Pingdemic Slams UK Supply Chain

by | August 11, 2022

As the Delta variant drives the third wave of global infections, the United Kingdom faces a “pingdemic” after the National Health Service’s contact-tracing app has “pinged” nearly 2 million citizens with a call to self-isolate.

This pingdemic threatens a recovering UK economy with food, beverage, and logistics companies scrambling to keep the supply chain running. The Washington Post reported in August that some UK retailers report employee absentee rates as high as 20%.

Driver shortage

But this pingdemic isn’t limited to front-line workers. As the nation approaches the year-end demand spike, companies are still struggling to get heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers. Brexit had already blindsided the UK supply chain before the pandemic hit. This latest surge has only exacerbated the problem. Some convenience store operators have started driving their own trucks to keep their store shelves stocked.

However, SCALA Consulting Executive Director Rob Wright insists that even if companies get more drivers behind the wheel, it’s a short-term fix. To survive, food and beverage companies must improve their supply chain operations. Wright says manufacturers must find ways to better collaborate with suppliers.

“Companies should be talking to their customers and suppliers about how transport can be optimized to protect service and reduce truck and driver journeys,” Wright told Food Manufacture. “Now is the time to review delivery frequency and order size, unlock backhaul opportunities, and remove empty trucks from UK roads.”

Wright added that companies could add storage capacity to trailers to boost the number of pallets they can carry. As a result, fewer trucks on the road reduces the need for more drivers and cut back on carbon emissions.

Pingdemic hurts production

The labor shortage is also taking a toll on production. The National Farmers’ Union reported that farmers and meat processors operated without 16% of their workforce. While the Financial Times reported, “the British Poultry Council said its members had made unprecedented production cuts. Most are producing 5% to 10% less chicken and 10% less turkey, while Christmas turkey production is set to be down by a fifth.”

“UK food security will be hit with a double whammy of food inflation and being forced to rely on more imported food,” BPC Chief Richard Griffiths told the paper.

Digitization, automation can help

For the foreseeable future, UK manufacturers must do more with less. One way to do that is by digitizing their document management systems, which helps companies improve operations with a smaller workforce.

The unparalleled disruption threatening the UK’s supply chain requires companies to respond in real-time. But most brands still operate in silos. Sharing and maintaining those documents across departments, facilities, and business partners is a chore. Digitization breaks down those silos and fosters better communication with far-flung collaborators, such as suppliers and co-manufacturers.

Automation can do more than streamline plant floor operations with immediate non-compliance alerts. It can systematize Corrective Action Reports (CARs) and instantly analyze Certificates of Authenticity (CoAs).

Finally, manufacturers can fight back by joining the world’s largest collaborative online platform of food, beverage, and dietary supplement professionals in R&D, procurement, quality, and regulatory teams to work with suppliers across the globe to drive down procurement costs and develop new relationships – and products – faster.

The lingering supply chain disruptions have started awkward conversations and frustrating challenges. For example, manufacturers and private label owners fighting higher ingredient costs need alternative suppliers and ways to reduce product development costs. And retailers remain wary of further price increases, fearing they’ll lose customers and drive up waste.

Watch this on-demand webinar with Phil Lempert, CEO of Retail Dietitians Business Alliance, and CEO of, for a webinar discussion on how companies can outmaneuver rising costs.

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