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Freight forwarder SBS Worldwide launches slipsheets revolutionary freight solution at London Book Fair

International freight forwarder SBS has found a simple, greener way to fit more books inside the traditional sea container. It is a solution that allows publishers to save money (15% on freight costs) – and trees (200 million) by allowing up to 30% more books to be loaded into the container.

Launched by Chairman Steve Walker at the BIC Supply Chain Seminar at the London Book Fair, it has already met with a positive response. He says: "There’s no magic involved. We simply decided to go inside the ocean container and look at loading, carton stowage, and the issues that surround them. Then we looked at the wooden pallets and the space they took up – and figured there must be a better way."

That way is slipsheets! – the first freight app!

As the name suggests, slipsheets are simply flat sheets, made of cardboard fibre, on which the boxes sit. By using them, all the space that is usually taken up by pallets is now filled by books.

Steve Walker explains: "Someone shipping 1,000 containers a year, now needs to ship only 865. Those containers do not need be trucked to and from ports or shipped thousands of miles. In this scenario, a publisher would save more than half a million dollars in freight costs today. Not to mention the reduction in carbon emissions."

SBS Worldwide is an international freight forwarder strongly committed to the book trade. Its Electronic Distribution Centre (eDC), launched last year, has met with wide acclaim and has already led to the company being shortlisted for the Supply Chain Innovation in the Publishing Supply Chain Award at the Bookseller Industry Awards next month.

How do slipsheets work

A simple attachment to existing forklifts allows the operator to pull the slipsheet and cartons onto the forklift, and then slide them off at their required location.

Why not stick with pallets

The wooden pallet was invented during the Second World War when it enabled goods to be moved more quickly and with less labour. It was a great creation – so good that it is still going strong today. However, things have changed. Pallets are costly, not only financially but also to the environment. Purchasing costs have risen to reflect the increase in timber rates, especially with the extra burden of fumigation and quality control. To put the environmental impact into numbers, 200 million trees, or 50,000 per day, are felled to produce pallets each year.

Slipsheets – the advantages

1) Use of dead space

First and foremost, by utilising the dead space beneath traditional, wooden pallets, slipsheets can increase the number of books that can fit into a container by up to 30%. This reduces the number of containers needed to transport a given quantity of goods, decreasing freight spend and dramatically reducing publishers’ carbon footprint.

2) Lower carbon footprint

At the book fair, Steve Walker cited the example of a publisher shipping 1,000 containers per year. Using slipsheets, the same number of books could be shipped in just 865 containers. "This saves not only the seafreight costs and carbon footprint, but also the carbon emissions of all the road vehicles taking the containers to and from the ports at each end."

3) Lighter, and less waste

Slipsheets also weigh 20 times less than wooden pallets, so shipping weight is reduced. Another factor to consider is waste. Often warehouses and distribution centres pay to have unsuitable or damaged pallets hauled away for destruction – a sad example of waste that impacts the environment and could be prevented by changing to slipsheets.

Steve Walker told publishers at the Fair’s Supply Chain seminar: "With slipsheets, you have a 100% recyclable and hygienic method of shipping goods, with a highly efficient loading and unloading process that achieves time and motion stats comparable to the palletised product. The space and weight saving can result in a significant financial boost, so not only is this option good for your company’s bottom line, it will also be a major contributor to your green policy."


SBS Worldwide is launching the slipsheet and push/pull forklift attachment in partnership with Cascade, the largest manufacturers of push/pull equipment, in Europe and the USA with certified Green certification.

Steve Walker says: "We already have publishers trialling the systems and this shows that a 15% cost saving is quite realistic – not to mention the benefits to the environment. We also have a Slipsheet Calculator which we can use to demonstrate the exact savings and return on investment."

SBS – always innovating

Founded in 1983, SBS is a £50m business committed to the book trade. It sponsors the Chairman’s Breakfast at the London Book Fair, as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award in International Publishing, awarded annually at the Fair.

The introduction of slipsheets by the company is another example of its innovative approach to the supply chain. Its Electronic Distribution Centre (eDC), launched last year, has met with wide acclaim and has already led to the company being shortlisted for the Supply Chain Innovation in the Publishing Supply Chain Award at the Bookseller Industry Awards next month.

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