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How Are Restrictions at Calais Affecting the UK Supply Chain?

Posted on 23/07/15, filed under Supply Chain Logistics | No Comments

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has warned that increasing numbers of freight carriers are saying they will no longer make journeys to Britain because of the violence involving groups of migrants in parts of the French port of Calais.

Currently around three-quarters of all road freight to and from Britain passes through Dover and Calais, the French town that has become a magnet for people trying to reach British shores illegally and a hub for gang-controlled smuggling operations.  Each day approximately 9000 lorries pass through the ports.

Although driver shortage has not yet developed into an acute problem, more and more overseas haulage companies are telling the FTA that they are no longer willing to risk damage to vehicles caused by migrants and that drivers are concerned about their personal safety.  Meanwhile, UK truck drivers face fines of up to £2000 per migrant if stowaways are found in their vehicles.  UK drivers paid £4.2m in fines in 2014, compared with just £2.5m in 2009, according to Freedom of Information Act figures.

Vehicle checks at ferry terminals and Eurotunnel have increased, but this slows the processing of vehicles and has a knock-on effect on business supply chains: for example, the delay of a vehicle component from a supplier in Italy could suspend operations at a car factory in the UK.

Supermarkets cannot take any risks on food contamination, so if a stowaway has jumped aboard a refrigerated fruit container the produce may never reach the shelves.  As a result, the FTA believes there will be shortages of some lines of food and that the price of imported goods will rise sharply.

UK ferry operators and Eurotunnel have already taken steps to provide additional secure parking areas for lorries.  However, with the volume of trade expanding as the economic outlook improves, (forecasts suggest a 30% increase in traffic over the next five years), greater numbers of HGVs are heading for the UK, causing bottlenecks.

A destination for migrants since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999, Calais’ infrastructure and security capacity has come under intense pressure as hundreds of people from north and east Africa, the Middle East and further afield make their way to the port.

In April, members of the UK House of Commons home affairs select committee criticised the actions of the French Border Police.  According to MPs, travellers and hauliers are subject to cost and inconvenience while illegals caught trying to make the crossing are ‘simply released back into the French countryside’.

The committee also insisted that security arrangements must not cause traffic to come to a standstill, because stationary vehicles are seen as easier targets by migrants attempting a crossing.

Unfortunately, there is no ready solution to the Calais migrant situation.  But in the meantime a business wishing to streamline those parts of the supply chain it can control has the option of turning to a specialist logistics provider such as RT Page.  To find out more, contact us on 01903 736300 or info@rtpage.co.uk.

What Can an Outsourced Warehouse Space Do For You?

Posted on 10/07/15, filed under Warehousing | No Comments

When customers go online to buy, they expect fast delivery times.  If you manage an ecommerce business, this means you have to consider how to make your supply chain leaner.

An experienced logistics provider will know how to do this better than you.

They will also have warehouse processes which take advantage of economies of scale and emerging technologies, and the ability to adapt to your business’ changing needs.  As warehousing is part and parcel of the whole logistics chain, an experienced logistics provider can receive orders (which are often complex) and manage stock – the complete package under the same roof.

And the benefits of using a third party logistics (3PL) company for your warehousing don’t end there:

  • You will have time to concentrate on your business essentials – marketing and product development.  You can redirect your capital investment from warehouse space to building your business.
  • Choose the right provider and your warehouse operations will be in the hands of a company whose reason for existing is logistics and warehousing.  An experienced firm will have fine-tuned its systems to ensure it does the best possible job when it comes to managing inventory, picking and packing and delivering.
  • You will save on labour.  If you operated your own warehouse you would have to hire in times of peak demand and continue paying staff when sales slacken.  But a 3PL company will spread its workforce across many customers.  It will also handle all aspects of HR management, including staff training, which would otherwise prove a major cost for your company.
  • The warehousing company will have all the infrastructure and equipment needed for storing and moving your stock – from pallets, barriers and forklift trucks to security systems – so you will not need to invest in them yourself.
  • A warehouse specialist will be able to get better shipment rates on your behalf, because they deal with a larger volume of products than you.
  • The complexities of compliance and health and safety matters will be in the hands of a specialist, which is good news when warehouse training and certification are subject to tough regulations.
  • You have the freedom to choose your location. The warehouse does not need to be next door to your headquarters.  You can find the warehouse and provider best placed to serve your customers.

The more space you have, the more stock you can hold and the speedier your delivery service.  Initially, a start-up with ambitions to expand will often have only a spare room or garage at its disposal, and will lack the additional space for overflow stock or for performing all the labelling and posting tasks.  The tidy, space-efficient racks of an outsourced warehouse are the answer, along with an experienced team to handle the dispatching of products.

Clients of RT Page benefit from a 70,000 sq ft warehouse in Sussex, the very best IT systems and a highly professional and experienced team.  To find out more contact us on 01903 736300 or info@rtpage.co.uk.

The Benefits of an Experienced Pick and Pack Warehouse Team

Posted on 25/06/15, filed under Pick and Pack | No Comments

While warehousing is the process of storing goods, pick and pack is about end-to-end fulfilment: receiving products off the lorry, matching the right item to the client’s order, repacking and labelling it, then generating an invoice ready for dispatch.

If you manage an ecommerce company, having an experienced, outsourced pick and pack or third party logistics (3PL) team at your side makes all the difference to the quality and competitiveness of your fulfilment service.  Here’s how:

1.    Outsourcing order fulfilment frees up your time to concentrate on your business.  You have the reassurance of knowing that experts are performing this vital function on your behalf and are taking care of occupational health and safety matters – such as the safe storage of hazardous materials – as well as warehouse lease arrangements, security, staffing and vehicles.

2.    You save on costs.  An individual company investing in its own fulfilment department is never going to gain the economies of scale of a specialised 3PL company (which can negotiate favourable rates with carriers).  While the 3PL company invests in and maintains the fulfilment infrastructure, the client simply pays for the service they receive in return.

3.    Started a new business?  Team up with a 3PL provider and you have a logistics process to rival that of a larger, established business.  As your new enterprise hits the road, your priority is to get your products to customers without hold-ups or related problems: there’s usually no time to develop your own fulfilment operations. Instead, hand the reins to a 3PL provider and you can focus on those ‘start-up’ essentials: marketing, finding prospective customers and increasing sales.

4.    Staff at the best 3PL companies know how to deal with complex orders, including returns.  If required, they can take on customer service responsibilities too.

5.    An experienced 3PL firm places as much emphasis on flexible service as on physical storage capacity.  It understands that at busy periods, such as Christmas, there has to be provision for ramped-up stock levels.  New businesses may need only a small space to begin with, which is why RT Page offers a service designed specially for the start-up.  But a capable 3PL provider such as RT Page will also continue to provide a cost-effective service even as the circumstances of the young business change: – in other words, be a partner in growth.

6.    The respected, established 3PL provider you choose as your logistics partner will almost certainly use an advanced Warehouse Management System.  This helps the picker to find the specific item, wherever it is located, as quickly as possible, with the software enabling further efficiencies such as inventory tracking and invoice creation.  The system also minimises mistakes, which could otherwise prove costly to correct.

RT Page has over half a century’s experience in logistics.  Find out more about how our pick and pack expertise will help you find the best solution for your stock management by calling us on 01903 736300.

The Top 4 Risks to Keeping Your Fulfilment Promises

Posted on 11/06/15, filed under 3PL | No Comments

For retailers, one downside to our omni-channel age is the increasingly complex nature of fulfilment and the consequent increased risk of mistakes or problems.

Fortunately, a company that anticipates every risk and prioritises lean, flexible logistics can negotiate most fulfilment obstacles.

Risk 1: Weather
The UK’s climate has always been unpredictable, but now it’s getting more extreme too.  If you run an ecommerce company there are ways you can turn forecasts of extreme weather to your advantage – for instance, increasing stock levels of an item that will be highly popular during a heatwave.  Snow, on the other hand, causes transport disruption.  Some major supermarkets receive weather updates from the Met Office several times a day, enabling them to react quickly (and alert suppliers to do likewise), reallocating stocks to a less weather-affected part of the country.

If your Warehouse Management System is sophisticated enough to tell you precisely where your stock is at any given moment, you will be able to release buffer stocks or move your products to where they are most needed.

Risk 2: Stock shortage
As suggested above, accurate visibility of stock across the supply chain is important.  Uncertainty about stock availability will inevitably lead to delays in delivering to the customer (see Risk 4 below).  The risk is especially acute in the balancing of online and physical store operations.  But with a system in place, which allows the online and offline parts of the business to work seamlessly together, operational efficiency will increase while the amount of ‘safety’ stock held in reserve in your warehouse can be reduced.  A close and collaborative relationship with the supplier helps too, by taking advantage of economies of scale or identifying areas where partnership working will be most effective.

Risk 3: Wrong item
If an ecommerce company handles too many orders each day to be able to check each one individually, an efficient automation system is the best way of preventing the delivery of the wrong product (a particular bugbear of customers and costly for the retailer who pays for returns). And it’s usually more cost-effective than hiring an extra member of staff to do the checking.

Risk 4: Failing in ‘the last mile’
Delivery requirements vary depending on the product and the customer.  As an alternative to home delivery, the shopper may prefer to collect an item from a local corner shop or have it dropped off at their workplace, especially if there is no-one at home to sign for the delivery.  Other customers, who may perhaps be at home awaiting the arrival of a three-piece suite, will want a specific delivery timeslot.  The ecommerce company that neglects to tailor their service to the consumer risks being left behind by competitors who are better able to optimise their supply chains to satisfy or exceed customer expectations and hence secure repeat orders.

RT Page can manage your supply chain from beginning to end. To discuss our full Third Party Logistics (3PL) solution call us today on 01903 736300.

3PL Solutions for Start-Up Businesses

Posted on 21/05/15, filed under 3PL | No Comments

If you manage a rapidly growing ecommerce start-up business you are soon likely to face the challenge of how to scale up your fulfilment operations to keep pace with demand.


Before long, an expanding business will have neither the space nor the hours in the day to manage logistics effectively.  Being snowed under by orders is a nice problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.

While online retailing has helped level the playing field for small businesses, they still trail behind their bigger rivals when it comes to fulfilling orders efficiently.

Aside from price, consumers see delivery as the most important criteria when shopping online, research by Royal Mail found.  If a customer is let down by a company’s fulfilment system, they may decide not to come back for seconds – which is a pity when a business has expended  so much effort on developing an attractive product, building its brand and designing its website.

In much the same way as  a start-up’s capital is generally better spent on employing website and marketing experts to maximise revenue through this crucial early phase in its growth, so the logistical side can be outsourced to a Third Party Logistics (3PL) provider, at least until the young company has the capacity to build its own systems.


As well as knowing you have the support of a partner who can fulfil orders faster than you, giving you time to focus on your core business, outsourcing also allows you to develop a simple returns policy and manage the tricky ‘reverse logistics’ process (returns represent a warehouse operation’s most labour-intensive element).

Of course, every business model is different, as are priorities (for some, speed and an excellent overall customer experience; for others, low prices).  The type of goods will determine logistics arrangements too – it is more complex to transport a lawnmower than a book.  Essentially, your 3PL partner should be able to adapt their service to fit your needs.  When looking for a 3PL partner, choose one that is prepared to manage the entire supply chain.  Together you should anticipate what will be needed two or more years down the line, plan accordingly and allow a degree of flexibility.

RT Page’s special start-up offer

RT Page has come up with an offer tailor-made for start-up businesses, to bring down the cost of renting space and reduce the need for a long-term lease commitment (which is not usually feasible in those early days).  Sign up for an initial agreement of at least a year and you can have up to 50 standard pallets free of charge for 12 weeks: after this period there is no obligation to rent a specific number of pallets or amount of space, meaning you only pay for the space you use on a week-by-week basis.

If you are interested in this offer or in learning more about our start-to-finish warehousing solutions, or would like details of our other services such as handling credit control, contact us on 01903 736300.