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manufacturers, producers and, to some extent the consumer, reverse logistics will not be successful. To ensure unbroken links in the both the outbound and inbound supply chain, constant communication and shared processes and strategies are vital.

Reverse logistics is not merely a hiccough in the day-to-day running of a business – it is an integral part of any business involved in the supply chain, which can bring many benefits.

All retailers, manufacturers and producers need to review their reverse logistics processes, ensuring they are financially watertight. Rather than investing in costly, made-to-measure reverse logistics systems, companies can work with their existing systems to establish a process that is the right fit for them and their supply chain partners. Reverse logistics has long been ignored but, the recent boom in online and mail-order shopping has meant that reverse logistics is a business necessity that can no longer be forgotten. n

Steve Tonks and Steve Gardener are with Ross Systems UK. Tel: 01604 630050.

The South-west is the largest region in England, occupying one fifth of the country’s land area, with almost one million people living within the Greater Bristol area. About 45 million people – more than 70% of the national population – live within a 300km radius of the city of Bristol. Since the late nineteenth century, the docks complex and surrounding area at the entrance of the River Avon, known as Avonmouth, has traditionally been Bristol’s manufacturing industrial and distribution suburb.

Increasingly, Avonmouth has been successful in gaining a new role as the South-west’s main logistics gateway for both national and global markets. Today, a large number of people are employed by a wide range of companies that have located to the Avonmouth area to benefit from the revival of the port and adjacent logistics and manufacturing activities. In their wake these companies have brought new business and employment opportunities, while contributing substantially to the South-west’s economy.

The situation today is in sharp contrast to that just over a decade ago when both the port and local industry at Avonmouth experienced a decline, resulting in job losses, the appearance of dilapidated buildings and an air of despair. However, that has all changed thanks to new initiatives, investment and vision. In recent years the area around Avonmouth has undergone a complete transformation in status, resulting in a thriving and modern port, attracting new markets and customers.

This and other local investment has resulted in spin-off synergy benefits for Avonmouth as a whole – the mushrooming of state-of-the-art warehousing facilities, logistics parks, intermodal freight connections, and local road improvements and nearby motorway accessibility. Consequently, the port, surrounding industries, new buildings, logistics facilities, improved transport links and extensive greening measures all contribute to exuding an air of optimism, prosperity, renewed confidence and higher expectations for Avonmouth’s future prospects.

Historically, Avonmouth has been part of the Port of Bristol for 100-plus years; with maritime trading activity in the area traceable back 1,000 years. As ships became bigger in the last century most commercial shipping activity moved from the centre of Bristol to Avonmouth. However, during the 1970s and 1980s the Port of Bristol, in similar fashion to other British ports, experienced a rapid decline due to a change in the pattern of world trade and increasing container traffic.

Today, commercial shipping traffic has long disappeared from the Avon’s upper reaches in TABLE 1: Total population within 250km and 300km from bristol and competing portsfig 5Ports250km 300km







Source: Bristol Port Company Ltd, 2004the heart of Bristol. It is now concentrated in the two major docks located on opposite banks at the entrance of the River Avon – the Royal Portbury Dock and the Avonmouth Docks. The Royal Portbury Dock can handle ships up to 130,000 dead weight tonnage (DWT), while the Avonmouth Docks can accommodate vessels up to 39,900 dwt.

Like many other British ports Bristol was under the municipal control of the Corporation of Bristol City. In the 1960s annual cargo traffic at the port reached ten million tonnes. This fell to around four million tonnes in the 1980s. The City Docks in Bristol were closed to commercial traffic in the early 1970s. As trade at the Avonmouth continued to decline it seemed that these docks may also face closure. That was until August 1991 when the Port of Bristol Authority, lacking the investment required to sustain new growth, did a £36M deal with two businessmen – Terence Mordaunt and David Ord – for the port to go private.

Since being privatised the port has reinvented itself. The result was the creation of the Bristol Port Company, comprising the Royal Portbury Dock and Avonmouth Docks, and the start of a period of revitalisation of the port and surrounding area.

The following years saw a period of hefty investment totalling more than £300M, careful planning, innovation and new ideas to transform the port into a vibrant and profitable enterprise. With the objective being growth, market diversification and setting goals have been key factors in the port’s success with trade increasing from a low of four million tonnes per year to around 11 million tonnes today.

Strategically, the port is ideally located. Consumer markets in the Midlands and South-east, as well as Wales and the Irish markets are within easy reach. Remarkably, more than 75% of the country’s population is located within 300km of Bristol (see Table 1.).

As a location, the port and

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