Shippers’ Voice Seminar, Think Outside the Box

Thursday, April 30, 2009

One of the conclusions of the Shippers’ Voice seminar discussing Portcentric Logistics Solutions at the Multimodal 2009 exhibition was that now maybe even the best time for shippers to reassess their logistics patterns and structure.

Nick Lindsay, General Manager LM Logistics Group, told delegates that “this is the time to think as far outside the box as you want and you’ll find the solution.” His Felixstowe-based company, originally built on container haulage, is now offering direct small parcel deliveries into retailers as well as home delivery of furniture for customers. “Logistics suppliers have to be flexible and innovative to help customers develop better, more cost-effective supply chains.”

“The name of the game is to find ways and means to cut costs,” said Vincent De Saedeleer, Vice President of the Port of Zeebrugge Authority. He admits that volumes through the port “have dropped at a rate we have never seen before” but says that this is encouraging the port to be more responsive to what the market wants.

Martyn Pellew, Group Development Director, PD Ports, explained that the recession is forcing people to think differently. “When times are good, people are not quite so focused on logistics costs – they just need to keep the volumes flowing to the retailers shelves. Now everyone is looking at every aspect of their supply chains.”

He emphasized that we need to look for long-term solutions as the overall trend is no doubt one of growth. “We need to be flexible now but also look at how we can cater for the rising volumes which will inevitably come. We need to continue to invest in transport infrastructure so that it is ready when it is needed.”

PD Ports is a strong advocate of portcentric logistics and already Asda and Tesco have built distribution centers at Teesport in north-east England. The strategy is to build logistics facilities as close to ports as possible to reduce the costs of hauling containers to and from inland distribution centers. The goods are then picked and packed to serve the more local market directly.

Neil Fletcher, Customer Planning Manager, DP World Southampton, agreed that ports and other logistics providers, need to prepare for the good times ahead. “We need to invest now so we are ready when the numbers really start to come back.” DHL has a logistics centre on the port, which is right next to the city of Southampton.

Julio Hernandez from the Port of Ferrol in Spain, emphasised the need for good planning. “We need good statistics about the origin and destination of goods, so we can work with customers to help suggest different traffic flows.” His port is looking at new services to the UK and Ireland. “They don’t have to be high frequency at the start, but we need to look at new ways of doing logistics.”    

Andrew Traill, Managing Partner, Shippers’ Voice, who chaired the meeting asked if it was the customers or the logistics providers who were driving the changes. The speakers all agreed some customers were more proactive than others – but also agreed that logistics providers needed to come up with ideas.

The conclusion was: When customers are simply trying to survive, it can be hard to get them to lift their heads up and look at trying new ways of doing things. So it is all the more important that everyone in the supply chain works together to develop better, more cost-effective logistics solutions.

The Voice of the Shipper LLP is a joint venture between Dr Traill’s SV2 Ltd, the freight and logistics research consultancy MDS Transmodal, and MissionMKG, PR and marketing specialists in the freight and logistics industry.

(www.shippersvoice.com)

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