Monday 24th Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

Taking technology on board

This is not a simple objective, given the relative complexity of Condor’s operation. The Poole-based company trades as a Channel Island operator, sailing daily out of Weymouth, Poole and Portsmouth in the UK and carrying up to 5,000 passengers daily plus passenger vehicles and freight to Jersey, Guernsey, St Malo and Cherbourg. Condor also runs a daily charter service to Cherbourg for Brittany Ferries.

To provide these services the company operates a fleet of five vessels – three high speed wave-piercers, or car-carrying catamarans, and two conventional ships, one of which is dedicated to freight.

Condor’s freight service provides a vital supply link between the UK, Channel Islands and St Malo for fresh and frozen produce as well as other traffic. It includes a twice daily ro-ro (roll-on, roll-off) service between Portsmouth, Guernsey and Jersey, and an all year light freight fast ferry service between Weymouth, the Channel Islands and St Malo.

Inventory management

Condor Logistics, a sister company, also operates from sites in Portsmouth, Solihull in the West Midlands, Jersey and Guernsey. It has a fleet of trailers and works to ISO 9001/2000 standards. Its services include secure and bonded warehousing, next-day delivery, computerised track and trace and inventory management.

Aboard, Condor Ferries’ retail electronic point of sale (EPOS) system logs continuous transactions in its floating bars, restaurants and shops, from the first sailing at 7am until the last vessel docks at midnight. Condor shops stock more than 1,400 lines of product including 400 lines of duty free goods, from whisky and wines to tobacco and watches, toys and perfumes.

“When an item is sold on a ferry the information is transmitted right through the system, showing up as a picking note in our warehouse which then fulfils and despatches a replacement item back to the boat,” explains Condor Ferries bond manager Brett Thornicroft. “Since we automated our supply chain its productivity has increased by as much as 15%, largely because we have taken people – and therefore human error – out of the loop.”

Davies adds: “Our objective has been to produce a seamless system where the minimum number of keystrokes has to be made.”

Condor’s retail EPOS and warehouse management systems (WMS) are fully integrated. As a vessel docks in the Channel Islands, radio communications at the port of arrival link to the ship to transmit all retail transactions that have been performed during the voyage from the UK.

Fast turnarounds

That data is then uploaded to the company’s head office computer system in the UK to provide its warehouse operation with the necessary stock replenishment information. By the time the vessel has sailed back to the UK the stock has been picked, packed and transported to the dockside for loading.

Information can also be transmitted in the other direction, from Condor’s warehouse operation to its fleet, using the same communications process.

Occasional daytime fast turnarounds involve the same procedure but transmit the data from the UK port, and may require a typically smaller quantity of emergency stock – 20 cases of spirits for instance – to be moved from Condor’s warehouse in Poole to the relevant ship in around 20 minutes. Here, Condor’s new warehouse management environment really comes into its own: “It is fast, and certainly suits our type of operation,” Thornicroft says.

Stock location

Condor Ferries has installed Delta Software’s bonded warehouse management system, DeltaBond, which has a Windows interface that is highly graphical. The system is designed to improve stock location accuracy and reduce labour costs. It enables full stock traceability, from point of receipt to point of despatch, for any item that moves through the warehouse.

DeltaBond manages stock for a bonded warehouse environment and handles the deferment of all applicable duties, including the generation of all duty payment HM Customs & Excise (HM C&E) paperwork. Condor’s operation is duty free in the Channel Islands and so has to provide information for HM C&E on all onboard excisable goods: the system produces documentation that is almost identical to the HM C&E-approved forms, which reduces administration.

Condor’s Poole warehouse has 1,023sq m of storage with 280 pallet positions, and employs 18 staff. The company has installed two Kardex vertical storage Industrievers (picking carousels), which provide an additional 112sq m of storage for a footprint of just 16sq m. These 8.5m high, fully automated rotary storage shelving units are fully integrated with the DeltaBond system, which controls the put-away and the picking.

Improved quality

A lot has changed for Condor Ferries, which has been in business since the 1960s. “For us, hard copy is now old hat,” Thornicroft says. “Whatever information we need can be extracted from the system, for Customs and Excise or for ourselves. HM C&E are hot on audit trails, and we can meet their demands by tracing a product from manufacture right through to point of sale. For our own purposes we can view a logistics procedure from any angle, produce a report and distribute it by email.”

Davies concludes: “Automating our ship-to-shore supply chain has been a big step forward for our business. It has positioned us amongst the more innovative players in our industry, cut costs and made us more productive. Most importantly, it has improved the quality of our onboard service for our passengers.”