From the Frontline: Armstrong Logistics says the supply chain has made an "incredible effort"

George Barrow
April 16, 2020

Armstrong Logistics said it had its busiest ever five days during the panic buying at supermarkets ahead of the country’s COVID-19 lockdown.

“It was like a two month lead up to Christmas but in three weeks in terms of the volumes we shipped,” explained Justin Armstrong, chairman of Armstrong Logistics.

“We start Christmas planning in July, and orders pick up in October. That was truncated into just three weeks. We had our busiest days ever for five consecutive days. Christmas is a steady build-up, with crackers and gift wrap and gradual volumes. The peak for the ambient goods that we move is the end of November and first week of December, but you know it is coming.

"At the first hints of panic buying we saw volumes increase by 300% overnight as the stores were trying to replenish their stocks. Our job is to get goods into the supermarket whatever the costs. We have a contractual arrangement with ALDI and move more than 1m pallets in to them. We hold two to three weeks of stocks of every item in the warehouse, and ALDI operate on 10-12 days cover in their region and that was all gone in no time. The minute you see a shelf empty of toilet rolls it feeds the panic, and unfortunately everyone buys ten times what they need but I’m proud to say that from one day to the next we actually achieved that 300% increase.”

Armstrong said there is more than a month of stock within the supply chain but the unexpected spike took everyone by surprise. The supermarkets' usual stock covering up to three days was exhausted along with as much as 10 days of supplies in their own regional facilities. Armstrong themselves hold up to three weeks of stock with warehouses running at a constant 85% of capacity. Nevertheless, even during the peak of panic buying their own supplies did not drop below 70%, and they are now back to their normal 85% operating capacity.

“When you see volumes increase the way they did, you know that that kind of pressure breeds inefficiencies. When I see those types of spike, my initial instinct is that margin will reduce even though turnover has increased significantly. You’re having to do things at any cost because we have a duty of care to our customers and the public. We were subcontracting work out at higher costs to get the loads away. Orders did drop back to about 60% of the normal volume  – we’ve still had the same overheads. But there is a duty of care to service our customers.

"Thankfully we have seen volumes return to normal in the past week. The stat I’m proudest of is that through this period our delivery success rate has maintained at 99.5% on time and in full. Our drivers should be praised for the job they’ve done but that goes hand-in-hand with our warehouses for getting that volume in and out. And of course, we shouldn’t take all of the credit, ALDI and our other customers have worked incredibly hard to ensure our staff stay safe and that the goods are taken and turned around. It’s been an incredible effort by everyone in the supply chain.”

About the Author


George Barrow

George has been writing about nearly anything with wheels for the past 15 years and is the UK jury member of the International Van of the Year and International Pick-Up Award.

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