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The impact of COVID-19 across the Altius Managed Service Scheme [Infographic]

On the 26th March, we introduced a new question set to understand how COVID-19 is affecting our members, their businesses, and their staff. Over 600 businesses have completed the new question set so far, giving us a great insight into how the industry is coping during this pandemic.


Why we produced the Infographic

We made available a small subset of questions related to the preparedness of Suppliers for the COVID-19 pandemic and to track the ongoing impact on their staff and businesses. 

These answers have given our buyers greater insight into how the industry is coping and has allowed them to track where the COVID-19 standard operating procedure is in place within their supply chains.


Have your say!

It’s not too late for you to complete the new questions. By answering this set of questions you are allowing the buyers to gauge vital information on how they can best support suppliers during this difficult time.

To complete these questions, please log into the Altius Gateway System and select the alert ‘COVID-19 questions’ on your dashboard.


No Time to Waste: 3 Important Waste Management Considerations for your Supply Chain

Waste management has become legally, technically and commercially complex in recent times. A growing body of national, EU and global legislation is making waste management a key issue for businesses, while the potential for hefty penalties and reputational damage dictates that good practice must be monitored right across the supply-chain. This is even true for businesses that only ‘pass-through’ materials that will eventually become waste, such as retailers and wholesalers – and is a particular concern in the fashion retail world right now. Here in the UK, £140 million worth of clothing goes to landfill each year – a figure which has caused the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC)[1] to call on Government for an extended producer responsibility scheme and stronger sustainability measures.[2] That’s not to say it’s a concern limited to specific sectors; with our world’s resources under pressure and environmental protection high on the Government and public agenda, waste management strategies are coming under closer scrutiny across all businesses and industries.

Non-compliance in waste management is now a supply chain risk that organisations simply cannot afford to take – and savvy businesses are going further than compliance requires to make sure their waste strategies are truly fit-for-purpose.

Here we take a look at three of the key waste management considerations affecting the supply chains of our UK businesses.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Reducing waste usually also results in reducing costs, adding to the business case for getting waste management right. These cost savings can benefit the entire supply chain and are something that can be built in right from the beginning during product design; by considering whether the amount of raw materials used can be reduced or whether raw can be replaced with recycled. Ideally, design should also consider the product’s ‘end-of-life’ and whether circular production methods are possible. This applies to packaging as much as it does to the product itself, particularly in light of the recent UK Plastics Pact[3].

Quality control will also have an important role to play in reducing waste. Implementing processes and production methods to ensure that materials and finished goods are of a high quality will ensure that more goods pass quality inspection and that they enjoy a longer life. And it’s not only material waste that should be audited at this stage: processes that produce water or heat waste should also be examined, as should transportation methods. They may all provide valuable waste reduction opportunities.

When it comes to reducing waste, the most important message is to choose suppliers whose values align with your own. By making your expectations clear, asking the right questions at the outset and maintaining open lines of communication, it’s easier to make sure standards are upheld across every tier of the supply chain – building in value and resilience along the way.

Getting inventory levels right

Getting inventory levels right is one of the best ways to eliminate waste from your supply chain. Businesses are increasingly using just-in-time (JiT) inventory controls to achieve this. However, JiT requires highly synchronised supply chains and accurate forecasting, along with full supply chain mapping and contingency measures for when things go wrong. Many businesses following a JiT philosophy will outsource their supply chain management to specialists to make sure they get it right, as getting it wrong can mean damaging levels of disruption, financial risk and loss of customer confidence. Having the right software and data handling methodologies in place is also essential for effective deployment of a JiT methodology.

While JiT might seem like the most complex supply chain option, it works best when processes are simplified – through more efficient processes where anything that doesn’t add value is removed. JiT actually originates from a Japanese management philosophy which has been applied in practice since the early 1970s by many Japanese manufacturers. It was first developed and perfected within the Toyota manufacturing plants by Taiichi Ohno as a means of meeting consumer demands with minimum delays[4]. Understanding the origin of JiT can help us to understand how to make it work today, as the approach focuses on individual commitment and continuous improvement. Today, businesses can enhance JiT methods through employee development, knowledge sharing, stringent quality control at source and early signal systems to identify and resolve problems.

Staying ahead of compliance

Even businesses with brilliant waste reduction and recycling strategies in place will have some waste to dispose of. How you do that will depend on the type of business you are and the type of waste you produce. For the majority of UK businesses, council-run services will not provide a complete solution – and for large businesses producing regulated waste, processing will unfortunately be a significant overhead cost. When it comes to waste disposal however, it’s crucial not to cut corners; the costs involved will soar if your waste service providers aren’t properly audited for compliance. One recent example of waste disposal gone wrong was provided when Biffa hit the headlines earlier this year. The waste management company received a £350K fine for trying to ship household rubbish to China as wastepaper fit for recycling[5].

As more businesses pursue ambitious sustainability goals and pressure from environmental groups mounts, going further than compliance in your waste management could actually give your business a competitive edge. If your organisation is confident in its waste management policy throughout the supply chain, it’s certainly something worth shouting about. And, as change currently seems to be the most consistent feature of UK waste policy, getting ahead of the challenge will also protect your business from any disruption caused by having to implement new practices at short notice. Unfortunately, the official guidelines on environmental management[6] can be tricky to decipher, so working with an expert partner is often the best way to stay ahead of compliance.

To find out how Altius can help you to implement good practice across your supply chain and be ready for whatever comes next, contact us







3 Reasons Why Supply Chain Management is Easier with Altius Assure

Every business that uses suppliers inevitably places a level of trust in each of those suppliers…

The network a business selects could have a profound effect on overall success. It therefore makes commercial – as well as legal – sense to practice due diligence when it comes to selecting and assessing suppliers. Doing so can protect a business from unforeseen costs, penalties and reputational damage. And careful monitoring of suppliers has never been more important than right now: consumers, partners and stakeholders are increasingly demanding transparency right across the supply chain. They want to know that you are operating safely, ethically and sustainably. It’s part of the reason supply chain management is so closely linked to performance – outstanding performers are 250% more likely to have a fully visible and transparent supply chain, when compared with their peers[1].

At Altius, we use tailored assessments and compliance audits to help businesses more effectively manage and monitor their supply chain. In busy, time-pressured environments it can be all too tempting to cut corners, especially when relying on outdated, manual processes. But cutting corners is never the right thing to do for your business when it comes to quality or compliance. Our systems are designed to help you build a high quality, compliant supplier network from thousands of audited businesses, without the need for time consuming, resource-heavy processes.

Here are three reasons why supply chain management is easier when you use the Altius Assure Service:

Tailored supplier information

Every supplier in the Altius network goes through a thorough assessment process. From this, we are able to provide tailored supplier interrogations which set criteria according to your unique requirements and risks. This often means savings on time and costs, as each supplier is only assessed against the requirements applicable to their business activity, and nothing else. Our ability to tailor assessments based on your specific needs sets us apart – most other schemes will use a generic assessment for every supplier. 

Proactive compliance auditing

Not only do we conduct in-depth assessment of every supplier in our network, we also proactively contact your suppliers on your behalf when certifications are due to expire and work with them to drive continuous improvements. When it comes to documentation, our expert auditors can check policy clauses to be sure they meet your exact needs, vet insurance exclusions and analyse safety method statements. We keep ahead of compliance to give you complete peace of mind that you’re only ever working with partners that are compliant within your specific criteria – and the audit trail to go with it.

The UK’s largest supplier network

The Altius software platform gives you access to thousands of suppliers, including large multinationals and SMEs. This provides you with the full range of skills and disciplines you need, whilst also giving you an opportunity to better support local communities through the use of smaller suppliers. We’ll also support you to ensure you can leverage the true value of our platform. Our software has been built with agility and flexibility in mind, meaning it can be customised to your exact specification, even where this means assigning different criteria to different business divisions or territories.

Altius Assure in practice

One of the major benefits of Altius Assure is the valuable operational time it can save for businesses whose own internal processes may be robust but unnecessarily time consuming. This was true for facilities management client MML. With large retail clients including John Lewis and Waitrose, MML needed to carefully manage supplier capability and compliance, only selecting suppliers in good commercial health. Their existing systems were thorough but utilised a number of different databases, making robust supply chain management confusing and inefficient. We worked closely with MML to create a tailored assessment platform based on our Altius Assure assessment, and managed the process of transferring contractors to the new system. We continue to assist them with the monitoring of their supply chain and our large network also means that we are able to help MML identify suppliers in any areas where they have gaps. You can read the full case study here.

We’re here to lighten the load of supply chain management and will work closely with you to build a solution that’s perfectly tailored to your needs. We work across a number of industries including retail, facilities management, transport, manufacturing and hospitality – helping clients reduce risk, cut costs and save time in managing their supply chains – because we believe that a successful and safe supply chain benefits everyone.

To find out more about how Altius can help your business, why not get in touch today?


Is your Supply Chain Ready for Whatever Winter 2019 Brings?

A group of scientists have predicted that this winter will be the coldest for 50 years, warning us all to prepare for ‘snow event after snow event’…

New data from a team of scientists at the Department of Space and Climate Physics at University College London has been used to provide the longest range weather forecast ever – in the hope of helping the nation prepare for extreme weather conditions. The team has studied solar and stratosphere cyclic signals from summer 2019 to determine how cold the winter months will be and has predicted only a 20% chance of temperatures rising above 5°C during January and February 2020, with first snow-falls before the end of October 2019[1].

While the Met Office disputes the accuracy of this forecast, it nevertheless serves as a stark reminder of the extra pressures often faced by logistics managers and supply chain leaders during the winter months. Here in the UK, a prolonged period of bad weather can cause large scale disruption on our roads and transport networks – and have a knock-on effect on our businesses and economy. When roads and railways are impassable or aeroplanes unable to take off, the disruption will be felt right across the supply chain, causing delays in the delivery of materials to manufacturers and stock to retailers – with reduced capacity in warehouses and transportation then adding to the difficulty.

The effects are long-lasting; delay creates more delay, customers get let down and go elsewhere, projects overrun and business reputations get damaged. The disruption has a heavy financial cost: while we all remember last year’s Beast from the East, the UK Big Freeze of 2010 is actually one of the worst on record for the damage it caused to economic growth. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) calculated that the extreme weather knocked 0.5 percentage points off GDP growth. Weeks of bad weather caused losses for rail businesses and construction businesses, as well as retail and manufacturing. For businesses in the FMCG sector, the greatest impact was the disruption to transport between manufacturers, distribution centres and retailers which cost more than £400m per day.[2]

So, what can businesses with complex supply chains and time-critical processes do to protect themselves from costly upheaval this winter? Here are five quick tips to help you get your business through the colder months.

Look ahead

Long range weather forecasts are a supply chain planner’s best friend. While the Met Office may dispute how accurate longer range predictions can be, having insight into what might be on the horizon weather-wise can help you decide what contingency measures you might need to put in place; whether that’s more storage, back-up suppliers in different locations, or alternative transport arrangements. Retailers will be well aware of how forecasts of snow and rain can affect shopper behaviours and may need to make plans to cover erratic shopping patterns, more online purchases or bulk purchases when the winter sets in.

Map out your supply chain

Mapping out your entire supply chain can help you understand where problems might arise when snow falls or flooding takes place. Most businesses will have good visibility of their first tier suppliers but what about further down the line? Oversight of your entire supply chain could prove invaluable and this is where the time taken to build good relationships will pay off. Maintaining great communication with suppliers throughout the year will give you the ability to work closely with the businesses you depend on to keep your business running when the going gets tough. Aim to have a good understanding of their processes and capabilities so that you can work together to build in contingency measures and maximise on any available flexibility.

Build in flexibility and resilience

Once you have visibility of your supply chain, it’s time to consider how weather might create a range of different scenarios. Aim to understand what knock-on effects each scenario may have and use historical data to build a picture of how business partners and consumers may react. This can help you to understand where additional support or flexibility may be needed. Always build in additional project or delivery time if you can – when there is bad weather it always pays to expect delay. Understand where additional capacity could come from for warehousing or transport and look at alternatives for transport methods or delivery routes. Spending extra time and resources on getting prepared for winter could give your business valuable protection and resilience during potentially difficult times.

Make the best use of technology

From stock forecasting systems to GPS data from your logistics providers, data is crucial to keeping your supply chain running smoothly in all seasons but especially when weather makes things more difficult. If your business is bogged down in manual processes, it may be time to invest in new technology or find a partner who has the software to provide you with the insight you need. Not only can better data handling and improved digital processes help you keep track of real-time events on your supply chain, the right solutions will also help you monitor health and safety and compliance, to protect your business from disruption and reputational damage.

Choose your supply chain partners carefully

However high your organisation’s internal standards, using the wrong suppliers and contractors leaves your business open to increased risk. Important considerations like working conditions and health and safety can become even more critical during cold winter months and spells of extreme weather. Always make sure your suppliers are fully audited and accredited, not just at tier 1 but right across your supply chain. Doing so will make your operations more robust overall and ensure your business is resilient enough to survive anything the winter throws at it.



Minimising Business Risk from your Supply Chain

Today’s supply chain leaders face a range of different pressures…

However, the two most prominent and ever-present pressures – reducing costs and reducing risk – are also, unfortunately, often at odds with one other. A solution for one will usually make the other more difficult. Cost reduction can be achieved through lean practices; supplier rationalisation and use of fewer distribution facilities, as well as just in time (JIT) inventory management and service outsourcing. However, all of these actions also have the potential to expose your supply chain to greater risk. Looking at it from the other angle, putting extra checks and balances in place to control supply chain risk will usually create an extra cost for your business. So, what should supply chain leaders prioritise?

Minimise risk, maximise opportunity

In a turbulent political environment, supply chain disruption is a key concern for businesses at present. But it isn’t the only supply chain risk which can be costly. For instance, businesses should also take the time to ensure that compliance with health and safety legislation continues to be prioritised by each one of their supply chain partners, particularly since the implementation of ISO45001 in March 2019. The new regulation requires employers to manage risk across their entire supply chain, by expanding the definition of ‘workers’ to include both employees and contractors[1].

Linked to this – and a further factor to consider when assessing the potential cost of risk in the supply chain – is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This might mean something slightly different for every organisation but sustainability, a focus on social enterprise and responsible approaches to modern slavery are just some of the issues currently at the top of the agenda for businesses, thanks to increased pressure from investors, stakeholders and customers. Sustainability in particular is under the spotlight right now, and likely to remain so while our nation works towards its net zero ambitions. If you don’t insist on sustainable practices from your supply chain, you risk jeopardising your business’ green credentials, no matter how hard you work on them internally. 

There are both short- and long-term benefits in insisting on ethical and sustainable practices across your supply chain. In the short term, you stand to improve your brand reputation, attract more business and secure better levels of funding. In the long term, you will protect what has been described as the ‘triple bottom line’[2]: people, profits and planet. Sustainable practices benefit today’s businesses and give them resilience for tomorrow; they also create a positive impact for employees and communities, and ensure that there will be the resources and economic strength to support businesses in the future. While the initial outlay associated with implementing CSR measures across the supply chain may give some businesses pause, the ongoing value and growth opportunities CSR delivers must always be considered.

Taking action

Eliminating risk from supply chains is perhaps more difficult now than ever before, mainly because supply chains are more complex but also because it’s easier to fall foul of shifting regulation. For businesses who want to proactively take measures to control risk, there are three main things you should consider doing:

Diversify your supplier base

While using fewer suppliers – or more local suppliers – can trim costs, diversifying your supplier base can help to protect you from disruption. For example, think about using suppliers who use secondary ports, or suppliers in different geographical locations even if equivalent materials are available from suppliers in the same location. That way, you won’t be affected by disruption in one country or region.


Effective communication is a key strength of every successful supply chain. Think about creating a shared risk management plan with supply chain and logistics partners and aim to create a culture in which they can talk to you about their concerns and share information on potential issues or disruption. Working in this way will not only give you advanced warning of problems and allow you to take mitigating action, it will also give you the opportunity to draw on their local or specialist knowledge to find a solution and ensure the best possible outcome for your business.

Use technology to increase visibility and ensure compliance

Technology can help you coordinate pre-qualification, monitor performance and manage your supply chain compliance. Done well, it can also give you better visibility, not only of every site but also of every worker. At its best, technology doesn’t just help you keep track of the status quo, it will also enable you to drive operational improvement. The crucial thing will be finding a technology partner that understands your world – and software that can be tailored around your individual requirements.

Altius client SEGRO was struggling to eliminate inconsistencies in its supply chain but couldn’t find a software solution that offered all the functionality they needed – specifically ultimate visibility on a multilingual basis. They are now using Altius’ platform and consistently maintaining more than 90% compliance across their supply chain. Read the full case study to find out more:



The Changing Role of the Supply Chain Leader

The role of the supply chain leader is changing…

For instance, according to research from IDG[1], new marketplace demands mean that 85% of food and consumer goods supply chain leaders believe their role has become more complex over the last five years, especially when it comes to product range and route to market. In addition, 71% report that their job responsibilities have become broader, and that this change poses a particular challenge because it coincides with a decrease in workforce resource of around one third.

So, why are businesses expecting so much more from their supply chain leaders, and what can those leaders do to make sure their organisation remains profitable and their supply chain remains efficient, despite the additional day to day pressures they face? The answer to both questions may lie with increased digital capabilities.

Meeting the needs of digitally connected customers

IDG tells us that supply chain complexity is ‘here to stay’. It’s being driven by increased consumer expectation, digital connectivity, and a ‘need it now’ mentality. For today’s businesses, omnichannel fulfilment requirements and the desire for unlimited choice sit alongside an unprecedented need for speed, with customers also increasingly having sustainability requirements, but often being unwilling to compromise on price. It’s creating a pressurised environment for supply chain teams, who are overstretched and under resourced – and it’s an issue which echoes out across all sectors; no longer limited to retail or fast-moving goods.

The good news is that it’s not just the role of supply chain leaders which is evolving, their status within organisations is also seeing dramatic change. No longer a strategic afterthought, supply chain management is fast becoming central to broader business strategies. With organisations increasingly called upon by consumers, stakeholders and investors to provide transparency on provenance, environmental impact and ethics across their supply chain, the role of the supply chain leader is now being recognised as a commercial one; one that has the ability to influence the future direction of a business and enable growth. It’s a fact that’s demonstrated by some of today’s leading retailers incorporating supply chain capabilities into their brand identities; think Amazon and fast-fulfilment, Tesco and minimised food waste, Tony’s Chocolonely and elimination of modern slavery, Carrefour and transparent provenance[2]. These are just some of the business which have recognised that good supply chain management is key to securing ongoing commercial success.

The role of technology in future supply chains

Just as digital capability is increasing the complexity of the supply chain leader’s role, so it has the ability to help them optimise operations and drive new efficiencies for their organisation. Technology can make supply chains more responsive, data systems can make greater visibility possible, and analytical software can help to relieve the administrative burden of supply chain management.

As supply chains become more globalised and more complex, so more businesses are looking for digital ways to streamline their processes. Leading research company Gartner believes that this trend is set to continue, going one step further to report that, ‘Innovative technologies, such as blockchain and AI/machine learning, can potentially and significantly disrupt existing supply chain operating models’[3]. In the future, it is likely that more and more supply chain and logistic decisions will be made by AI and that advanced analytics will be employed to make our supply chains faster and more profitable. It’s therefore crucial that businesses stay well informed on technological advancements, to be sure they are fast to implement the solutions that best suit their needs.

While human judgement can never be replaced, digital capability and an understanding of the role which artificial intelligence, blockchain technology and the internet of things could play in your supply chain operations will be essential to optimising processes and making sure businesses can adapt to changing demands, unlock new opportunities and create sustainable growth. According to IDG, almost half of all supply chain leaders are already prioritising the development of a data-driven culture. They go on to say that ‘it may be that some businesses survive without a data-driven culture, but they will increasingly be the exceptions.’[4]

For those who lack the capital to invest in new technology or who need help preparing for a more complex future, it may be worth outsourcing some elements of supply chain management to a specialist partner. Performance and compliance remain at the top of every supply chain leader’s priority list and are harder to achieve as supply chain complexity increases. At Altius, we have the software and the expertise to help…

[1] and reported at

[2]Supply Chains for Growth Report:


[4] Supply Chains for Growth Report:

Protecting the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain during Brexit

It’s the nature of all supply chains that they must prepare for the possibility of disturbance…

This is particularly true today when many are experiencing higher levels of risk in the run up to Brexit. In the healthcare arena, supply chain risk is also a risk to patient wellbeing – and can sometimes even represent a risk to life. The existing economic, manufacturing and regulatory risk factors faced by the pharmaceutical industry that were already growing year on year and have been compounded by ongoing political uncertainty. Now, those responsible for managing supply chains in the pharmaceutical sector must not only guard against counterfeit drugs, ensure compliance with ever-stricter regulations and enable complete traceability, they must also have robust contingency measures in place to make sure patients in both the UK and Europe can access the medicines they need, no matter what happens on 31st October.

Every month 37 million packs of medicine arrive in the UK from the EU, with 45 million moving the other way[1]. With Brexit now only three short weeks away, the pharmaceutical industry has been working hard behind the scenes to prevent a disruption to supply. The short-term challenge will be to fulfil demand. The longer-term challenge will be to keep cross-border supply chains operating efficiently and cost-effectively. It’s an unfortunate fact for the industry that tariff costs could potentially add up to £50m a year[2] to the industry’s operating costs, depending on the type of deal the UK is able to secure. It’s difficult to predict exactly how supply chains will be affected until customs arrangements are decided. Continued membership of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and a shared ‘rule book’ of standards would certainly protect the future of the UK’s pharma businesses, as would measures to protect data flow between the UK and EU. But with much of this beyond the control of individual businesses, what else can they be doing to safeguard their supply chains during this difficult time?

Here are three things Altius believe should be on the action list:

Solidify supplier relationships

Building better supplier relationships often begins with a shift in perspective. The procurement role must expand beyond purely operational concerns to become more strategic. Choose suppliers whose values align with your own and aim to create a culture of mutual trust and loyalty. Reward quality and reliable delivery with your own focus on brilliant communication and timely payments – and make sure your suppliers feel able to come to you with any concerns they may have. In this way, you are more likely to receive advanced notice of potential disruption and be able to work together to mitigate risk.

Improve visibility and traceability

At a time when there are so many disruptive forces at work, the ability to make faster, data-driven decisions across complex supply chains is invaluable. The pharmaceutical industry is one which understands the power of data. Unfortunately, while businesses have been quick to harness this power for R&D purposes, they are often lagging behind when it comes to utilising data for better supply chain visibility[3]. If you haven’t got the technology or capability to make improvements in-house, it might be time to look for an expert partner who does. Be sure to choose one that understands the challenges you face – and can shape their solutions around your individual needs. Optimising supply chain visibility now will give your business more resilience during the upheaval ahead and will also help you boost performance and operational efficiency to mitigate whatever potential cost rises the future brings.

Consider outsourcing compliance

Compliance is a core concern of every pharmaceutical business. Despite this, many organisations don’t have reliable processes in place to audit suppliers for compliance on an ongoing basis. If monitoring supply chain compliance is something you don’t have the resources to do well, it’s worth considering outsourcing to a specialist – particularly as there’s ample potential for regulatory shift during this time of transition. A failure to prioritise compliance right across the supply chain is a significant risk for any business but a particular risk for the healthcare sector, and outmoded manual processes could jeopardise the safety of your supply chain and your business – not to mention the safety of end-user patients. Data and connectivity are once again invaluable here, to provide you with transparency and give you one less thing to worry about.

Altius has the experience, resources and systems you need to make your supply chain safer, more reliable and more competitive. We truly understand the importance of operating with honesty, transparency and integrity and are committed to supporting businesses during the uncertain times ahead. If you’d like to talk about your supply chain concerns, please get in touch.




How Can We Avoid the Most Common Workplace Health and Safety Risks?

There’s no denying that some industries are safer than others – but some of the most common health and safety issues can happen to any worker, in any industry…

So how can employers across all industries protect their workers from these risks?

While organisations should always carry out their own risk assessments, so they can tailor their health and safety policies and processes to the unique risks their workers face, there are some illnesses and injuries that every business should be working to prevent. The actions they will need to take to avoid these ailments may differ according to their working environment, but if all organisations focus on these issues then we could see them becoming less common than they are today.

Here are some of the biggest health and safety issues facing workers across industries:

Stress, depression and anxiety

Work-related stress, depression and anxiety is one of the biggest health risks to workers across all industries – in 2017/18, these mental health issues accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health, and 57% of all working days lost to ill health. There are higher than average rates of stress, depression or anxiety among those working in education, health and social work and public admin/defence.However, the underlying issues that cause workers to feel stressed, anxious or depressed can occur in any industry.

Altius’ top tip: Encourage employees to talk

An unmanageable workload emerged as the most common cause of these illnesses, and it’s important for employers to address this issue. Ensure that your workers feel able to approach their managers with any concerns they may have – about their workload or any other aspects of their role – and feel confident that they will be taken seriously.

 Injuries from slips, trips or falls

When it comes to injuries, the most common risks to workers are slips, trips and falls, which can happen to any worker – whether they’re walking through an office or a construction site. While you will never be able to prevent your workers from slipping at all, there are some easy ways to remove fall hazards wherever you work.

Altius’ top tip: Carry out a risk assessment

Every workplace is different, even those within the same industry, so walk through your site and look for any slip or trip risks that your employees face while they’re doing their job. If you’re operating within an office environment, for example, you may need to remove cables or cords from walkways, whereas on a construction site, you might want to implement a structured process for keeping on top of debris.  

Musculoskeletal disorders

If you’re not working in an industry that involves physical labour, you may not think that your workers are at risk of musculoskeletal disorders, but these disorders can affect workers in any industry. While the agriculture, forestry and fishing and construction industries have the highest rates of musculoskeletal issues, those working in public admin and defence and health and social work are also at a higher than average risk of these disorders.

Altius’ top tip: Educate your employees to keep them safe

There are such a wide range of health issues that fall under the ‘musculoskeletal’ label, and an equally broad range of causes that can trigger them – from carrying out repetitive work to lifting heavy objects in the wrong way. That’s why regular and robust training is so necessary, as by educating workers in best practice for preventing these issues, they can protect themselves while they’re working.

Keeping all workers healthy and safe

It’s not just your own employees that you need to protect from these common health and safety risks – when your suppliers are on site, you must ensure that they are working to your high standards of health and safety too.

Altius has years of experience in helping businesses across sectors, from M&S to Travelodge, to reduce risk throughout their supply chain. Our software and services enable clients to manage health and safety across their supply chain and collaborate with their suppliers in real-time – to find out more, visit our web page.

Living Up to Expectations: Solving the Logistical Challenge of 21st Century Retail

Today’s consumer looks and acts nothing like the consumer of 25 years ago…

Back then, the weekly shop was often still a family outing, deliveries of goods to your home usually took several days, and a store could be forgiven for running out of fresh milk. In 2019, things have changed: the average consumer has a well-developed ‘need it now’ mentality and an expectation of convenience, driven by digital connectivity and their own fast-paced life. In this brave new world, disruption of supply is the enemy and empty shelves lead to lowered customer confidence.

It follows that today’s retailer must adapt or die; not only delivering the goods that their customers want, but also providing the convenience that they expect. Items that are ordered online must be delivered on time, supermarket shelves that hold fast moving consumer goods must be continually replenished, and customer loyalty must be secured by a consistent ability to live up to expectations.

This is a challenge that’s likely to escalate as our towns and cities become more densely populated – 45% of our UK population want to live near a major town or city[1] – and it’s one which can only be met if retailers hold closer relationships with logistics companies, as well as a thorough overview of their supply chain.

Understanding the changing logistics infrastructure

Solving the logistical challenge of retail in the UK today will require retailers to have a fuller understanding of our changing logistics infrastructure. As it’s no longer realistic for retailers to rely on a delivery of palletised goods from a national distribution centre on a daily or weekly basis, retail logistics networks now extend across the UK and product is moved from smaller, regional distribution centres as well as the larger centralised ones. Alongside this, small fulfilment centres exist to provide the ability to pick, pack and deliver goods to consumers on the same day – and sometimes within an hour.

What makes things faster and more convenient for the consumer, and therefore profitable for the retailer, also makes things much more complex for the logistics provider. And in today’s world, there is no room for error – as any disruption to deliveries will mean increased expense, lost sales and customer dissatisfaction.

Planning and optimisation are obviously crucial in the accelerated world of logistics, but there are other practical implications to consider too. Logistics businesses now often require space in city locations to reach our increasingly urbanised population, which can be costly. There’s also the strain on our overstretched road networks to consider here, alongside the costs of transport and availability of workforce – and all of this must be negotiated within ever-tightening margins. It’s a situation which Peter Ward, Chairman of the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) believes is unsustainable.

The UKWA lobbies government to consider logistics when approving any new housing development, as increased numbers of residents will inevitably lead to increased deliveries of food and online purchases. The UKWA have also worked to raise awareness of labour shortages in retail logistics, which it believes will be exacerbated by migrant workers needing a degree-level education after Brexit, as the Government has proposed; as a quarter of the lower skilled roles in the industry are filled by immigrant labour. The association’s recent report: Feeding London 2030[2] examines some of the extremes of the retail logistics problem and suggests that retailers need to have a better understanding of the true costs of logistics, of the need for a margin in a world preoccupied with driving down costs, and of how working more closely together could help both sides discover a more sustainable solution.

Logistics as the new retailers

Just as retailers need to get under the skin of their logistics partners, logistics businesses who want to ‘future-proof’ their operations might consider adopting the mindset of a retailer. After all, 75% of UK logistics activity today relates to the consumer – essentially making it a retail business[3]. Here the ‘customer journey’ takes on new meaning and effective communication from those responsible for the transport of goods will be key to successful relationships with retailers – even if that simply means notifying them promptly if a delivery will be delayed.

While technology has increased the complexity of logistics planning, it can also provide the solution to new challenges: better systems for data handling and the ability to track transport are making supply chain management easier, and should mean that order errors can be reduced and long waiting times for deliveries can be eradicated. Unfortunately, there is much work to be done here as currently only 12% of retailers know the planned arrival time of all trucks into their warehouse, according to a recent report by Germany’s RWTH Aachen University[4].

Just as logistics is the vital link in any retail supply chain, the success of any logistics business is dependent on the ability of the retailers it serves to meet their own customers’ expectations. Investing in better systems and software to help with this should be a priority for any logistics provider who is struggling to provide a joined-up service. All things considered, it seems that the success of both industries will depend on them building closer relationships that can support change through the practical and financial challenges that lie ahead.

At Altius, we help retailers manage their complete supply chains efficiently and compliantly, all within one system. Whether that’s identifying the right partners for logistics, warehousing, facilities management or more, you can read more about the ways in which we support the retail sector here.




[4] Everything 4.0 or just hype: key trends in transport logistics

The Benefits of Safeguarding Mental Health across your Supply Chain

Every business that uses third party contractors or suppliers will understand the importance – and challenge – of managing health and safety across its supply chain…

Making sure you only work with organisations that adhere to SSIP standards is usually the best way to do this; with certification offering you a low cost, low hassle way of checking that your supply chain partners are health and safety compliant. What businesses might be less aware of is the role that mental health plays in the overall health and safety culture of its operations. All employers have a legal obligation to monitor risk and put protective measures in place against mental health issues[1], just as they do for physical health issues. They also have legal obligations to make reasonable adjustments when employing people with pre-existing mental health problems, just as they do for any type of disability – and most comply with their obligations. But beyond this, many do little towards improving the mental health and wellbeing of their workers, despite it offering several significant commercial benefits.

The wellbeing of your workforce can impact productivity, profitability and reputation; effectively shaping perceptions of your business and playing a part in your overall success. It’s something which Emma Head, HS2 Ltd’s Safety and Assurance Director understands. She is recently quoted as saying,“As an industry we rightly shout about safety, but whisper about wellbeing and mental health.”[2]

HS2 is the largest infrastructure project in Europe. It already supports 7,000 jobs across 60 sites between Birmingham and London and expects to support 30,000 jobs by around 2023. As business leaders, HS2 Ltd want to set new standards for health and safety which will protect workers right across the supply chain, as well as the general public. They’ve recently unveiled seven new principles, which they expect all of the companies they work with to adhere to, and which they hope will create a legacy of new standards for their industry. Key amongst these is workforce health and wellbeing.

The financial cost of poor mental health

One in four people experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives[3].  Add this fact to figures from the HSE[4] which tell us that mental health issues resulted in 11.7 million working days lost in 2015/16 and a cost to employers of between £33 billion and £42 billion (through presenteeism, low productivity, sickness absence and staff turnover) and it becomes easy to see how setting new supply chain standards on wellbeing has the potential to deliver bottom line benefits for your business. If more businesses follow the examples being set by HS2 Ltd, it also has the power to significantly impact the health of our UK economy as a whole. Speaking at the Mad World conference in London in 2018, former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable quoted figures from the previous year’s Stevenson/Farmer review[5] on mental health, which revealed mental health costs the UK economy between £74 billion and £99 billion per year; much more than the cost of Brexit[6].

Of course, the cost of poor mental health is much more than simply financial. It’s a shocking fact that the suicide rate among low-skilled male labourers is three times higher than the national average for men[7]. Businesses who use large numbers of short-term contractors and 2nd-tier suppliers therefore have a particular responsibility to look for evidence of good practice across their supply chain when it comes to wellbeing – an issue which brings even greater responsibility when aggravated by the problems of modern slavery.

Taking action on wellbeing

So, what can businesses do to build a culture of health and wellbeing across their supply chain? While each situation is unique and will require a tailored approach to mental health management, the ‘mental health core standards’ laid out by the Thriving at Work[8] report provides a strong starting point.

The report includes a comprehensive best practice guide for employers who want to raise standards of mental health protection in their workplace. The standards it sets out require employers to:

As with all good health and safety practice, the key to successful action on wellbeing will begin with regulatory compliance and include a robust plan, well communicated. Setting standards and communicating expectations across your supply chain sends a clear message that your business takes mental health and wellbeing seriously. Those businesses who lead the way and endeavour to raise standards of mental health, as well as physical health and safety, will undoubtedly reap the rewards brought by a more motivated and productive workforce.









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