Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Warehousing Association Forged in Wartime Faces Up to the Battle of 2020

Once Again Preserving the Integrity of the Supply Chain is Paramount
Shipping News Feature

UK – Last week's Annual General Meeting of the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA) saw Chair Nicola Ridges-Jones noting the similarities between this virus infected year and that of the organisation's birth, the war torn days of 1944 when it was hatched to enable the country to keep the supply chain moving in stressful times.

In 2019 UKWA celebrated a successful 75th Anniversary and, while the events of 2020 have created a very different environment, once again the membership of the UKWA is playing its part in minimising disruption in the supply of essential food and materials, keeping the country fed and the wheels of the economy turning.

Over the last year, the UKWA has continued to develop and expand the benefits of association membership and the range of member services, in a quest to ensure the association’s continued relevance to the changing nature of the sector and the opportunities for future growth.

The global pandemic and consequent lockdown have accelerated the growth of e-commerce, which the UKWA predicts will generate significant new opportunities for members, leading CEO Peter Ward to express confidence in a positive future ahead, while being mindful of the challenges faced by many businesses. He commented:

“I am immensely proud of our members, and the wider logistics industry, often understated but so essential to people’s lives, who have again stepped up and demonstrated vast resilience and commitment in the national interest. The current crisis has further highlighted the importance of the logistics industry, making our sector more visible both to government and the general public.

“While there are undoubted potential positives for our industry, I understand fully that for many members the immediate focus is on survival, and over the coming weeks the challenge of liquidity will be severe for some, given the reduced activity during lockdown. Accordingly, we continue to press the government for support of our sector and are currently pursuing the Chancellor for a period of business rates relief to help our members through the immediate aftermath of this crisis.

"As always, the UKWA stands ready to support our members in every way possible, conscious that the warehousing and logistics industry, and UKWA members in particular, will be vital in helping our economy back to its feet as the country recovers from recession. Clearly the prevailing uncertainty during the Covid-19 lockdown has not been without its challenges, but UKWA has been tireless in supporting its members’ interests, providing necessary advice and guidance on safe operation and representing the needs of our industry to government.

”This has paid dividends and rather than seeing 3PLs tempted to make short-term cuts in spending, we’ve actually seen a significant increase in our membership and high levels of engagement with our activities and communications.”

At the end of 2019 UKWA moved from extensive offices in Gower Street to new accommodation in Trafalgar Square to reduce overheads and increase flexibility. This is one of a number of moves instigated by the CEO and supported by the board, which has enabled the association to rationalise costs, reduce risk and return a modest surplus for the year.

No matter how the fight to defeat the virus turns out, 2021 will likely be another stressful time for Britain’s warehouse keepers to deal with, as the shadow of a no-deal Brexit still lingers, the process doubtless presenting a fresh set of challenges, whatever the outcome of the current talks.

Photo: The UKWA was spawned as the National Association of Inland Warehouse Keepers, a committee of warehousing companies coordinating the logistics for the storage and distribution of food and materials in wartime Britain. (Image – Public Domain from the New Times Paris Bureau Collection - Firefighters in the 1944 London Blitz).