Zupplychain.com is a brand new logistics-based web portal matching customers looking for warehouse space with warehouse operators, by matching the specifications of the customer’s pallets with the warehouse’s racking. Leading the Zupplychain team is Martin Elgood, Managing Director, who made his career in manufacturing and distribution businesses supplying large footprint retailers. A Cambridge graduate, Martin started his career as a management consultant, then held senior management posts at Danesmoor Group and Gower Furniture, giving him high level experience of sales, marketing and supply chain management into large multiple retailers in furniture and DIY, and trade/merchant channels.
Martin Elgood spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
Warehouse & Logistics News – Martin, how did you come to set up Zupplychain?
Zupplychain is the idea of our founder, Chris Hopkinson. He’s had the idea for several years, and after selling his family distribution company and floating another business, he wanted to turn his idea into reality. I’ve known Chris over 20 years – we were both in kitchen furniture, so when he asked me to head Zupplychain, I jumped at the opportunity.
WLN – Where are you based? Who owns Zupplychain?
We are based in Bury, in the same building as our website design partners who helped build the website. Zupplychain is mostly owned by Chris.
WLN – Who else is on the team with you?
So far, we have Kristian Petterson – our Website Marketing Manager – who runs all the Google analytics, Google Adwords, social media etc and will be dealing with phone and mail enquiries from warehouse providers and customers; Lauren Bartlett, our Business Development Executive who is building our warehouse registrations; and Matt Alton and Marcus Atty working on the website build. We are currently recruiting two more positions.
WLN – What previous experience do you and your colleagues have of running an operation like this?
Chris has over a decade’s experience in transactional websites as an investor and non-executive director of AO.com, the on-line retailer of electrical appliances.
Kristian’s background is with agencies providing digital marketing services, and Lauren is from the logistics industry. My background has been mostly with large, relatively mature businesses, so an Internet start-up is all new for me!
WLN – When does Zupplychain go live?
We went live on February 1st for warehouse provider registrations.
Once we have decent national warehouse coverage, we will go live with the customer search facility. We expect this to take two to three months. Meanwhile providers and customers can see how the search facility works by using our example search with some fictional warehouses.
WLN – How would you summarise the Zupplychain proposition?
Zupplychain is a market-making website where operators and owners of 3PL warehouses register and specify rack space available by the pallet either now and/or for future dates. They price their space, and can vary the pricing for different types of pallet space and different seasons. Potential customers – from small businesses through to large retailers – can then specify their storage requirements in terms of desired location, type of pallet (width, height, weight) and estimated period of storage.
Zupplychain’s algorithm then matches their specification to available warehouses, listed by distance from the centre of their search and provides details of both weekly and estimated total cost for the storage.
WLN – How many storage providers will Zupplychain users have access to?
We estimate the possible universe of storage providers at around 1,500- 2,000. To get started we think we need at least 100 registered storage providers, though it will depend on the geographic spread. As we are a completely new concept for the industry, we are recruiting warehouse providers through traditional trade marketing – advertising in Warehouse & Logistics News; directly contacting 3PLs; and building relationships with pallet networks and trade organisations.
When we’re better known, we will be able to recruit through digital marketing too. Any warehouse providers reading this who are interested in joining Zupplychain should get in touch as soon as possible, by going to www.zupplychain.com or ringing us on 0161 705 4326. Our details are below.
WLN – Who do you see as the potential users for this service?
The potential users are a broad church, from small businesses with pallets currently in self-storage facilities who want to put them somewhere more efficient and with full picking and distribution services, through to retailers who have unforecast over-stocks. In between, there are manufacturing and distribution companies whose stock has temporarily (or permanently) exceeded their own storage and need it out of the way quickly. At first, we expect customers to be mostly those with a pressing problem to solve, but our long term strategic vision is to facilitate the out-sourcing of warehousing for more small and medium sized companies – who usually run their own warehouses currently – so growing companies don’t think about leasing or building new warehouses, but use the existing capacity in the 3PL community. And Zupplychain enables customers to implement more strategic warehousing solutions such as storing near customers or ports – rather than the default of adding warehousing close to base.
WLN – How do people use the service?
Potential customers specify what quantity and type of pallets they want to store, and where, in our search facility. Our search engine then returns the best fit results, ordered by distance. The customer can look at profiles of each warehouse, which in time will include customer ratings, and send a detailed enquiry to up to three warehouses on the list. We have then automated the process of turning the enquiry into a contract, with payment terms proposed and agreed along the way and an option to ask for in-bound transport from the warehouse provider. Once a contract is agreed, Zupplychain continues to act as the fulcrum for messages between the parties – at the heart of this is a database for each pallet with a unique reference number enabling the customer to specify outbound movements pallet by pallet. So, in total, Zupplychain allows the two parties to find each other, agree a contract, and operate without the need for meetings, phone calls or manually generated emails.
WLN – Is there a minimum order quantity?
There’s no minimum order specified on the system, but the storage providers are free to decline an enquiry if the requirement doesn’t suit their business.
WLN – Do you see Zupplychain as primarily a short-term solution?
Yes and no. We expect a lot of customers will want to use Zupplychain to solve short-term emergency space problems but we are also likely to be speaking to people seeking to outsource their warehouse space as part of their medium/long term strategy.
We are a market maker bringing buyers and sellers together, helping people who want everything from storage space near the port of entry to more strategic storage to meet their supply requirements as they grow.
WLN – What will it cost to use the Zupplychain service?
We are starting by offering the service for free, so as to understand the level of demand with both providers and customers and, more importantly, understand what further services both parties want us to add (we have lots of ideas for expansion!) Obviously, we will need an income stream to support the investment. However, we intend to continue to offer free registration and then have a small mark up to pricing, very much like Airbnb operates. It has been commented that we are an Airbnb for pallets!
WLN – Is there anything on the market directly similar to Zupplychain?
No. Zupplychain is a brand new concept, inspired by the success of other ‘peer to peer’ websites. There are a few UK warehouse listing websites, but you have to ring or email them to progress an enquiry.
Zupplychain is more immediate, transparent and fully integrated with communications and a pallet by pallet database.
WLN – Besides this interview and advertising in Warehouse & Logistics News, how else are you launching Zupplychain to potential users?
To attract storage providers, we have been networking the industry through contacts, which always leads to more contacts, and presenting the idea to groups in the industry, sometimes with the help of pallet networks. And Lauren is busy making appointments with 3PLs to present Zupplychain and get warehouse providers registered.
To bring potential customers to our site, the principal marketing will be ‘pay per click’ by identifying key search terms. Also, the readership of W&LN has as many potential customers of Zupplychain as providers. Our initial adverts target warehouse owners, but the message is clear to customers also, and we have some customer based adverts ready for when we launch our live search facility.
WLN – Have you pitched the Zupplychain proposition to your old contacts in the multiple furniture and DIY retailers?
Not yet, but I will! Our initial focus is on getting enough providers on board, before we bring customers to the site. We want to be confident we can deliver meaningful search results first.
WLN – What are your initial targets for Zupplychain in terms of numbers of providers and users?
As I said, we think we need 100 providers to start targeting customers, though it could be fewer depending on the geographical spread. We aim to have 500 providers within 12 months. We haven’t got a target for customers – clearly, as many as possible!
WLN – How many storage provider registrations have you had so far?
We went live on February 1st, and have been astonished with the response, even before our advertising kicks in – we’ve had over 50 registrations in the first 10 days!
TEL: 0161 705 4326