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Gem Logistics are rapidly establishing a reputation as an outsourced warehousing and logistics service provider to retailers, resellers and other businesses, with Amazon, Argos, M&S, Tesco, Comet, DSG, and Weetabix among the growing list of grocery and retail clients. “Immaculate,”  “impressive” and “The site is extremely clean and tidy both inside and out,” were how Weetabix’s Quality Assurance Team described Gem Logistics’ state of the art, fully owned 250,000 square foot, £15m grade 1 distribution centre at Raunds, Northants.

Gem Logistics began life as the distribution operation of Gem, the home entertainment and consumer products distributor that has acted exclusively on behalf of Microsoft UK since 1988. Gem Group also represents Xbox, Codemasters, Take Two, Ubisoft and Essential music. Gem are the largest distributor for Logitech in Europe and have over 25 years’ experience in providing best in class distribution solutions, expanding the business where necessary to support the growing requirements of retail, and in 2011/12 processed a total of 65 million units a year to pick and pack. In 2011/12 Gem despatched in excess of 2.9M units to the end user, up from 1.7M the previous year, and assembled over 6.6M units of promotional and bundled items.

Having proved their dexterity in developing logistical solutions for these discerning clients, Gem Logistics are keen to extend further by branching out into new product sectors for the third party logistics industry and further widening their client base and the market areas they cover. The approach is paying off, with Gem being a nominee for Best Newcomer in the 2013 UKWA Awards, to be presented at the Dorchester next July. Gem continues to win new clients, including recently awarded contracts for Dr Martens and simplehuman UK. Frank Ring, Business Development Manager at Gem Logistics, talked to Warehouse & Logistics News.

Warehouse & Logistics News – First of all, Frank, when did you come to Gem?

I joined in May 2012.

WLN – What does your role as Business Development Manager involve?

I devise and implement effective sales strategies, maximise business opportunities and drive the culture of service excellence.

WLN – What attracted you to this job?

I decided to work at Gem because in my 34 years in logistics, I have seen many, many warehouses, depots and sites, but this is by far the best standard, most well planned and thought out location I have ever been involved with. It is also fully owned and financially secure. I relish the opportunity to work here, and on top of that, I can confirm that the operations and services offered are as good as the building looks from the outside. Any clients will feel immediately as they drive up to the premises, that there is no doubt of the abilities of GEM Logistics, and they will reap enormous benefits and enjoy high levels of service day in day out.

WLN – What were you doing before?

I was previously Business Development Manager at a market leading garment logistics company; before that I was Commercial Director with Key Area Logistics; and prior to that spent 22 years at Homebase, starting as a retail store manager, followed by various jobs in transport and operations, supply chain, home delivery and ending up as business development manager of the Homebase Retail Group, as it was then called.

WLN – When was Gem Logistics as a business set up?

The Gem Group started in 1984 with two guys selling video games on market stalls in Harlow, and was bought by DCC in 1995. Gem Logistics has been operating since 2009 and also has another 150,000 sq.ft DC near Blackburn, Lancashire. Since then it has been an outsourced logistics provider to video games publishers, DVD & music studios and retailers, and the European supply chain provider for Codemasters, Essential Music, Take Two and Ubisoft.

WLN – Who owns Gem Group?

Gem is backed by DCC plc, a €10.7 billion procurement, sales, marketing, distribution and business support services group employing around 9,000 people, which is listed under Support Services on the Irish and London stock exchanges, and has five divisions – DCC Energy, DCC Sercom, covering IT, communications and home entertainment, DCC Healthcare, DCC Environmental and DCC Food & Beverage. DCC Sercom, the division which includes Gem Group, comprises SerCom Distribution, a leading distributor of IT, communications and home entertainment products in Britain, Ireland and France, and SerCom Solutions, which provides outsourced procurement and supply chain management services in Ireland, Poland, China, Mexico and the USA.

WLN – What different client services does Gem Logistics offer?

We provide a multi channel, national and international offering, from store distribution and RDC deliveries to end user fulfilment. We also offer extensive value-add propositions returns and quality control on site flow wrap machinery to enhance service, value and profit delivery.

WLN – How are you set up to service clients, in terms of account handling teams?

We offer a dedicated client service team and IT systems integration, with real-time stock and service level reporting.

WLN – We’re going to focus this conversation on the Raunds distribution centre, but how many other distribution centres do you have in the UK? What about Europe?

We have one other UK distribution centre in Altham, near Blackburn, Lancashire and two distribution centres in France.

WLN – When was the Raunds distribution centre set up?

Raunds opened in September 2010.

WLN – How big is Raunds?

Raunds has 250,000 square foot of total space. The first phase of racking has 35,000 pallet positions. There are six level access doors and 23 dock levellers, and it can accommodate all short, medium and long term secure storage requirements. We offer a variety of different types of racked storage, including open bulk areas, for maximum accessibility. We have six floor level doors to our loading bays, with covered canopies for all weather working.

WLN – Speaking of all weather working, how is your yard set up to deal with snow? Have the trucks got in and out successfully over the last few winters?

Snow has never been an issue in our 50 metres wide yard area. GEM plans ahead with snowplough attachments for our all-weather fork trucks, and grit spreading attachments. We even have an on site emergency generator, and can easily last for seven days without support from outside power sources. The aircon units in the server room are constantly monitored, and have separate power supplies to the back up equipment and text alarms to mobile phones for any temperature variances.

WLN – Do you have your own delivery fleet to move goods to other distribution centres and mail carriers?

No, we sub-contract to our long-term trusted proven partners, who have fully equipped state of the art technology track & trace and every lorry equipped with satellite tracking, security-cleared drivers and live signed proof of delivery received in our offices within 10 minutes of signature of delivery anywhere in the UK for our clients.

WLN – With high value goods passing through your doors day in day out, security is high priority. What security do you have?

You’re right, with so much at stake, protecting our clients’ assets is our top priority. Raunds and our other sites at Altham, near Blackburn, have state of the art technology to protect our clients’ goods, multiple modern digital colour cameras, perimeter beam detection system, hard drive recording/saving of footage, infrared cameras, swipe control access on all doors, manned security, aircraft style standard security, full body searching and walk through scanners with 100% security checks on all staff leaving the warehouse areas. No mobiles, drinks, bags or food are permitted in the warehouse at any time.

WLN – What IT systems do you have?

We have an integrated solution, which encompasses ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), APS (Advanced Planning and Scheduling), New Warehouse Management, financials, E-commerce, and the Warehouse Management System we purchased in 2004. We have invested £180,000 in upgrades to keep the system current and meet the ever-changing client needs and markets.

WLN – What different clients is Raunds serving at the moment?

We are currently serving simplehuman, who recently signed a four-year contract, Weetabix, Dr Martens, Codemasters, Essential Music, Union Square Music, RSK Entertainment, Ubisoft, Take Two Interactive and 505 Games, to name a few.

WLN – Do you offer clients web-based information about their account?

Yes, we do. Gem Logistics’ on-line web portal provides access to live information relating to clients’ product sales and inventory via a secure password protected web browser. The system allows authorised client personnel to query and run reports from live data using the same product, customer and order references as those used on their in-house system. It provides access to real-time purchase order status, returns authorisation requests, sales order status and inventory enquiries with a full stock movement audit trail without the need to wait for end of period reporting or the double handling of data importing. This is all done using data screens and reports, which can also be automated and delivered via email or FTP.

WLN – Do you work with retailers?

Yes, we do. Gem Group supply products to a large majority of the UK retail sector, from Amazon to Tesco. Our sales team boast strong relationships with buyers to support their supply needs and sales objectives. Gem Group supply a comprehensive range of products from many of the leading entertainment and technology suppliers, enabling us to provide a compelling product proposition, of which the logistics service is a key part. Gem Group have been Microsoft’s sole UK distributor since 1988 and are the exclusive UK distributors for Codemasters, Take Two, Ubisoft and Xbox. They are the largest UK distributors for Logitech in Europe, and also act for McAfee and Symantec. We bring these relationships and experience to the table when we offer clients an outsourced logistics service through Gem Logistics.

WLN – Can you handle high value or bonded goods such as drink and tobacco at Raunds?

Yes we can, and recently assisted Carlsberg Tetley with short-term weekend intake cover for the European Football Tournament.

WLN – Are you looking for more food and drink accounts?

Yes indeed. We can easily meet the requirements of this market area, and would welcome any approaches. East Northamptonshire Council’s food hygiene staff recently made an unannounced visit and confirmed the site was well above the government’s minimum legislative requirements. This confirms that Gem’s Raunds depot is officially registered as a high Food Standard & Hygiene facility

WLN – Do you have clean rooms for pharmaceutical products?

We can easily meet the requirements of this market area, and would welcome any approaches.

WLN – What has the recent throughput at Raunds been like?

Looking at different customers, a recent new customer intake has been 5,750 pallets in 14 days, with 52 pallets per load, up to 10 loads per day. That’s 520 pallets inbound, a total of 110 trailer loads. On top of that, with three other new music client startups, I have even seen large volumes of vinyl records arriving, namely 45’s & LP’s! The stock migration for simplehuman, the online part of the household products supplier, has been also actioned at the same time. Currently running at seven loads per day, this will soon ramp up to 15 loads per day, ending in 25 loads per day, a grand total of 128 trailer loads, plus an additional 31 handball containers. The client needs stock migration quickly and no interruptions to their services to retailers and end users, whom they provide with Internet sales and spare parts services.

WLN – What other product sectors are you looking at?

We are looking at moving into healthcare, consumer goods/FMCG, food & drink, garments and the public sector.

WLN – What about clients from outside the UK?

Yes, we are happy to work with overseas companies wanting to establish businesses here. We have had recent approaches from Canadian companies wanting to branch into UK markets.

WLN – How quickly can you take on a new contract?

We can do so very quickly – the Weetabix contract began as a next day intake.

WLN – Do you do short term work at peak times?

Again, yes we do.

WLN – Do you do contract packing?

Yes indeed, we have a very wide experience in this area and welcome all kinds and types of contract packing.

WLN – How are you placed to help companies make the most of the current slow economy?

We help reduce costs and provide a shared user benefit and economies of scale. We are close to Felixstowe Port and Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal, the train container port. We are well placed to help our local neighbours such as Weetabix and Dr Martens as recent examples, with long and short-term support.

WLN – How green are you as a company?

Our green credentials include a low Carbon foot print, intelligent lighting, recycling of our heating, dedicated doors to plastic and cardboard recycling compactors.

WLN – What do you think the UK government should be doing about helping businesses in the present climate?

We believe they should invest more in apprenticeships and do more to foster link ups between business, universities and schools. Gem leads the way and operates a graduate scheme. We also work closely with the Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership, as regular WLN readers will know.

WLN – Finally, where do you see Gem Logistics going from here? Any plans to open similar distribution centres in other parts of the country?

Yes indeed, Gem will consider every commercial proposition on any scale or size and will look to continue to forge long term flexible working partnership strategy, with our current clients and any new potential clients.

Gem Logistics

Tel: 0845 456 6400

email: Enquiries@gemlogistics.co.uk   

www.gem.co.uk/gemlogistics   

DCC plc:   www.dcc.ie

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