date24 March 2020

We hope that you, your family and your employees are safe and well. This is not an easy time for any of us and we know that you will be adjusting to a different way of living and working. Much like yourselves, we're closely following the impact that the coronavirus (COVID-19) is having on our communities and the businesses within them.

We understand that many of you will be experiencing new and unexpected challenges during this difficult time and we're committed to providing you with as much support as possible in this period of uncertainty. Our EPOD systems support the food and fuel delivery supply chains. Our access control and CCTV systems provide security and enhanced wellbeing for workers within institutions such as hospitals, care homes and educational establishments. We consider it our responsibility to maintain support of these customers.  

We fully appreciate that surviving this crisis is paramount for individuals and businesses and we consider it inappropriate to promote the business benefits of our products & solutions at this time. The business community will recover in time and you can be assured we’ll be marketing the virtues of our solutions when it does! In the interim, whenever possible, we will focus on providing pragmatic advice on how to push back against this terrible virus and its consequences.  

Devising ‘Drop and Go’ logistics for Covid-19 – top 5 questions to ask  

What constitutes drop and go and why do it? Drop and Go protects your drivers and the people they are delivering to. It maintains the recommended 2 metre social distance. There are a couple of practical aspects to this. If the person receiving the parcel is at home then a ring of the doorbell, putting the parcel at the threshold and then standing back 2 metres will be a straightforward drop off situation.  

But if someone is really unwell then you might not see anyone at the door. In these cases, you are going to be leaving the parcel in a safe place. You may need to be clear about what is a safe place in your communications – will you make exceptions at the moment?   Also, you may find you can’t – or decide you shouldn’t – leave parcels with a neighbour. In this instance it’s important to amend the options people have when they place an order to include ‘self isolating’.

You should also look at how you can provide a fast and easy way online or via an automated phone line / text service to tell you something has changed ie they are now in self isolation, so you don’t get overloaded by calls requesting changes to delivery instructions, or panic notes stuck to front doors.  

How can technology help? This is where it’s good to have adaptable software in use. Can the interface the customer sees when making a purchase, or revisiting an order, be adapted with a pop-up message to explain the new drop and go policy? If it can, can it also be adapted to include specific ‘self-isolation’ messaging so that orders are flagged to drivers. If so, how will this translate to the devices the delivery teams use. How will they receive notification – is it just before they deliver via the handheld device, or will they get a summary of the schedule changes before they leave the warehouse?  

There are pros and cons to both. The first allows for up to the minute changes but means there could be surprises. The second means the schedule can be planned without too much change, but it also means there’s possibly no room for notifying the driver of late changes bar a phone call. And as we know, taking a phone call while driving isn’t a good idea.   

What’s proof of delivery? Firstly, work with your business / customers to understand what proof of delivery is needed for insurance and to ensure customer service teams aren’t hit any harder than they already are.  

Then consider the process for recording a delivery. What are the capabilities of the handheld devices the delivery teams use? Will a scanned barcode on point of delivery suffice for a confirmation? Will a date and time stamp be sufficient, or is photographic evidence needed for instance? If it’s the latter, you may need to look at how your system files these images and where they are stored so they can be easily retrieved and are GDPR compliant. Ideally they should be automatically associated with the order in question.  

How will this affect the scheduling? You may be thinking that if there isn’t the interaction at the doorstep then schedules will be shorter. However, there will now be a question of welfare to factor in. For example, where will delivery drivers go to wash their hands and use a toilet if shops, café’s and restaurants are closed? Will they come back to the depot more frequently, will they have to go home?  

Finally, it’s possible that staff will be forced to self-isolate at some point, so some schedules may become longer as members of the team pick up more of the work. This too could affect the routes you plot and the time it takes to get the rounds done.  

What are the other safety requirements this approach needs? There are plenty of questions that need to be answered and it is worth getting a health and safety specialist involved to help. Among the questions to ask when you define the new process are:    

  • Do your teams need protective clothing and masks, disposable gloves, access to sanitisers for hands and steering wheels?
  • Are vans cleaned before a shift changeover, and who does this?
  • How are packages handled so that risk of a virus staying on a surface is minimised?
  • How will you clean devices that are used to track deliveries?

Covid-19 is testing the resilience and adaptability of everyone and every business. We are all in the same boat. Managing the situation needs some careful thought. That can be hard to do when things are moving at such a fast pace. So, speaking to an expert and learning from the experiences of other companies like yours can help everyone maintain delivery standards and keep people safe.


Government and national resources  

Even during these difficult times, you’ve still got a business to run and ongoing costs to meet. At the time of writing, to help with this the UKGovernment has announced that it will offer a 100% Business Rates retail discount for companies whose property’s rateable value is less than £51,000. Businesses that pay little to no rates may also receive a £3,000 grant, provided they’re currently eligible for Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR) or Rural Rates Relief.

In addition to this, the government will soon be launching a new ‘Business Interruption Loan Scheme’ that will support small and medium-sized businesses that need access to bank lending and overdraft services.

If, however, you’re facing immediate cashflow issues, you may be able to delay your tax payments to HMRC by calling their helpline on 0800 015 559. Alternatively, you could get in touch with the Small Business Commissioner, an independent office dedicated to assisting small businesses affected by late or unfair payment issues.

It’s also worth checking to see if you’re covered by your business insurance – especially if you’ve purchased supply chain or denial of access cover – since the Chancellor has confirmed that the government’s advice is sufficient for businesses to make a claim, where they have appropriate interruption cover for pandemics in place.

As always, you should stay on top of the latest information and advice for businesses on the government’s website and the latest health guidancefrom the NHS and World Health Organisation.