As part of Transport Intelligence’s Logistics Briefing service we undertake press tours in various locations around the world to gain first-hand knowledge of developments within the industry and, ideally, some fresh insights into global trends and market forces.
Our most recent trip was to a region of northern France called Nord-Pas-de-Calais to learn more about the logistics activities being undertaken there. The region itself occupies an enviable position, with the key markets, and 50m people, of London, Paris, Brussels, Rotterdam and Amsterdam all located within 300 km. Moreover, the highly developed infrastructure of the surrounding region, and Nord-Pas-de-Calais’ position on the major trade lane to north-western Europe, makes it a prime candidate for warehousing and distribution hubs.
On the trip we were treated to tours of warehouses, ports, factories, rail hubs, container freight stations and had the opportunity to watch a number of pitches from a variety of logistics business start-ups. Warehousing and distribution for e-commerce clients was an area of particular growth and during the trip we saw a number of different such operations, each on a different scale and each with a different approach.
The first warehouse we visited was situated in Cambrai and operated by C Log, the logistics subsidiary of the Beaumanoir Group specialising in fashion e-commerce. It uses IT systems and handheld scanners to conduct order processing and picking and packing services within the 12,500 sq m warehouse. The goods are then passed on to delivery companies for express delivery. While the operations at C Log lack the sort of automated assistance prevalent in the other warehouses we visited, this has not stopped the company expanding, with C Log now present in over 70 countries and planning its move into the UK and the US.
Next we were whisked away to view another warehousing development opened in November 2013 and operated by Oxylane, a sporting goods development and distribution company that owns the Decathlon brand. This was on a rather different scale, in sum the warehouse totalled 54,000 sq m and featured some jolly impressive 10 m high racking and picking and packing operations are conducted with the help the appropriate forklifts and reach stackers. The facility serves as the central continental warehouse for a network of regional warehouses and is therefore afforded longer response times to changes in demand than its contemporary C Log. Still though, for such a new facility it is very busy and Oxylane expects to double its operations there over the next six months alongside the introduction of further picking equipment.
The third warehouse we explored featured another altogether different approach to the task of warehousing, picking and packing. It was operated by Dispeo, a 3PL company that specialises in e-commerce services. The warehouse boasted a high degree of automation with a system of conveyors, packaging machinery and IT solutions supplementing the efforts of the 1,000 employees working at the 36,000 sq m facility. After picking and packing services are carried out at the warehouse goods are given over to the company’s subsidiary Mondial Relay, a parcel sorting and delivery company. Express is the name of the game here, with goods only held in the warehouse for a maximum of 48 hours and sent on to customers for next day delivery.
These stand as three different examples of warehousing practices. However, despite apparent differences in sophistication and modernity, they each have one characteristic in common, success. The reason why? Well it’s another of their common factors, Location. The standard of the infrastructure and the size of the market in the surrounding region provide among the best possible environs for profitable warehousing and distribution operations.
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