be done.”
“Support for the sector from sponsors of the Logistics Awards has been invaluable to members from MHA MacIntyre Hudson and Wilson Browne Solicitors offering online support & advice for companies, to Fortec Distribution Network, NN1 Personnel, ACS Recruitment, Goodwill Solutions, Linde Material Handling, Brackmills BID and Travis Perkins keeping the logistics sector delivering and moving.”
Find out more about the Northamptonshire Logistics Forum and nominate your logistics hero at www.northantslogisticsforum.com