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Following Eddie

Over the years manufacturing has treated storage and distribution as a Cinderella. Late and incomplete deliveries and damage in transit have been all too regular occurrences.

Anyone who has travelled the motorways will have seen the striking livery of Eddie Stobartís trucks. From humble beginnings Eddie built up a storage and distribution network that is the envy of many in the distribution business. From the start Eddie Stobart's motto was 'Only the best will do'.

Recently I was contacted by the owner of a medium sized fabricator, who was thinking of investing in new lorries and storage facilities. He was determined to overcome the dissatisfaction he felt about storage and delivery and asked for my advice:

  • The lorries were old, scruffy and did not reflect the quality image he wanted to project.
  • Mistakes occurred in loading and delivery.
  • The cost of storage and distribution was rising as fuel prices, truck maintenance costs and wages increased. But would the market stand a price increase?
  • Product was being damaged in storage and distribution.
  • Getting windows delivered on time was a struggle. Some of it was down to the company, but road congestion was also a problem.

A full bag of issues to address! But he was not looking for a quick fix and, like Eddie Stobart, he wanted the best solution. We tackled the challenge by breaking it down into seven headings:

  1. Minimise the amount of stock by making windows as close to the delivery date as possible. This means careful production planning, reduced batch sizes and minimum WIP - work in process stock. The temptation is to hold too much stock Ďjust in caseí. This masks either your own or your suppliers problems. The less stock you hold, the easier it is to locate orders for delivery, and less the chance of loss and damage. Reduce stocks gradually and solve problems that arise as you go.

  2. Minimise errors in delivery by ensuring that the people responsible for marshalling orders, loading the lorries and off-loading at the customerís site use load check sheets with every part listed.

  3. Take time and plan to maximise the payload for every trip and be sure that items to be unloaded first are at the back of the truck.

  4. Take time to plan routes, balancing the shortest distance while avoiding known congestion times and places. I know one fabricator who sets off on the M25 well before the traffic jams and starts the day's delivery at his furthest customer.

  5. Before replacing the trucks:

    • Total the actual costs incurred in transport and divide them by the windows delivered to give a cost per window.
    • Speak to dealers to find the best truck size for your loads and then haggle to get the best deal. Then recalculate the cost per window.
    • Think about livery. Your lorries are a moving advertisement and itís often all a customer sees of your company, so make it smart. Make sure the driver is well trained and well turned out.

  6. Look at the benefits of outsourcing to a logistics company. Outsourcing gives you the benefit of professional logistics with specialised experience, but you lose direct control. Outsourcing is often cheaper but forces a high degree of discipline on the fabricator.

  7. Draw up an achievable action plan, seek good advice and involve as many people as you can.

These are common issues in the window industry. Many fabricators, systems companies and hardware firms struggle to optimise customer service at an affordable cost. Customers will only stand for poor service for so long. If this rings a bell with you, we can provide practical help. Call Helen Ahern or myself on 01453 521621, or e-mail me at



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