In September 2019, Wincanton took control of the supermarket’s transport activity at three Distribution Centres (DCs) based across the UK that serve stores across the country. This process started in September, leaving little time before a key period for grocery businesses - the Christmas peak – and the, at the time, unknown COVID-19 pandemic.
The transition included the TUPE of approximately 550 long-standing employees to Wincanton. There was some scepticism about the change, amplified by the supermarket continuing to operate warehouse functions at the sites.
‘What we do today, we do tomorrow’
To establish positive dialogue with TUPE’d staff, Wincanton and the supermarket made the promise to all transitioned staff of ‘what we do today, we do tomorrow’.
This message that day-to-day duties and expectations would not completely change was reinforced at all meetings between involved parties, which included union representatives, to ensure all concerns were raised and could be addressed.
Colleague engagement was measured immediately through a staff engagement survey.
During the first two surveys, the average engagement score was 7.0 (70%). This tracked above the Wincanton benchmark. Feedback also raised key areas for colleague engagement, including:
- colleague listening groups at all sites (night and day shifts)
- increased communications, including monthly newsletter
- welfare initiatives, including mental health and wellbeing sessions
With the average age of staff across the operations being 54, and length of service averaging 17 years, this required a careful approach. Drop-in sessions on-site, in which colleagues are encouraged to talk to HR representatives about issues they’re facing (personal and professional) are organised around work schedules and advertised on wellbeing display boards. These are updated monthly and link into national awareness campaigns.
The transition was commercially successful too. This is evidenced by a delivery-on-time score of 99.85% across the sites (c5,000 weekly deliveries).
- 99.95% - site one
- 99.66% - site two
- 99.95% - site three
Christmas peak was the supermarket’s largest ever across the UK, ably supported by an efficient transport service. Anecdotal evidence from stores also suggests that service continued to a high standard, indicating a seamless transition.
Wincanton supported its partner with c1,800 traction shifts over the three-week Christmas period in 2019. Leveraging its scale and expertise, 24% of these were provided by collaborating with other Wincanton sectors (construction and eFulfilment).
The learnings from this peak put Wincanton and the supermarket in a strong position for the sudden COVID-19 peak of March/April 2020. Wincanton supported an increase of 6% in volume year-on-year across the six-weeks, including a 20% rise in the first full week. This was achieved despite the pressures of COVID-19 safety measures and a 6% increase in staff absences.