5 Jun

Leicestershire logistics operations keep country moving during coronavirus crisis

The Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Ltd. (LLEP) is proud to support the incredible logistics operations in Leicester and Leicestershire. Logistics is one of our key sectors; it’s the industry that keeps the country’s supply chains moving, our shops stocked, and our hospitals equipped.

Leicester and Leicestershire sit on the eastern side of the ‘Golden Triangle’ formed by the M1, M42, and M6, motorways, a logistics hot spot where road, rail, sea and air links meet. Eighty percent of the UK’s population can be reached within four hours by road.

It is estimated that the Midlands area offers 150 million square feet of warehouse space – more than in Greater London, Scotland and Wales combined.

This makes Leicestershire the place of choice for national distribution centres such as Magna Park, the biggest logistics park in Europe, and the SEGRO Logistics Park East Midlands Gateway – a clean air solution for transport.

Renowned for its high density of distribution facilities, the Leicester and Leicestershire transport sector employs around 28,000 people in 2330 businesses. That’s nearly six percent of jobs in the area.

Leicestershire is home to some of the biggest names in transport and logistics. The Marks and Spencer £200m fulfilment centre at Castle Donington overshadows many other sites at almost one million square feet in size. A little further south, the Amazon fulfilment centre at Coalville is also one million square feet and Magna Park is home to Disney and Asda.  East Midlands Airport is the UK base for DHL, TNT and UPS as well as being a major air hub for Royal Mail.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown in March, Leicestershire’s position in the supply chain has been more important than ever, as logistics operations rose to the challenge of keeping the country fed and supplied.

East Midlands Airport (EMA) is key to this operation. It is the UK’s largest airport for dedicated air freight and is playing a nationally important role by bringing in critical supplies such as PPE, hospital equipment and food supplies.

Since the start of the crisis, the airport has seen a 7.4% per day rise in cargo handling, mainly driven by the need to bring in medical equipment, but also due to a huge rise in demand for online shopping. EMA has seen the smallest drop in flight numbers of any major airport in Europe, with 60% of flights still scheduled.

All this despite 40% of staff at EMA having been furloughed on the government’s job retention scheme. The remaining 60% of staff are working tirelessly to unload shipments and get them on the road to where they need to be.

Karen Smart is CEO of East Midlands Airport and a member of the LLEP Board of Directors. She said:

“East Midlands Airport is providing round the clock support to the fight back against COVID-19. It is at times like these when EMA really demonstrates its national value and shows how important airfreight is to keeping Britain moving. The airport is a vital lifeline for businesses that need to get products to market quickly, the NHS frontline, and those R&D companies that are working flat out to develop new medicines which can help combat crippling viruses such as Covid-19.

“Our location means that we’re perfectly placed to serve a huge population, some of whom are in urgent need of rapid deliveries. We are still open for business 24 hours a day and so the role we play in the coming months will continue to step up a gear as EMA and our onsite logistics partners act as the gateway to the UK for essential goods.”

SEGRO Logistics Park East Midlands Gateway is a major hub for road and rail cargo for the UK. Linked directly to East Midlands Airport, it provides a base for the rapid movement of freight to final destinations across the country. Many companies use East Midlands Gateway as a logistics hub for their operations across the UK.

Maritime Transport is one such company whose container operation is based in the East Midlands.

During the coronavirus crisis, Maritime Transport has supported its container customers with storage and transport options as container demand lessens. Its first shipment of 4,000 containers to the East Midlands Gateway arrived from Southampton recently.

Maritime Transport has seen a tremendous effort from its staff to rise to the challenge presented by the coronavirus crisis. Lucy Gregory, Marketing Supervisor for Maritime, said:

“We would class all our staff, in particular our drivers, as logistics heroes right now. Our sickness levels are lower now than before the coronavirus outbreak and we feel that’s down to the sense of pride and responsibility our workforce feel as key workers and the important role they are playing. We operate over 1,400 vehicles nationally, and we’re using this resource for our distribution team, who are working flat-out to support businesses across the country.”

The LLEP has done a lot of work on workforce skills to help industry plan for their future needs. The Skills for the Future 2018-2030 report forecasts future needs in the logistics sector and predicted by 2023 nearly 54,000 jobs will be in Logistics and Distribution in Leicester and Leicestershire. This is a pre Covid-19 forecast and the LLEP is now working on gathering intelligence regarding the impact of the current crisis, in order to begin planning for recovery and reduce the level of any future job losses.

Kevin Harris is Chair of the LLEP. He said:

“Our logistics network here in Leicestershire has truly risen to the challenge presented by the coronavirus outbreak. Much of the delivery to door, supporting the NHS and stay at home COVID period, was delivered from or through Leicester and Leicestershire. 2020 is likely to see five billion parcels delivered to the door.

Over the past decade, the LLEP has supported the development of our logistics network and major investment projects.

“The primary goal of these investments was of course to increase the prosperity of our economy. However, we are now reaping the benefits of our improved road, rail and air infrastructure, as our region continues to perform as a major hub for the import of vital supplies and equipment.”

The LLEP has identified key growth opportunities for the transport and logistics sector in our Local Industrial Strategy. Some of the future plans include developing a low carbon pilot to support the sector to innovate and adopt new technologies to deliver clean growth. The LLEP is also supporting the development of a Logistics Institute of Technology to supply the technical skills required to improve productivity within the sector, and supporting the global cargo capability and potential Free Trade Zone at East Midlands Airport.

For more information, please contact: admin@llep.org.uk