UK Pallets, the Express Pallet Delivery System, provides a dedicated pallet delivery service utilising a network of over 80 independent distribution and logistics specialists providing a range of next day and economy delivery options. In the last four years UK Pallets has successfully grown its turnover and greatly improved its profitability, and its service performance levels are the envy of the industry.
UK Pallets’ drive for continuous service and operational excellence is never ending, backed up by a commitment to ensuring it measures up on performance. This ethos has recently inspired the company to seek and achieve a double honour, receiving accreditation in two integrated management programmes – BS EN ISO 14001:2004 (Environmental) and BS OHSAS (Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Services) 18001: 2007.
UK Pallets Managing Director Terry Richards says UK Pallets is probably the first company in the UK, let alone the first in the pallet industry, to achieve an integrated certification for both standards from one assessment programme.
A vision realised
The latest chapter in UK Pallets’ success story started in early 2006 when Terry Richards joined as MD. He very quickly established his plans for the future, and with his senior management colleagues set about promoting his vision for UK Pallets to be recognised as the best pallet network in the industry, representing value for money for its customers, with every member in the network, including the national hub, consistently providing the highest standards of operational performance and excellence in customer service.
“As a fundamental part of our vision,” says Terry, “we wanted UK Pallets to become not only the network of choice for our customers and the envy of the competition, but also the network that prospective members wanted to join. We recognised from the outset that the network could only grow and flourish if everyone involved attended to the basics, and developed sustainable service and operational excellence while adopting a right first time and “must get through” attitude.”
As the first step Terry and colleagues set three business objectives, which he describes as “simple but challenging.” The first was to ensure UK Pallets provided the highest levels of service and operational excellence to all customers and members using the network. The second was to ensure all fleet collections and deliveries, hub consolidation activities and member deliveries fully complied with UK Pallets’ administration procedures, processes, IT, Health and Safety and Legal requirements, as detailed in its Contractual Agreement and Operating Manual. The third objective was to develop and implement a suite of key performance indicators to measure, trend and drive a continuous improvement culture within UK Pallets.
Flowing out of these objectives Terry Richards also introduced and established a set of targets for the network to focus on. First, all UK Pallets Midlands Customer collections, and similarly all Member Trunk Hub arrivals and departures had to be ‘on time every time,’ with the load safe, secure and correctly labelled with the right paperwork. All member deliveries on behalf of the network also had to be ‘on time every time,’ and all forms of operational ‘claims,’ especially loss and damage, kept to an absolute minimum.
“We started out on our service and operational excellence journey against this backcloth,” Terry recalls. “From there the improvement programme which we introduced served only to reinforce the determination within UK Pallets and UK Mail Group plc for all involved to get it right and become the best.”
Talking at the end of 2009, Terry Richards is delighted at the progress the company has made so far, “but as always there is still much to do.”
Standing up to tough scrutiny
UK Pallets is committed to providing and maintaining a safe workplace for all, and doing everything it can to support and maintain the environment within which it does business. As a measure of their confidence in their progress, they decided to subject this part of the business to the rigours of external scrutiny. Hence they sought and gained accreditation under the two independently recognised management programmes – BS EN ISO 14001:2004 (Environmental) and BS OHSAS (Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Services) 18001: 2007.
These exacting programmes addressed the objectives for UK Pallets regarding Health & Safety and Environment (HSE) issues. They were as follows: to be the leader on HSE issues in the pallet sector; to involve and inform their people on HSE issues; to create a culture that recognises that personal actions can and do make a difference; and to implement positive personal actions to look after their health, safety, environment and the wellbeing of their people and visitors.
BS EN ISO14001:2004 looks at the environmental activities and impacts, which for UK Pallets are a key part of its everyday business such as movement of goods on the road and in the depot, fuel storage, housekeeping and waste management. The BS OHSAS 18001:2007 standard is compatible with BS EN ISO14001, and looks at the Health & Safety aspect of the business. It has 17 elements designed to run in parallel to ISO14001 and ensures there is employee involvement and consultations in the development and review of UK Pallets’ Health & Safety policies and procedures.
Bringing the two standards together and creating the Integrated Management Systems has enabled UK Pallets to cover both standards in one assessment, and with continuous improvement on the planning, documentation, training and development, auditing and non-conformance and corrective and preventative actions.
Preparation started in April 2009 using external consultant Harry Staniforth Associates Ltd in readiness for the external assessment by LRQA in October. Harry Staniforth said afterwards, “In 20 years of consulting and supporting over 110 companies achieving various standards, I cannot remember any company coming under such intense scrutiny – eight days – at all levels, with only minor issues being raised. This is a credit to all at the company.”
UK Pallets Managing Director Terry Richards says the accreditation will provide objective and independent assurance to customers that UK Pallets operates to the highest standards in handling their freight. The standards will help reinforce to all involved in the network the need to get the quality and reliability of service right first time every time while encouraging a ‘must get through’ attitude and behaviour.
A track record of success
UK Pallets has been in existence since July 2004 following Business Post’s (UK Mail) acquisition of Weaver Pallets, and is now a major part of the group. There are currently over 80 members of the UK Pallets network. Leading names include J.B. Wheaton & Sons (South West), Advanced Delivery Services (Midlands), United Pallets Scotland (Scotland), Elite Worldwide (South East) Neil Bomford Transport Ltd (East Anglia), Transland International (Ireland), and Kenneth Howley Transport (North.)
UK Pallets is unique in its marketplace in that the Fradley hub, UK Pallets Midlands (UKPM), is also a member of the network in its own right, with over 40 vehicles operating from it. These service its own customer base and deliver throughout the central Midlands area. Commercial Director Graeme Wilson explains:
“UKPM cover a number of postcodes within the Midlands and input a substantial amount of freight. Our customer base there ranges from small businesses to major multiples. Many of these companies have been with us for years, and all of them are delighted with the quality and service levels provided by UKPM and our network members. Not only does the fleet based at the hub service the needs of our own Midlands customer base but it also provides an insurance policy for service levels and delivery performance throughout our entire network.”
Unlike most other networks, within UKP there are no joining fees and no shareholders other than UK Mail. Members are contractually bound to the network but the commercial model centres on a purely transactional basis with fixed pallet input and delivery rates.
UK Pallets has continued to experience growth in pallet numbers through these somewhat uncertain times although the growth rate has slowed recently. The hub currently averages some 5,500 pallets per night.
The existing 140,000 sq ft hub has the capacity to accommodate some 7 – 8,000 pallets per night, and UKPM has recently received planning permission to extend the facility by a further 70,000 square feet as and when necessary.
A broad range of pallet services
UK Pallets cater for all requirements with their Next Day, Economy and Premium services such as timed, Pre 9am and AM. UKP will also consider non-palletised freight if it can be handled with a forklift.
The UK Pallets member network services all the UK every day, including Highlands & Islands and the Republic of Ireland. UKP also caters for Continental Europe by means of the longstanding member relationship between UK Pallets and another of its member companies, Dachser. UKP’s unique on-line quoting and booking system allows any member or customer to immediately book, cost and confirm transit times for all non-UK consignments. UKP also have many longstanding and established relationships with specialist service providers, so can cater for any destination.
UK Pallets is justifiably proud of its member service levels, which are consistently well above 99%. It monitors and measures members constantly, and publishes and distributes weekly league tables. UKP measures members on two main criteria, delivery performance and systems compliance. The former measures compliance relating to “On Time In Full” (OTIF); the latter measures such performance indicators as POD data and delivery status and discrepancy reporting. UKP has a team of compliance managers who work with and assist any member who fails to meet the exacting standards demanded by the network. On the rare occasion any member consistently fails to comply with its service obligations, UKP can ultimately choose to remove them and replace them with a new member.
The network currently services all geographical areas, but UK Pallets are always willing to talk to any company that feels it could benefit from joining the UK Pallets Network. Anyone who is interested must be able to demonstrate operational excellence and a commercially sound business.
“All Systems Go at UK Pallets”
As well as preparing for and achieving the ISO and OHSAS accreditations, another major focus recently for UK Pallets has been the development and implementation of a robust and user-friendly I.T. System, UK Pallets On-Line, which joins seamlessly all aspects of its operations.
Graeme Wilson explains: “We now have an end to end system that manages freight from the point of collection, into and through the hub, out to the delivery members and on to the end delivery point.”
UK Pallets On-Line is a web-based system developed in house by UK Pallets, which allows direct installation of the required applications straight onto a customer’s computer. For regular and or high volume customers UK Pallets provide a thermal label printer so they can manifest all consignments and label them at the point of despatch. Occasional users can also get the benefits of the system and print their own paper labels prior to the arrival of the collection driver, who will then verify and scan the pallet before loading it onto his vehicle.
Back at the hub, UK Pallets has invested heavily in building and installing “Checking Tunnels” for both in-bound and out-bound freight, so all pallets entering the depot can be scanned and receipted.
After all consignments have been inspected and the details uploaded, the next phase is to off-load and allocate them to a member location. Before this, a very important Health and Safety check is that fork truck-mounted weigh scales automatically weigh all pallets. UK Pallets has now developed its system and adapted its operations internally to incorporate permanent fixing scanners at the front of the forklift. These are automatically activated as the forklift approaches the pallet, and read the barcode label as the truck’s scales weigh the freight.
The tracking information and pallet weight are displayed on a screen mounted alongside the forklift operator, and the data is automatically transmitted to “UK Pallets Online” via the wireless infrastructure at the Fradley hub.
The Network of Choice withstands the recession
Graeme Wilson, Commercial Director, UK Pallets, is confident about the future: “Even in this somewhat uncertain economic climate, these are really exciting times for us. With the backing of our parent company UK Mail, we have continued to invest in our network and facilities, and plan further developments and enhancements in the short term.
“Competition for members and customers alike has never been greater, but what sets us apart from other networks is the culture and desire evident throughout this business and the people involved in it. Our efforts are firmly focused on quality and customer service, and we are justifiably proud of our network and our members, who week after week report and prove delivery service levels and systems compliance levels in excess of 99%, which enables us to stand out from our competitors.”
UK Pallets tel: 01543 267500 www.ukpallets.com