ByBox Field Support operates the UK’s largest dedicated overnight parts distribution service, making over 20 million deliveries a year and with a 70% share of total UK outsourced parts deliveries. ByBox delivers parts before 8.00am six days a week into its national network of 18,000 Pick Up and Drop Off (PUDO) and drop boxes, situated at over 1,350 locations. ByBox offers a similar service in France, and operates in four other European territories with partners.
Coca-Cola, Fujitsu, Unisys and GlaxoSmithkline are some of the major companies whose UK field engineers rely on ByBox’s ability to get parts where they need them. ByBox also provides distribution solutions for companies who maintain equipment in hospitals, which means that the delivery is often vital to help save someone’s life. But there’s more to ByBox than field service support via drop boxes, as Mark Garritt, Managing Director of ByBox, told Warehouse & Logistics News.
“You’d easily be forgiven for thinking we simply provide a very robust transport solution which delivers,” says Mark, “and critically, returns time-sensitive spare parts to field engineers, and achieves as close to 100% delivery performance as you can get. Yes, we do provide all that, but as increasing numbers of companies know, it’s only a component of what ByBox can offer in the B2B market.
“We are box-centric, but boxes are only part of the story. Our major differentiator from other drop box operators is that we go to great lengths to understand the customer and anticipate their needs. Our field support service is an enabler, a platform for us to provide clients with a broader, deeper service, and furnish them with total end-to-end supply chain solutions to transform their operations, their customer service and their business overall.”
Mark Garritt says he and his colleagues like to refer to what ByBox does as a ‘virtual warehouse.’ “With our Thinventory IT platform,” he explains, “you can ‘lift the lid’ and see the parts available to you, and where they are, whether they are with a supplier, a repair house, in an engineer’s vehicle, a Field Service Location or a warehouse, and order the part you need closest to the problem you’re trying to fix. It helps our customers reduce their stock holding by up to 80% and cut their logistics costs by over 50%. For many customers, using ByBox is a positive contribution, not a cost to their business. We have saved one customer as much as £3m in parts holding and delivery.”
ByBox also offers companies a route to becoming greener in their logistics operations. As confirmed by an independent audit, ByBox is 80% more carbon friendly than other methods of delivering parts. Mark continues, “our customers have a social conscience, and carbon efficiency plays a part in their decision making process when choosing ByBox.”
Ten years of success
The ByBox group is 10 years old next spring. Founded by IT expert Stuart Miller and Dan Turner, now ByBox’s CEO and Chief Technnical Officer respectively, the business began with a 25% stake in a left-luggage locker factory in France, of which they now own 100%. Today the Group is the world’s locker market leader, with 80% of the global market and some 54,000 lockers in 22 countries.
“Our boxes are the best in the world; they’ve won every single supplier comparison, and we’ve even had competitors ask the factory to supply them, which is praise indeed. They are installed everywhere from the tops of mountains in the Alps to Honolulu airport; they work off solid state memory; they’re not sensitive to extreme conditions; they can withstand knocks and blows; and they can work without power or communications, where others can’t! They are intelligent in the truest of senses, and enable us to provide the platform that we do.”
Mark Garritt joined ByBox from Hays DX, where he was Sales Director, in 2003. He started at ByBox as Commercial Director, becoming MD of ByBox Field Support in 2004.
“My focus is one hundred percent on Field Support here in the UK, in France, and the emerging territories. Stuart Miller, the CEO, and I work well together,” says Mark. “We both have a lot of day to day involvement with our customers, and are backed by a fabulous team, whose enthusiasm for innovation and looking after our customers has got us where we are today.”
Being privately owned means ByBox is able to be nimble in investments and other decisions. It is a company dedicated to innovating and managing solutions for its clients, and has the trophies to prove it. Mark explains: “We have won various awards and accolades over the past six years, including the Deloitte Fast 50, where we were outright winners and the IFW award for innovation. Both were won in the Technology Sector,” Mark points out. “I think that’s conclusive proof that we’re about smart solutions, and not just drop boxes! We have won, and have been finalists for, many prestigious awards. We appreciate receiving these accolades, but ultimately they are no more than validation that people like what we’re doing. The really important measure of our success is our customer satisfaction and retention.”
Three layers of Field Support
ByBox Field Support’s service structure has three layers. Across the top is a unique IT platform called Thinventory, which ByBox have developed in-house, and provides 100% visibility across a customer’s supply chain. Thinventory integrates with suppliers and manufacturers’ networks, and traces the life of a spare part, right down to the serial number.
“The really clever bit of Thinventory,” says Mark “is that it enables us to predict what our customer will want to do with the parts, and dynamically route individual parts to the engineer or the job.” ByBox have set rules about what happens to parts in the field. Mark explains: “We ask ourselves questions. Do we want to see the part, or the part it’s replaced back into the supply chain within 24 hours? If so, we wave a flag if this has not happened, and call the engineer. Do we need to make a warranty claim? If so, make the claim! Does the part need to go to a repair house? if so, we deliver it there the same night; if the service level agreement with the repair house stipulates 24 hours, again, we raise a flag and manage the part back into good stock as quickly as possible. Does the part simply need to be returned to the supplier or go off to ‘end of life’? Either way, without any manual intervention, and for all elements of the supply chain, our technology auto-routes and provides useful management information, vastly reducing the time it takes parts to go round the supply chain.” Typically, from collection to fix, to repair and return into ‘good’ stock takes under 72 hours.
Reliable, predictable, dependable
The second tier of the ByBox business is its physical infrastructure. The main hub is in Coventry, with an admin office in Wantage, Oxfordshire and service centres UK-wide. ByBox run a late hub to facilitate in-bound European freight, holding strategic stock for many customers, who can order parts until 11.30 pm for field delivery before 8.00am next day. ByBox achieve 100% delivery before 8.00am, and 96% before 6.00am. This helps customers reduce stem mileage and extend field engineers’ working days, while reducing the reliance on Field Stocking Locations (FSL’s) and expensive same-day movements. Mark says one customer has saved around £3m annually on its same-day and FSL costs by taking full advantage of the late hub.
The hub also handles allocation of parts to engineers. “Customers send us parts and at the end of the day work out the most efficient engineer to complete the job the following day, and we schedule the engineer to the part and the job, helping our customers maximise the efficiency of their field-based resource.” ByBox deliver and collect on some 220 routes, using the same person, same place, same time, every day. “In the early days our strap line was ‘reliable, predictable, dependable’, and we’re proud to say it’s like that in reality.”
Tier three of the ByBox Field Support structure is the box/PUDO network, a combination of Lock Boxes, Intelligent Boxes and PUDO’s and 28 Field Stocking Locations. With some 1,350 locations, customers’ engineers are typically no more than 2.5 miles from their local box, in convenient locations, usually at supermarkets or petrol stations. “We’ve doubled the number of locations over the past five years, and will continue to grow the network based on customer demands and requests. The recent fuel price issue was interesting for us: customers really appreciated the benefit of the size of the network, and now they often put this factor into their overall ROI calculation when measuring the benefits of ByBox against an alternative method of dispatch.
ByBox Field Support operates across five territories and eleven sectors, including various emerging markets, and has a dedicated team to take advantage of these new opportunities. “Our traditional markets are reprographics and technology, which have been, and continue to be, very good to us. Customers in these sectors demand the best in terms of service and innovation, and have a huge appetite to reduce their costs: they have to be our favourite types of customers. Our approach to them is, tell us the problems you face, and we’ll help you come up with the answer. This flexibility is what has driven our business and taken us from being a box provider to a supply chain specialist business over five years.
The consumer opportunity
In the early days of the business, in parallel with establishing the Field Support side ByBox took advantage of the dotcom boom by providing consumers with lockers which offered a safe, convenient place to have Internet purchases delivered during the day while people were at work. This is still part of the business, and has recently been re-branded as mybybox.com. The recent launch of mybybox.com brings ByBox back to its original vision for the lockers being there to serve consumers and makes the network available for on-line consumers to have parcels delivered to their local box, for collection at their convenience.
In another business stream, ByBox also provide lockers and technology under Dan Turner’s lead to foreign post authorities and logistics providers. “There’s been a bit of a resurgence in the left locker market,” says Mark, “which helps provide funds for R&D across the group.”
Today, ByBox turns over £30m as a group, with Field Support accounting for the majority of the income: “We can see a day when the consumer business will be an equal size,” says Mark, ”and maybe even dwarf Field Support, but we’re not in a great hurry to get there. We prefer to take this opportunity in bite size chunks, and get it right as we go along. We expect to grow 15% organically next year, and a further 20% through acquisitions to enable us to provide a broader service offering to Field Support Customers.
“We stand apart for our passion for customer service, having naturally inquisitive minds, genuinely wanting to create solutions to fix customers’ problems, a daily appreciation of who pays our salaries and an obsession with staying in front of the rest, but our biggest point of difference is our IT.” Mark Garritt says ByBox differs dramatically from other players in the market in investing 10% of their turnover back into the IT department, and maintains that most of their success can be attributed to this:
“IT is king: you have to make it work for you and your customers. How many organisations will tell you the blockage in their business is the IT department?! Often this is not because they are run badly, it’s simply that there is usually an enormous pipeline to be managed by a limited and expensive resource. We are blessed with resource and talent, and as such we can deliver, quickly, what the customer and our business require, which makes an enormous difference to our business. I genuinely don’t know of another business in our sector that has made this type of investment.”
The next steps
ByBox have extensive plans to launch new Field Support services, says Mark: “We’re fortunate that our customers trust us and ask us to develop both services and IT solutions to support them. We’ve just launched a repair centre in our main hub: we can now dispatch, return and repair an item within 24 hours. We can also provide the whole solution for one modest fixed price, and in today’s market, that’s attractive.
“We are also in the throes of launching a proper break fix solution, essentially taking the problem away from our customers, so they will end up with a cheaper service on a completely variable cost base, and have time to concentrate on their core competencies.“
ByBox has faced up to the effects of the recession in a similarly positive fashion: “On the Field Support side, the recession has driven us into new services. Our customers are suffering, and we’ve been trying to shoulder some of that pain, by investing heavily in solutions that will permanently remove cost and improve service levels. I doubt our customers, or ByBox, will ever be the same again after the last couple of years, and I’m convinced this is a good thing.”
Mark is confident about what the future holds: ”All the possible and probable external factors are good for ByBox – market conditions, social issues, congestion, different working practices: all of these play to our strengths. We’re in five countries, and will continue to grow. France and the UK are wholly owned subsidiaries, but elsewhere we’ll change the model moving forward. Logically, we should cover EMEA, as that is where our customers are asking us to operate, and this should be completed in a relatively short timeframe.”
“Field Support will always be key to ByBox,” says Mark: “I see us becoming much more of a ‘services’ business, and I don’t mean a few FSL’s, cheap ‘tech courier’ and the same old same old, I mean I think we can start a revolution. There needs to be change – we are ideally placed to make a difference, and we have the scale and knowledge to provide a fully ‘in house’ solution. Our message to clients is, Give ByBox your problem: let us get involved with the supply of parts, the field visit, the fix and a detailed report of the resolution for less than you are paying now, and that’s the future for ByBox in Field Support.”