Friday 21st Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

Logistics heroes battle through the snow

The CILT has commended lorry drivers as the heroes of the snow crisis that has made many of the country’s roads hazardous or impassable.

Institute chief Steve Agg said: “This week we have seen drivers going to extraordinary personal lengths, and displaying incredible skills, to keep Britain stocked with its daily needs. Lorry drivers deserve our admiration, congratulations and thanks for the way in which they have stuck to their task, displayed innovation, and in most cases delivered the goods.”

Urgent deliveries
CitySprint fulfilled urgent deliveries of snow chains to AA drivers this week, just in time before the heavy snow hit. The same day delivery firm collected snow chains from the AA head office in Basingstoke and made over 1700 urgent special deliveries to the homes of AA patrol persons across the UK so they could attend to drivers unfortunate enough to be affected while travelling in the heavy snow.

Simon Lloyd, head of industrial & logistics at global real estate services firm DTZ, said: “Retailers, and food retailers in particular, should be applauded for making sure their distribution networks are well connected. Retail supply centres are positioned close to main roads, and in most cases have remained accessible despite the heavy snow. Some retailers use rail networks to transport goods over longer distances, and this has helped mitigate any problems on the roads.
“Food retailers have large networks in place, which means they can access supplies from alternative distribution centres even if their usual hubs are temporarily taken out of commission. Furthermore, suppliers to the warehouses benefit from the same accessibility advantage.”

He also pointed out that online retailers may be exposed to risks because of the differences in their networks.  He said: “Non food internet retailers house different types of products in different buildings, often using more remote locations than their high street counterparts. As they are reliant on postal delivery services to get their products to consumers, they are more exposed to extreme weather conditions and this can lead to major delays, although their goods will get through eventually

The adverse weather has also affected the ports, although the main problem has been road access. In Kent which faced particularly deep snow, the police have introduced Operation Stack, a traffic management plan to cope with restrictions at  the channel tunnel which has effectively transformed sections of the M20 into a lorry park.

When Operation Stack is running, Kent Police park lorries in three rows on parts of the carriageway on the M20, until they can direct them onwards as space becomes available. A ticket system is being used, where drivers at the front of the queue are given a billet which must be must be presented on arrival at the tunnel in Dover. Operations at the port of Dover however, have had no restrictions.

Thamesport was also affected by the Kent snow. Paul Davey, head of corporate affairs at Hutchison Ports said that Thamesport has been closed since yesterday, and that import operations at Felixstowe had been restricted. However they hope both sites will be fully opened by noon today.
The main Christmas peak has already passed for the ports, so any backlog is expected to smooth out over the next few days provided there is no further snow.

Rail freight
The rail networks have also been hit. A DB Schenker spokesperson said: “There might have been exceptional snowfall, but we have also seen exceptional commitment from our people to ensure services keep running for our customers. Whether walking to depots when they were unable to drive cars due to road closures or being flexible to ensure we can meet the changing needs of customers, they ensured that the freight railway was able to keep on delivering. We are proud of what our people have done for our customers.”

Supply problems
David Noble, chief executive officer of The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply said: “Yet more winter weather disruption is proof enough that the UK needs tougher supply chain contingency plans.   Although many local councils are better prepared than last year, budgets are stretched and it shows.  It’s also distressing that shortages of basic supplies such as food and fuel are on the agenda again.  More needs to be done to ensure that supply chains are robust and flexible enough to cope with changes in demand, and ensure people can get on with their day-to-day lives.
“Local authorities and businesses must take the initiative and work more collaboratively to guarantee stocks of essential supplies, when transportation inevitably becomes more difficult. The burden of keeping larger stocks could be shared and overall costs can be kept down by buying in bulk.   We are living in a world where adverse weather conditions are becoming commonplace. But in the Age of Austerity, the additional economic cost of disruption is something the UK can ill afford.”

Simon Lloyd highlighted petrol as a product that has become a problem to supply to affected areas: “The East of England has experienced its most concentrated snowfall in around 45 years, and as a result petrol is becoming especially scarce. In some areas, deliveries are more difficult to get through as petrol distribution stations tend to be situated in remote locations.”