'Resilient' supply chain ready to tackle COVID challenge, says FTA
Thursday 19 March 2020
FTA, the business group which represents the logistics industry, is reassuring UK consumers and businesses that the supply chain is capable of handling challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as Elizabeth de Jong, FTA’s Policy Director, is keen to point out, the integrity of the supply chain can only be maintained with the support of government and some elements of flexibility to keep goods flowing.
“Logistics is one of the UK’s most flexible and adaptable industries,” she explains, “and is used to reacting to extreme disruption caused by environmental factors, fuel shortages and employment strikes. Our members are working closely with customers to keep things moving and the message is clear – there is plenty of everything the country needs to continue working and living, providing people do not panic buy. Logistics operates a very lean business model, with deliveries made “just in time” to keep prices as low as possible, but empty shelves does not mean that stock is not on its way.
“There are particular challenges posed by the potential of illness and self-isolation of workers within the supply chain, but our members are keen to reassure their customers that they will make every effort to ensure any disruption is minimised.
“Logistics is responsible for every item used in this country, from the food we eat to the manufacturing components industry relies upon and, as such, should be recognised as a critical emergency service and its workers given the same recognition as those working for the emergency services or in healthcare. It is vital that they have urgent access to healthcare, washing and toilet facilities and their children are able to attend school, so that the flow of goods can continue unchecked.”
As Ms de Jong continues, logistics also needs government support for contingency plans to address driver shortages caused by sickness, as well as a lack of compliance testing resource to ensure that operators can continue to operate legally and effectively:
“There are still areas of ongoing regulation of our industry which require clarification, to ensure that businesses can continue to function efficiently and keep supplies moving. It is clear that we are facing unprecedented times, and additional financial support may be required for many businesses, particularly those that supply the tourism or hospitality sectors, in the very near future if the logistics sector is to survive.”
The overriding message from the logistics industry, according to Ms de Jong, is to try to maintain normal practices as much as possible: “Logistics can cope with the challenges of the pandemic, providing everyone maintains a balanced and sensible response to the situation. Our members are well prepared to keep goods and materials flowing to all areas of the UK’s economy, providing a pragmatic approach is maintained.”
Efficient logistics is vital to keep the UK trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc. FTA is one of the biggest business groups in the UK, supporting, shaping and standing up for safe and efficient logistics. It is the only business group in the UK that represents all of logistics, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers whose businesses depend on the efficient movement of goods.