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CHEP hosts customer forum to address issue of managing platform complexity in the UK supply chain

CHEP, a leading provider of pallet and container pooling solutions, recently hosted a forum for customers in the UK to explore potential solutions to help manage platform complexity associated with the challenging "last mile" of the supply chain. The "last mile" refers to the final portion of the supply chain through which a product has to travel before it is displayed in store by the retailer.

More than 20 of CHEP’s largest customers attended the forum, representing the full spectrum of the supply chain, from manufacturers to distributors, logistics service providers and retailers. Attendees included beverage companies Britvic, Coca-Cola Enterprises, and PepsiCo, retailers Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, and food manufacturers including Arla Foods, Heinz and Nestlé.

As retailers seek efficiencies in the "last mile" of their supply chain and adopt unique handling solutions for their own supply chain, manufacturers have to deal with an increasing range of non industry standard handling solutions. Many manufacturers are facing a steady increase in the number of ways they have to prepare their products for distribution.

The Last Mile Solution forum, facilitated by CHEP, provided the opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to come together and discuss standardised approaches that reduce the complexity and inefficiency being created for manufacturers by retailers adopting their own unique handling solutions. CHEP is working with the manufacturers and the retailers to provide packaging solutions that can assist with the efficient delivery of goods in a retail-ready format.

Morrisons Logistics Development Controller, John Passman, said: "At Morrisons we are eager to engage and play our part in the development of improvements that deliver greener and safer supply routes to the store shelf."

Britvic Pallet Process Improvement Coordinator, Mick Marshall, said: "Collaboration is the key to making this work, and the event provided a great opportunity to spend some quality time with the retailers and other leading manufacturers to explore the options. Delegates were able to learn about the latest developments taking place across the supply chain industry, including new platforms to potentially consolidate the number of delivery option solutions, and which could radically reduce the number of product SKUs and help reduce costs. CHEP continues to move in the right direction, proving it has far more to offer than just the standard B1210 pallet."

Reducing the number of packaging platforms should allow manufacturers to reduce their number of SKUs (Stock Keeping Units), which is determined by the number of product lines and packaging platforms.

The forum included a detailed update from the leader of CHEP’s Last Mile Solutions project, John Kenna, providing delegates with an update on CHEP’s activities in this area and a summary of the output of a recent workshop CHEP hosted in Amsterdam with continental European customers.

Research conducted by CHEP between January and April 2011 from across the supply chains of 41 retailers in seven European countries identified that 24 different packaging formats and 55 different packaging product platforms are currently in use in this crucial "last mile" of the supply chain. These packaging types are seeking to address the merchandising, replenishment and display requirements of the retailers.

Mr Kenna said: "We’re not proposing standardising on one platform but, at the same time, 55 products isn’t the right answer either. We’re looking to find the common ground that is realistic and will satisfy as many players as possible, while at the same time reducing the level of complexity that is currently driving significant supply chain costs for our partners and customers"

CHEP Managing Director for UK & Ireland, Howard Wigham, said: "We’re delighted to be hosting this style of event, and we see this as the beginning of a program to tackle what is seemingly a huge issue for the UK supply chain, and for which collaboration from all players will be vital for success. The research we’ve conducted with our pan-European customers has identified a level of complexity that affects everyone at a time when all participants are trying to improve efficiency in the final stretch of the supply chain."

CHEP will be hosting further Last Mile Solutions customer forums to build on this event and will continue to keep its key customers engaged on this pertinent issue for manufacturers, retailers and logistics service providers alike.

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