Peter Wilson, Group MD of Cory Brothers, discusses the unprecedented challenges currently being faced by the freight sector
In times of great adversity, we really learn who we are. Even though we are in Lockdown II, it is still business as usual. The resilience and experience gained from 178 years of trading resonates throughout the company, all our divisions (logistics, agency, liner & HUB) are coping well in managing this challenging situation with the same care, effort and energy.
Looking back can sometimes help us with the path ahead, as we reflect on the business since March, it provides a sense of cautious positivity: NO staff have been placed on furlough, there have been NO wage cuts, NO reduction in hours and 23 new staff have been employed. Our commercial departments have made gains and won new customers, and we have remained loyal to our suppliers and clients. Our people have made this happen through their hard work during this testing time, quite simply they have been brilliant!
Cory Brothers longevity can be attributed to several key areas: the ability to adapt, to forward plan investment and a strong leadership team. However, we recognise some differences that need to be addressed with this ever-changing environment.
WFH (work from home) is here to stay, yet it is not for everyone, some miss the office engagement and camaraderie with colleagues; the morning chat making a cup of tea, the quick call out for knowledge on a certain subject, sharing a few jokes and always the office celebration, especially the cake! Those working from home have the benefit of having an easier commute, travel cost saving and the odd 10 minutes here and there to put the washing out or even prepare the evening meal: just because they are at home. This is completely fine and we continue to ensure there is a happy balance.
All our UK offices have a mix of both options and both are managed well. Getting the balance right is very important, ensuring everyone can work in a safe and happy way. Looking after our staff’s mental health is imperative. All staff have access to a free mental health scheme which has been available for several years. Our HR manager has implemented and trained mental health “first aiders” across our UK offices. In addition, regular contact is made with staff through check ins, group chats and video calls. For those staff that venture into the office regular assessments are carried out to keep them feeling safe and secure. Free fruit is provided to all those working in the office with the added treat of assorted cakes on occasions.
What of the future? Even through this torrid time we are focussing beyond this current situation. I’m delighted to advise we plan to roll out TWO new digital platforms early next year. These two new operating systems will provide our customers with a higher level of vision, clarity and functionality. The final testing is underway and we’re hopeful to select launch dates very soon. In conjunction with these exciting initiatives we continue to upskill our existing work force to make sure they are ready. Importantly, next generation uptake is being planned throughout the business in the form of apprenticeships. Our UK offices continue to work with local schools to arrange work experience placements. After all, this was an important link to how I first started with Cory Brothers. For the new digital platforms, please watch this space!
BREXIT. Naturally, this will have a big impact on so many people and businesses. The way we trade with Europe and other countries will literally change overnight and there will be some “change pain” for those who are not prepared. Our Logistics division have invested a huge amount of time into ensuring we are prepared and continue to help and guide our customers. The Logistics ROAD division continues to grow and prosper, and the team has recently been strengthened with more new starters. Our UK-EUROPE-UK service has naturally seen a considerable increase in enquiries: for part loads, full loads, cross trades and from new and existing customers. The BREXIT team meet regularly to ensure they are on top of all the latest developments and the commercial teams are encouraging new prospects to let us help them get organised. There is now an upswing in the volume of business getting in touch asking for guidance. The volume of business’ that are not prepared or are only starting to prepare now is not a surprise given the challenges faced with Covid. That said, all business trading with Europe need to act now. There is still time, but please don’t leave it too late to make contact.
Right now, the challenges are rife throughout the freight world and are as difficult as we’ve seen. Our Logistics division are currently dealing with a new storm within the ocean freight sector. The enforced lockdowns throughout the world suddenly caused a sharp reduction in demand for goods and trade. When countries opened, the demand was much higher than anyone expected, and the supply chain operations were not prepared. These included shipping lines, ports, systems, equipment control, haulage companies etc. There is currently a supply demand imbalance: ports are congested, slots on vessels are at a crazy high, costs are increasing daily, equipment (freight containers) at origin is hard to find, vessels are cutting and running omitting key ports. These issues are now being reported throughout the mainstream media.
Our job is to keep our customers supply chains functioning and although this is proving extremely difficult, we are just about succeeding. Our people are working day and night with our network partners, suppliers and customers to keep the freight moving. This ‘time of adversity’ has underlined how good our people are and we’re very grateful and appreciative of their efforts.
Better times are coming; we’re ready for BREXIT, we’re dealing with the issues, a vaccine is en route, and we are resilient. We are Cory Brothers.
We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy & healthy new year.
If you are not prepared for BREXIT, we can help and get you organised but please get in touch soon: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cory Brothers. Established in 1842