Cool moves in retail logistics

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To an outsider it must look slightly schizophrenic. On the one hand retailers and suppliers are looking for ways to take vehicles off the road. On the other, retailers are increasingly demanding next day delivery of ambient goods.

The past month has provided evidence of both trends. Research by the Institute of Grocery Distribution shows that 204 million heavy goods vehicle miles have been taken off UK roads by food and grocery companies.

The data comes from 40 companies taking part in the IGD’s efficient consumer response programme over the past five years. The figure equates to taking about 3,500 lorries out of the UK transport system.

Achieving it has involved sharing vehicles trucks (even with competitors); using vehicle scheduling technology; and switching operations from road to rail.

Butt then there is a move towards next day delivery of ambient products. Culina has just started such a service for Tesco. Day one for day two is common enough in chilled where shelf life is everything and demands a high performance delivery service.

But ambient… what does it matter if ambient goods sit around for a few days? For retailers, the answer is quite a lot. The driving force for change is reducing working capital tied up in the supply chain as well as improving on shelf availability.

These are both laudable aims, but as a result it seems likely that that the intensity of delivery for ambient goods will inevitably be stepped up to match that for chilled.

The question is, can this be achieved a the same time as continuing to increase the efficiency of the delivery system. Now that would be really cool.

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