William Walker, Sales Director of Walker Logistics, reports on how the Membury-based fulfilment and logistics service provider is reacting to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and the lessons being learned.

Like most distribution companies, we see our role as an essential one of helping supply chains keep moving in these difficult and uncertain times. Walker Logistics has clients from a broad range of sectors, including companies delivering subscription food, hand gels, soaps and medical equipment into the NHS.

In addition, we have seen a huge surge in online orders for products from many of our clients across many industries, this includes ‘keeping fit’ products such as yoga mats, to help deal with prolonged periods indoors as well as cosmetics and personal care for well-being. This is clearly an important aspect in helping people get through such unusual circumstances, with many companies looking to offset some of the slowdown in retail sales through increased online traffic and promotions.

It is vital that while fulfilling these orders, we are also mindful of the health and safety of our staff.

We will always put the welfare of those who work with and for us first and we have put in place stringent measures regarding social distancing. These include spacing all workstations, splitting breaks, providing outside seating areas, subsidising lifts to and from work to minimise car sharing and having large stocks of hygiene items such as wipes, gels, masks and gloves.

The upturn in order volumes has meant holding hourly planning meetings, moving resources around and extending shifts to cope with what has been 100% uplift in orders across many companies.

One significant supply chain aspect I think that we are learning from this experience is the reliance of manufacturing from the Far East and relatively low volumes of stock held at any one time. This all leads back to cost. Resources and vehicles can, within reason, be up-scaled relatively quickly but the timeframe for the physical product to arrive from manufacturers is what causes the longest delay. Going forward, we will need to examine carefully at how we strike a balance between costs and contingency for events, such as this, which create sudden and extreme demand.