Parcelhub, the independent parcel distribution specialist, provides a complete, robust and flexible solution for UK and international bulk parcel despatch, giving access to the widest possible range of parcel carrier services. Working as an independent, objective supplier, Parcelhub selects the most appropriate UK or international carrier and service to meet each client’s parcel distribution needs. Supplied free to clients as part of the service, Parcelhub’s multi carrier selection software enables the client to seamlessly integrate their own order/warehouse management software to Parcelhub’s system, ensuring accurate and fast production of carrier labels.
Along with its sister company Mail Workshop Limited, Parcelhub offers a comprehensive package of value-added services that span a host of activities both in the UK and internationally. These services include warehousing, data management, stock control and pick and pack services, from single orders to large one-off multi parcel “roll-outs.”
Having set out to challenge the established service providers on delivery, cost and performance, both Mail Workshop and Parcelhub are now well positioned to provide superior customer service and support. Parcelhub Managing Director Mark Rosenberg spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
WLN – First question, Mark, what does your role as MD of Parcelhub involve?
We have a strong team of people who are very experienced in the day to day managing of multi-carrier options that are tailor made to clients’ requirements, but I still oversee the running of most major accounts and the financial management of the two companies. The other part of my role is setting our strategy, and understanding clients’ future requirements.
WLN – Do you get personally involved in developing parcel despatch solutions for individual clients, and solving service problems?
We have customer service staff and management in place to deal with service issues that arise, but yes, I’m the final escalation. For larger, more complex distributions I am certainly involved, just to make sure we have the most appropriate solution to suit.
WLN – Who else besides you is involved in managing Parcelhub’s day to day operations?
We have two other directors, Steve Riley and Hayley Crouch, and three great managers. Kate Webb looks after customer service and setting up new customers; Gary Jamson is responsible day to day for the operations side regarding vehicle routing; and Mark Hurdis, our Sales Manager, does a fantastic job heading up the sales department. Steve principally manages the IT functions and customer integration with our Parcelhub software.
WLN – When was Parcelhub set up, and who by? What were they doing before? Are they all still involved?
We incorporated Parcelhub in March 2010. It was spawned out of Mail Workshop, which we set up in January 2003. I previously spent four years with Parceline before it became DPD, then four years at Target Express before the City Link acquisition. After that I spent a few years in the international mail consolidation industry before starting Mail Workshop. Steve was formerly an electrician in the coal mines of North Nottinghamshire, before pursuing a career in sales in the parcels and international mail industries. Hayley has spent many years working in customer service and admin for parcel companies before joining us in 2005.
WLN – Who owns Parcelhub these days?
Parcelhub is wholly owned by the three directors, in the same shareholding as Mail Workshop Ltd.
WLN – Can you talk us through how the Parcelhub business works?
We have our own liveried vehicles and collect directly from our clients, who use our Parcelhub software to generate carrier labels. Once the parcels are back at our warehouse we scan each parcel so the clients’ end-of-day manifest matches the parcels we physically have here before we send them to the relevant carrier for delivery to the consignees.
Outside the East Midlands we arrange for carriers to collect on a daily basis, with no detriment to service. Transit scans and PODs are all actioned via one website, where clients can review them in one place, regardless of their choice of carrier. All shipments can be filtered in over 20 ways, to drill down easily to problems. We colour code each consignment; a red consignment indicating a problem, for example a refusal, damage in transit or unable to locate.
With our industry-leading knowledge of the international and UK parcel services and distribution systems, Parcelhub presents customers with the benefit of having one company able to provide an all-inclusive package of services. In conjunction with our sister company Mail Workshop, this covers every aspect of the distribution process with printing, packaging, fulfilment, storage and cost effective parcel despatching all under one roof.
WLN – Where are you based?
We’re based in Nottingham, one minute from both the Nottingham Forest and Notts County grounds. Both our companies run from here. We’re opening a new site in Leicester shortly due to demand for our services, and next year we’re opening additional sites in Derby and South Yorkshire.
WLN – What volumes of parcels do you handle, in a typical week?
Our parcel volumes vary wildly, due to Mail Workshop being heavily involved in B2B catalogue distribution. We’re often shipping bulk despatches of 1kg-5kg catalogues, sometimes more than 40,000 parcels in one despatch. Excepting catalogue despatch we ship 80-100,000 parcels per month, but have had months where we’ve reached 250,000.
WLN – Which different parcel carriers do you work with? What are your relationships with them like?
We work with Yodel, UK Mail, Parcelforce, Hermes, TNT, DHL, Collect + and are soon to start with Tuffnells and City-Link. Our relations are very good with most suppliers – they understand our model and work closely with us on service issues and market appreciation. Having more than 100 clients across various industries, we can provide information about service quality, which most carriers find useful.
WLN – What’s your USP?
As I see it, our real benefit to customers is that our business model achieves a buying rate that makes us very competitive in the market. When you back that up with our full carrier options and complimentary software, it’s easy to see how a single carrier cannot offer the same service.
WLN – What kind of companies are your customers?
We will happily work with anyone shipping large volumes of parcels, either regularly or as a one-off multi-parcel roll-out. We deal direct with everyone, from customers’ warehousing and logistics people and despatch and shipping managers through to 3PL service providers. Typical clients include printers mailing out bulk magazines, and pick and pack operations working in the home shopping and online retail sectors.
WLN – What volume of parcels do people need to be sending out in order to use your services?
We’re focused on larger corporate accounts, each sending out at least 20 consignments a night, and many shipping over 300.
WLN – Is there a maximum number of regular clients you can handle any one time? Are you looking for more regular clients?
Our business is very scaleable: it’s growing steadily, and we’re always looking for more customers.
WLN – Are you geared up for seasonal work?
We see large uplifts from mid November to end December, with the usual Christmas parcel volume. Many catalogue customers need their catalogues to be landing early January, so there’s a bit of added pressure when you need to pick, pack, label and despatch them! The operations are very well managed so, although busy, the seasonal peak runs very smooth.
WLN – What notice do you require for one-off multi parcel “roll-outs”?
The larger bulk parcel despatches are generally booked in two or three months in advance, especially when there’s an element of packing. When parcels are already packed and we’re called to ship them, we’re often notified two or three days before, just enough time to receive the data and generate carrier labels before receiving the parcels and labelling and despatching them. If parcels are already packed, it’s just a case of checking the data, producing and applying the appropriate carrier labels.
WLN – Can you talk us through how clients use your services, and where the multi carrier selection (MCS) software comes in?
We start by reaching an understanding of how they’re currently shipping, and which carriers they’re using. Generally price is the driver for them to change their way of working. After we reach agreement to work with them, we install software with clients’ IT departments so an integrated system prevails. Many smaller operations are happy using a smaller system for manual typing in of consignment information, and others enjoy having an import system already programmed for data from Amazon, ebay and so on. We spend a lot of time ensuring clients have the right system for their needs.
WLN – What kit do you provide them with?
Clients need to have a thermal label printer to produce labels, which generally they have in house. If not, we can provide extra hardware as required at cost.
WLN – Is your MCS software a proprietary application that you’ve developed yourselves?
It’s all developed and built from scratch here in house.
WLN – Do you also offer your clients complete tracking of their parcels?
Yes, we do. We have a tracking site on which, regardless of which carrier is handling their parcels, all their despatches with us are monitored in one central point so they can check delivery status.
WLN – What are the cost benefits of outsourcing parcel distribution to the Parcelhub? How long before some one sees a return from using your services?
People start saving money from the first parcel they send. Some of our business is won not on price but on value for money, the benefits of making use of our software and our customer service. For some clients we proactively manage problem deliveries and fix them often without the client even knowing.
WLN – Do you have any overseas clients bringing parcels into the UK?
Parcelhub has a number of overseas clients who ship bulk parcels into the UK from Italy, Holland and the US. They use Parcelhub’s software to produce labels and we collect parcels from their warehouses at UK ports of entry. One overseas client utilises our software to generate Parcelforce labels on our contract and ships their parcels direct to Parcelforce’s hub at Coventry ready for next day delivery, to save time.
WLN – Are you looking for any more overseas-based clients seeking parcel despatch? Do you have agents overseas?
Although we’re not currently promoting overseas, it’s something we’re looking at for next year. There’s a huge market out there for inbound parcels to the UK, but we’ve yet to explore the potential.
WLN – Can you tell us who your major clients are, and talk about what you do for them?
Without naming clients, we deal with businesses and institutions from top universities to large and small printers and mailing houses. We also work with OEMs and ebayers working from home. For one client, a book publisher, we warehouse 25,000 sku’s, and pick and pack 80,000 orders a year, which we ship out through our carrier agreements. We take delivery of monthly promotional catalogues, which we insert to bespoke C5 window envelopes, and post them with a DSA (Down Stream Access) provider for the UK and consolidate the international items, often posting them via five or six international service providers. We’re a true one-stop shop.
WLN – Do you publish customer case studies?
Yes, we do – see the opposite page.
WLN – Who within a client organisation would be involved in the decision to bring you in?
It depends on the type and size of company. It can be anyone from the chairman or a board director to the customer services and warehouse supervisors or the post room manager.
WLN – Who within a client organisation do you work with day to day?
Once the client is up and running, our day to day contact is the person responsible for parcel shipping, but most commonly there’s dialogue between our customer service people and theirs.
WLN – Do you cover the whole UK?
We have some 60 major clients across the UK who use our software: the customer packs the parcels and generates labels at their end, and we arrange for the selected carrier to go in to them each day at an agreed time. In the Midlands we operate a specialist service serving Nottingham, Leicester and Derby, in which we collect the parcels from customers in these locations ourselves, scan them into our system and hand them over to the agreed carrier. The customer gets a choice of carrier to use for their parcels, based on service and price. The customer packs the parcels and generates labels at their end, which they put on the parcels, then we collect them on our own vehicles and bring them back to our Nottingham depot.
WLN – What industry standards do you work to?
There are no specific standards in the overnight parcel delivery service: all suppliers, including us, must simply fulfil our service obligations to our customers.
WLN – If someone’s interested in using your parcel distribution services, who do they need to call?
My Sales Manager, Mark Hurdis, is probably the best person to go to. He has a lot of experience in the industry and can advise how we can help prospective clients.
WLN – What are the steps from first conversation to going live as a Parcelhub customer? How long does it take?
We can usually get a client up and running in two days to a week, depending on their location and the level of integration needed with our system.
WLN – What’s the fit between you and Mail Workshop?
Mail Workshop runs as a separate operation, but like us they are heavily into B2B catalogue fulfilment and distribution, with bulk collection and daily call off: the client supplies a database and they take action. Parcelhub manages the integration and customer service of parcel despatches for Mail Workshop and other Parcelhub clients.
WLN – Do you work together on any clients?
The two businesses are heavily integrated, making use of each company’s unique service options. Cross selling isn’t a priority, but both sets of customers are certainly familiar with what each company can do.
WLN – Are you taking part in any warehouse & logistics exhibitions over the next few months, to get your message across? Are you doing any regional roadshows and so on, to spread the word?
We have exhibited at ECMOD at Earls Court and at a small Channel Advisor, and various trade associations’ conferences in the past. We might look at more shows next year.
WLN – What external factors are affecting demand for your services?
Due to the current economic climate, client companies are very focused on achieving the best possible value for money and return on investment. Before the recession many were complacent about cost – “If it ain’t broken…” I can never understand that attitude: if I’m paying over the odds, my business is indeed broken! This focus ensures our services are much sought after, and we continue to provide the best service from many carriers at better than normal pricing.
WLN – Finally, where do you see Parcelhub going from here?
We will continue to grow and develop our services. We facilitate the best possible services and pricing for our clients and at the same time we remove a large element of cost from the carriers by utilising our own hardware, software, customer service personnel and collection vans. This leaves the carrier to collect the consolidated parcels, and trunk them direct to their hubs for onward delivery. I’m convinced that our model of local collection, multiple carriers, integrated software and centralised customer service is the future for a large proportion of parcel shippers in the UK. In terms of immediate developments, we’re opening our Leicester depot next, then Derby, and then… well, watch this space!
Mail Workshop and Parcelhub
Tel: 0115 948 1110