There are parts of the country that are rapidly becoming no-go areas for warehouse development – particularly in the South.
As anyone who has visited the “Stop Megasheds” web site will know, Tesco plans for a new distribution centre near Andover have come up against fierce opposition from the locals. And, at Farnborough, a proposed distribution centre has been labelled the “Pystock Horror” by SPLAT, a group set up to oppose it.
These campaigns are attracting support from a lot of well-connected people, including two who you might expect to know better: former secretary of state for transport Sir George Young, and Chris Grayling who is a former shadow transport secretary.
Clearly any development at such sites is going to be very slow and very painful. And that is becoming a big problem, particularly in the grocery market where distribution centres are often close to capacity.
As a result, more creative solutions are increasingly coming under scrutiny. For example, could the utilisation of existing facilities be improved?
One solution would be to reduce the time between ambient orders arriving at an RDC and delivery. This is often some five days so there is scope to move to a similar system as that used in the temperature-controlled sector taking some three days out of the chain.
There is an obvious financial benefit from reducing the amount of inventory a company has to hold. But perhaps more relevant is the fact that the RDC doesn’t have to hold as much stock.
And that could be a lifesaver where an RDC is reaching capacity and there are problems in finding locations to expand. Clearly, there are costs associated with going over to a more rapid turnaround. In addition, it would increase pressure on suppliers’ deliveries, and, of course, there would be less room for error.
But finding land to do anything is increasingly difficult in the South, so the market for creative solutions is only going to increase.