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The Final Countdown

With the ominous atmosphere of the second wave of Coronavirus currently outstaying its welcome in the UK, the ramifications of another national lockdown would inevitably have a detrimental effect on a large number of businesses once more. Analysing cuts made public by major businesses since the UK lockdown began on 23 March, recent analysis has shown us that both the retail and aviation industries have been the most vulnerable at succumbing to the effects of the first wave.

Combined now with a 100-day countdown to securing a post-Brexit transitional arrangement for trading, with or without a deal Britain’s logistics industry will certainly be one of the first to feel the effects of more changes to come.

In such an uncertain time, just what does the future hold for the UK trade industry, and how can we continue to employ sector-wide COVID-secure measures across our distribution facilities?

Changes in the warehouse

On May 11 2020, The UK Government published an official guide to keeping safe in the warehouse. The guidance, aimed towards supporting people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses, highlights key pieces of advice for protecting themselves, and customers from the risk of coronavirus infection. This includes increased cleaning of work areas, completing a risk assessment, wearing face coverings, and adhering to new social distancing and hand washing rules.

The guidance also covers the management of inbound and outbound goods for distribution centres, to avoid surface transmission in high-volume situations. Steps to follow include having single workers load or unload vehicles where possible and safe, reducing avoidable contact at gatehouse security, yard and warehouse, and where needed modifying pick-up and drop-off points, procedures, signage and markings.

Adaptions to the workplace as a result of these COVID measures may be the catalyst for additional changes within the industry, such as manufacturers opting to replace in-house staff with third-party logistics providers, to minimise the risk of a resurgence of COVID amongst their workforce.

Business models may also change to reflect the unstable market. Logistics contracts which would previously last up to ten years could be drastically reduced to shorter terms, to protect businesses from the risk of having too much or too little inventory, or warehousing capacity becoming situated in defunct and irrelevant markets.

Further reflecting the unpredictability of the current market, other changes which we have already witnessed, including an increase in demand for Ecommerce channels, automation of warehouse processes, and growth in on-demand warehousing, will also likely continue.

Post-Brexit UK trade

After 15 October 2020, UK trade will be changed forever, as the EU's single market and customs union rules which allow a trade to flow smoothly, expires. Leaving the single market will affect citizens, businesses, as well as travel to and from the EU.

Recently leaked documentation was revealed in light of Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator preparing for further informal talks with his counterpart Lord Frost in London, with hopes of agreeing on a post-Brexit trade deal.

Following Johnson’s ruled deadline of 15 October for a trade deal to be agreed, an alleged letter sent to logistics groups from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, reportedly outlines the chaos which could ensue should hauliers be unprepared for the incoming customs rules changes.

Gove’s correspondence worryingly warns that potentially up to 50% of freight vehicles which need to cross the channel will be ill-prepared for the new regulations coming into force on 1 January 2021.

Threatening queues amassing up to 7,000 port bound trucks, this could result in disastrous delays of up to two days, with predictions for the disruption spanning across three months.

The future

It is now of imperative importance that the supply chain industry begins to prepare for and adopt the newly introduced rules and regulations to secure not only the future of the supply chain but also to adapt to the systems of the new normal.

Find out more about how SCN can help to future-proof your business plans and warehouse design here. Email: Or call: 01423 815 941

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