Joining East Anglia-based Johnston Logistics UK in late 2019, new Head of Operations Chris Eastwood could not have predicted the challenges that would impact everyone in early 2020.
However, the operations professional has helped the company’s 450,000 square feet site, which provides logistics for leading brands and supermarkets, to boost its efficiency both before and during the COVID-19 crisis.
“I’m sure many of us will talk in terms of ‘before’ and ‘after’ Coronavirus for years to come” says Chris. “Fortunately, many of the changes and gains our team made before March have really helped us cope with the crisis and put our clients’ logistics in a stronger place.”
Chris, a Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Logistics and Transport, joined Johnston Logistics after almost 20 years managing logistics for a number of fast-growing companies based in the South East. His recent experience includes spending 6-months in Canada establishing ground-up operations both sides of the US border.
“I was drawn to Johnston Logistics UK by their reputation” adds Chris. “Despite their size, it has a real family feel. They’ve had great success with an impressive client list, but were very open to continuous improvement and any new ideas I could bring.”
Johnston Logistics UK provide UK-wide warehousing, logistics and fulfilment. As a HMRC bonded and customs warehouse, they also handle imported goods from around the world and are leading providers of end-to-end logistics for drinks and alcohol. Each year they handle over one million transactions of goods including food, drinks, clothing and household products.
Working with the owners, senior management and operations team, Chris took the lead identifying new ways they could increase efficiency, including better understanding peaks in demand and increased use of machinery. Combined with changing staff to a more popular ‘4 days on, 4 days off’ 12-hour shift pattern, the changes have already resulted in doubling the number of pallets the company processes every hour.
Once the pandemic hit the UK, Chris’s immediate attentions moved to protecting staff whilst adapting to the rapidly change needs of Johnston Logistic UK’s clients.
“Almost overnight, we saw an explosion in demand for essential goods and requests to hold non-essential goods in longer-term storage” remarks Chris. “For example, a major client who typically has 8 lorries leave our site each day, suddenly increase to 25”.
To help protect staff, Chris and his colleagues have increased hygiene by cleaning staff areas and door handles throughout the day. A hut has been erected outside their offices so visiting lorry drivers can maintain social distancing without entering the building.
Use of the staff areas has been staggered to limit numbers. Office attendance has been minimised and some staff have been retrained to provide operational support in periods of high demand. With a multi-cultural workforce, government guidelines and staff notices have been displayed throughout the site in various languages.
Face-to-face client meetings have been moved online, whilst team briefings are held outside, weather permitting. The management team meet every morning to review the day ahead.
“The biggest challenge has been reacting to the pace with which our clients’ needs change” states Chris. “Absolutely crucial has been maintaining constant communication with our customers, team and other partners. It something we aim to maintain long after the crisis”.
In his spare time, 6’4” Chris is a father and keen American Football player and coach. Having already made dramatic improvements to efficiency and adapted to changing implications of the nationwide lock down, Chris and his senior colleagues are already turning their attention to the future.
“Like most businesses, our success is due to our great team” concludes Chris. “Next, we’re keen to take staff development to a new level to maintain, motivate and reward the very best people. It will deliver benefits for them, the company and our clients.”
For more details on Johnston Logistics UK visit www.johnstonlogistics.co.uk