Giving your business the right lift by going for Gold

Nigel Parkes, managing director of Pallet-Track argues that damaged pallets mean damaged reputations.

With so much Olympic goodwill floating around the UK, it seems only right that I use a sporting analogy when I discuss how to protect product and pallets in the supply chain.

The ana logy is not an original one, but it is apt in this context.

Moving pallets is a marathon, not a sprint.

Continuing the Olympic theme, this has proved to be a winning formula for Pallet-Track where we move more than one million pallets each year and earlier this year broke our own track record (pun intended) when we moved 9000 pallets in one single evening at our Wolverhampton hub.

Put this into context, when we started less than 10 years ago, we were moving around 800 pallets per night. This symbolises more than a 1000 per cent increase!

Yet, during that time, we have never lost a single pallet, and we believe we have the lowest damage rate across the 8 pallet networks. This is an Olympian achievement and is a reputation we strive to protect.

Our secret has been investment in people, training and technology.

This is why I refer to it as a marathon rather than a sprint.

We are in business to make a commercial profit, but that profit goes back into the right technology materials and people.

Put into context, a pallet in the network is moved by a fork-lift truck between six and eight times while in the supply chain. That is six or eight times it could potentially be damaged irrespective of what packaging and protection the manufacturer has put on the goods.

We are a general carrier moving everything from bathrooms and plasma TVs to fudge from Cornwall. This means that with conventional fork-lifts, the driver would have to constantly be getting on and off the truck to manually adjust the forks to ensure no damage occurs during the shipment.

Over the last few years, we have invested heavily – more than £1 million – in our materials handling technology to the point that the fork-lifts are not merely work horses but that each of our fleet carries automatic fork adjustors so that whatever the truck is carrying requires no human adjustments and allows the highly choreographed loading to be managed in a timely and cost efficient way.

It is the same philosophy with the staff training because you get back in loyalty what you put in with people investment.

This investment has come at a cost in terms of profitability – we are not the cheapest or the most profitable network – but we put that money back into making sure that we have the right tools for the job. And that means we can deliver high quality customer service standards.

However, this ethos – people ahead of profits and not being penny wise and pound stupid – has paid off for us.

We recognise that although we were the last into the industry, we are the fastest growing which means we must be doing something right.

The broader context is that with volatile fuel prices more and more businesses are using pallet networks for their cost effectiveness and because they reduce empty running on the UK roads at  times of high congestion.

To make that switch manufacturers and brands have to be sure that their product and the integrity of their supply chain are not found wanting. The protection of packaging is important, but more important is the track record of the network that specialises in general carrying. Damage is costly financially but more so reputationally as that manufacturer will think twice before using that service again and insurance premiums only head north, making the cost of doing business more expensive for all parties.

That is the financial cost, but it is the reputational cost of a bad track record of damage that has the biggest impact upon the business.