Wednesday 26th Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

Keith forster

Companies are often criticised for not investing enough in their businesses. That certainly can’t be said of Boughey Distribution. The company, which turned over just £14m five years ago, has set itself the target of pushing sales up to £41m this year and has invested some £19m to make that possible.

That sounds wildly ambitious but Keith Forster, the man behind the plan, can point to the fact that the business has doubled in size since he joined. And, the business had reached a point where its growth was constrained by lack of space so it was never going to be left with three very expensive, very empty sheds.

Boughey’s customers include household names such as Princes Foods, Patak’s and Ecover and it delivers to all the major retailers’ distribution centres. Its warehouses at Wardle, Winsford and Deeside can hold up to 136,500 pallets.

Much of that space has come through the addition of three units at the Wardle site near Crewe.

The new units are 12m high, occupy 300,000 square feet and will add 57,000 pallet spaces to the existing 44,000 pallets already held at Wardle. This has been managed by the installation of a combination of fixed and mobile racking, enabling 6,000 pallets in standard racking and 13,000 pallets in mobile racking to be accommodated in each unit.

The decision to go down the mobile racking route came from a suggestion by racking supplier Link 51. Each of the three new warehouses features eight aisles of static storage alongside blocks of mobile racking – four in one warehouse and three in the others – all of which comprise eight mobile chassis that each provide nine back-to-back bays. Each chassis can hold up to 810 tonnes – equivalent to the weight of a jumbo jet – all moved at the touch of a button.

Forster says Boughey didn’t want to go for a very narrow aisle system. “The saving in aisle space that results directly from the mobile racking design has not only allowed us to maximise the effectiveness of the footprint, but has also negated the need for new trucks and new skills training which would have arisen had we opted for a narrow aisle alternative,” he adds.

Each chassis within the mobile racking facility is mounted on a series of rails set into the floor. Activation either via a control panel or a remote control pad allows the operator to open a selected aisle – which is then automatically illuminated and benefits from infra-red safety protection – to provide conventional reach truck access. The bulk of the facility can therefore be kept in a ‘closed’ configuration, minimising the aisle requirement and thus generating the significant capacity benefits arising from the installation.

Boughey Distribution was established, in 1960, as a milk haulage company and in 1972 it was acquired by the NWF Group plc. Today, it is the nominated consolidation centre for J Sainsbury, Tesco and Somerfield. Other retailers such as Waitrose and Morrisons often direct suppliers to Boughey to achieve the service levels they require.

Boughey offers a range of added value services such as contract packing, relabelling and so on for promotions. It also has a fleet of trucks projected to growth to 150 artics and 15 rigids this year. It is in the process of bringing in MAN units with EGR. Forster says the telemetry is enabling Boughey to train drivers to improve performance and fuel consumption has gone from nine to 9.5 mpg.

The consolidation of the third party logistics market is opening up opportunities for companies like Boughey to pick up contracts from some of their larger competitors. For example, last year Boughey won a significant contract to provide logistics services to Typhoo Tea for the storage and distribution of its finished goods throughout the UK and overseas.

Typhoo’s products are held at Boughey’s Deeside warehouse. Space was made available by the loss of business through acquisition of HP Foods, whose warehousing and distribution was taken in-house by their new owners Heinz. Boughey has also gained a number of chocolate manufacturing customers and one of the units will be temperature-regulated to allow for storage of chocolate and chocolate-coated products during the warmer months.

Forster points out that planning for expansion on this scale has been critical – particularly management training and development so managers have been going through seven module development programme.

“We had an end game that we knew we wanted to get to – the process from planning to here has taken a number of years.”