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What the Great man of Mayfair did when his order book exploded by Paul Casebourne, Engineered Solutions

‘One morning back in 2012, I received a phone call from a friend and business colleague asking if I could help out with the re-organisation of a site in London. It was the family- owned business Nelsons. The UK’s largest manufacturer of natural healthcare products’

I think the recession was sparked largely by the speed at which information could travel. Flying over all the traditional boundaries, money could change hands still on the old pals’ act but now in nano seconds, smashing through rules and codes of practice. Everything is so quick and information so in your face that not to act would be catastrophic and yet to continue the way it was, was inevitably going to be catastrophic. In hindsight it was sort of a clear out, a sweeping of the decks, a reformation whilst companies became happier to be less significant than nations and more accountable to the hands that fed them. A sort of re-birth of the market place but not as we knew it. Companies with weak infrastructure that were unable to adapt simply disappeared, to be replaced by new ‘internet dot coms” and a new way to impart information, goods and to live. We don’t go to the library any more we ‘Google it’, you use your phone to Google, we Google to eat, travel and yes buy everything from our shopping to holidays and the latter is still adapting its high street outlets to mini hubs and local distribution centres…..none of which are designed for it incidentally!

I came, I saw, I Googled. It was delivered same day, I didn’t even have to wait in, I had it delivered to my local Spar shop and picked it up on the way home, so no one has an inkling about their Christmas present this year! How about that! There is a super highway, invisible but carrying traffic at a colossal rate, 24/7. When your business plugs into it correctly your order book explodes!

So why didn’t this adversely affect Nelsons? Well the answer may be that the typical profile of people who know about these products are that of better informed people, who wouldn’t rely on the internet in the first place….a sort of “Google proof” market. However globalisation is the ‘Googler’s’ hallmark so a good product is unlikely to escape their attention and so a company who have been powered by flowers for 154 years breezed through the greatest marketing shake up in living memory emerging even stronger with growing demand…not bad for a 154 year old when most still don’t make it past 40!!! If you still need convincing that flowers are good for you then this may interest you even more…

How Flowers Can Do It For You
When you consider a coconut has well over 30 uses including improving insulin levels and healing wounds it might not surprise you to learn there is an equally long list for flowers and herbs, when correctly sourced provide a natural product with the ability to aleveiate just some of the following:

Colds and coughs
Aches and pains
Bumps and bruises
First aid
Sleeplessness
Travel health
Hay fever
Allergies
Emotional well-being
Skin conditions
Headaches
Hormonal imbalances

Considering we have probably destroyed more species that we have discovered and that amounts to well under 10% of what is out there, what are we doing to redress the balance?

The Flower Business
Companies are emerging today who are strong contenders to develop our knowledge of this precious field, with participating customer bases, which includes the long established Nelsons who have indeed made considered and productive progress with our fragile ecology. As our knowledge base expands at amateur level along with our awareness more and more of us are starting to realise that far from being old wives’ tales that grandma’s magical cure is actually true, works, and is out there still to be enjoyed by a new generation searching out real and affordable solutions to health care and general maintenance of ourselves as our life spans continue to improve. The internet has helped us all hugely and the emergent traffic has helped to propel businesses like Nelsons into the reach of many new market places and thousands of new, keen participants each with their own agenda and needs to be derived from the amazing knowledge and processes that bring these cures and remedies into the outstretched arms of a new and enthusiastic audience. That said how on earth do you deal with the demand on your business?

NOW is The Hour
When your business explodes you can’t order nature to do the same, how do you recruit? How do you get supplies, how do you keep up with demand when there is no time for navel gazing! Well fortunately for Nelsons they saw the awakening and realised that they needed the people systems and infrastructure in place ready to go. However this is not without its choices and the ‘world is not enough’ it has to be much more divided up than that. It is in that division that a less experienced team might easily flounder.

One morning back in 2012,
I received a phone call from a friend and business colleague asking if I could help out with the re-organisation of a site in London. After a short brief I agreed to visit site and survey the situation, for at this point much had been done to predict, respond and engage with demand which required delivery of Nelsons’ goods and services totally seamlessly even although the plants need to grow and be harvested so they could be delivered NOW! So sayeth the market place and more specifically the internet, and so it was.

The trouble was that Nelsons already had such a service it just couldn’t continue to respond to NOW in the same way as it had and new methods needed to be sought out and arranged in a sort of Christmas present for the business which so desperately needed new socks, shirts and handkerchiefs to help it through the coming short and medium term growth phases.

If you think about it, just about everything we suffer from as humans has to find its way into our daily business lives so when the world invaded Nelsons like an out of control bacteria, they immediately reorganised to contain the situation. Since the demand was putting extensive pressure on production points that seemed the sensible place to start.

In such circumstances it would be prudent to get into the finer detail, microbial level assessment and it was thought that space may be the final frontier, they thought right, warehousing was an issue, but warehouses need planning permission, not to mention location, location, location and that was Wimbledon and it wasn’t about to affordably change. The clock was ticking.

Good things in small Packages
With pleasant tasting products which have the ability to help you fall to sleep to soothing colds, coughs as well as cuts and grazes to mention but a few amazing things that natural products can do, it’s a small wonder that our ever better informed world is keen to have these remedies on or around them.

Some of our world travellers would include them in their survival kits, others as part of personal health plans, everyone has their own agendas. The one thing that Nelsons do that sets them apart from the others is that their pastille range which has these extraordinary properties is placed in a strong container so that it is easy to carry about your person with said contents always in perfect condition for those occasions when they are required to be deployed.

As one of their most popular brands, along with some of their liquid products which are equally engaging, it was clear that production of these items had to keep pace with growing demand and that if market needs were to be satisfied something had to change. To put this into perspective Nelsons export to more than 70 countries so operationally there is a great deal of heavy business administration going on to collate the needs of those 70 countries, the market demands of each and then co-ordinate production and labelling to comply with the requirements of stock control, statutory information and
distribution.Recognisably automated as it is, there are still human intervention points along the way and it was to this that the management team of Nelsons turned their attention.

Somethings Got to Give
It was quickly realised that there was insufficient room to manufacture and hold adequate stocks and then run a picking and distribution operation from the facility at Wimbledon, so a plan to reorganise the actual production was created. With two industrial buildings on the site and a third just acquired the middle unit of the three, which already housed the production and bulk stocks was re-organised to accommodate only the ingredients queueing for imminent production batches and also to provide space for finished consignments to be removed off site daily freeing up the space for tomorrow’s work. This space allows for ‘shift’ patterns and so an orderly progress to meet demand is now scheduled through a fully integrated production ingredients warehouse.

Packing materials, quality inspection for raw and manufactured products as well as bulk supplies are held in an adjoining area where they can be worked on and prepared in a carefully monitored hygienically managed environment to control temperature and condition prior to inclusion in manufacturing.

Meantime the picking and distribution operations in the third unit now creaking under the load became the subject of some intensive calculations. The outcome of these was to despatch from production direct to a central distribution operation plumb bang in the middle of the UK’s (if not one of the world’s) busiest and best supported hub centres a stone’s throw from Heathrow. Neat, when you have 70 countries requiring your product traffic.

Going Forward
With over 90% of the world’s flower power as yet undiscovered, there is plenty of work to do for companies such as Nelsons and specifically Nelsons to focus on such a vast potential.

Top of the list is research and development. This in turn leads to improving the production process and running core business activities free from the distractions that market pressures often exert on successful business development.

Before you ask, the options of subcontracting aspects of their work and the affect on the business were carefully weighed up and the growth effect projected out against all the cost alternatives. They were able to determine exactly what the most cost effective action was relevant to their specific point of expansion.

What does all this mean to operations? Well it has changed an increasing challenging site into an open spacious complex where raw materials can be smoothly handled into production, processed and organised into its specialist product groups and sent in to a state of the art picking centre which tells production where stock is required, aids accurate forecasting and enables accurate traceability all at the speed of light…more or less.

Human intervention is normally at the request of a computer or the random status checks just to ensure the wheels are on and running freely.
The net effect now enables the same operation facility to double performance and deliver an ever greener, leaner and more productive end result and enjoy the benefits of reduced costs and the freedom to focus management activity on more customer benefits through improved operations.

How to double your Business and halve your Costs
Nice trick if you can do it but not so easy to do. First you have to have an exact fix on your business position and for that you need a navigator. Such a person will have experienced operational activities on a global basis so can see exactly where you are in your interface with the global market. The navigator will understand your strategic options and help you devise a plan.

You will still do exactly the same job as you did before only you may delegate key strategic tasks to remote, but essentially well placed new locations. You then need to re-equip to house the changes, this will include re-regulating yourself and ensuring that you are ahead of the game in terms of compliances, even setting new standards and raising the game in your industry and taking over the benchmark slot for a leading position.

You will bring in engineers and designers who will provide you with the latest tools and equipment to organise your operations exactly to plan, work to deadlines and adapt, improvise and overcome those issues which would hinder your progress and still bring the project in on time and on budget.

You might ask has this got anything at all to do with materials handling? You bet it has and distribution systems too. All these products must be stored, picked, packed and shipped and you must have state of the art business systems and equipment ready and waiting to perform. You then need to be sure it all arrives in tip tip condition correctly addressed and safely delivered there. All by magic. The magic of a plan well executed by, in this case, Nelsons and their trusted supporters, suppliers and service providers.

Many 25 year olds don’t perform half as well as this old timer, but it goes to show that experience, a good product and a good strategic plan and the ability to create the time and space to achieve it is the fundamental hallmark of a job well done. Don’t be fooled by their years though, the average age of the combined “Olympic standard business team” is much less!

For help or advise on any material handling project or problem contact Paul Casebourne:
paul@engineeredsolutions.info
tel. 01661 854025
http://engineeredsolutionsprojects.com/

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