Masterfreight on its approach to the changing customer demands during the Covid-19 pandemic
Lots of our Fortec Distribution Network members have been adapting to the sharp increases in business-to-consumer (B2C) trade since COVID-19, but at West Bromwich-based logistics firm, Masterfreight, they were already in a good position to respond to the changing buying habits.
We caught up with transport manager, Richard Johnson to find out what impact COVID has had.
Tell us about Masterfreight…
Masterfreight Limited is a Freight Forwarding business, specialising in import, export and warehousing facilities.
We joined Fortec about five years ago and have taken on more and more postcode areas in that time. We now cover B, DY, WS and WV postcodes and make around 400 -500 deliveries per week to industrial estates, residential and urban districts, and rural areas.
95% of our distribution is through our pallet services and via Fortec, so it’s a substantial part of our business.
What was your main customer base pre-COVID and how has it changed?
Before COVID I would say around 90% of our customers were businesses – these included a wide variety of businesses in many different sectors. We cover a vast area too, so we would often deliver to residential and urban areas before the pandemic – these could be businesses that had been set up at home or individual consumers ordering bulky items.
When COVID hit we definitely saw a jump in home deliveries as a result of the first lockdown when everyone was unable to leave their houses. That’s not changed, and the split now is about 40% B2C and 60% B2B. I think it was where things were going anyway but COVID drove it forward quicker. As a company we were already in a good position to respond because of where we are positioned and the areas we already covered.
What are the differences between B2B and B2C in terms of pallet deliveries?
Home deliveries are definitely far more restrictive in many different ways – the practicalities are definitely different, but we have good systems, equipment and training in place to be flexible.
In terms of size, we can’t really deliver anything over 2.2m to a home address, and yet our pallets go up to 4.1m. We have to take this into account when planning.
In terms of the drop, we can be restricted there too with stoned driveways, side access and narrow doorways.
The expectations of consumers is different. They often order from a business who won’t explain the delivery process. We are the last cog in the wheel, but we don’t always have communication with the consumer until the drop which can make things tricky. We have good customer service training in place and our divers are used to managing expectations on delivery.
How have you adapted to the change?
We haven’t needed to change much at all – our flexibility is getting us through. We had good processes in place already and were well used to dealing with a variety of customers – businesses and individuals.
I think what’s helped us is that all our vehicles already had tail lifts which make it much easier to safely load and unload trucks to all sorts of properties. It gives us the flexibility other companies might not have had prior to COVID.
All vehicles have pump trucks too as standard which again gives us a bit more leeway as to how far we can deliver pallets.
How has Fortec Distribution Network supported Masterfreight through COVID?
It is reassuring to know we have a team of people at Fortec who are able to help us should we come into any problems.
It is good to be able to call upon other members too, but to equally be able to share our experiences to help the wider network.
We take great pride in being a flexible and adaptable logistics firm, and if we can support other Fortec members to benefit the whole network, we will.