The UPN network of more than ninety UK member locations, delivers a seamless delivery and collection service across the UK and Europe. UPN has evolved over more than a decade to provide truly first class delivery for palletised freight. UPN services are underpinned by the most advanced IT systems including the Pallet Network Sectors first successful real-time signature capture system. David Brown, Managing Director at United Pallet Network, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.

David Brown
Managing Director, UPN

WLN – What are your best-known products and services?

UPN are renowned across our sector for our cutting edge in-house developed IT support systems and infrastructure. We take great pride in leading our sector in this area of our business. Our unique IT support gives our nationwide membership superb tools to help provide the best possible service levels to customers in their areas. UPN are also known for our high quality service and providing the UK’s most comprehensive range of pallet delivery options from our Micro pallet to our recently added 2.2 metre high Full pallet. UPN are known for catering for every kind of need for palletised freight shipment within the UK.

WLN – Which market sectors and countries are your customers in? Which ones are growing fastest?

We have seen a change in the geographic flow of UK deliveries. Traditionally we would see volume growth in Central and Northern regions, now we are seeing volume growth right across the UK.

There is definitely a growth in network input from UPN members in the South and a more even exchange flow is slowly developing. This could partly be attributed to the development of the South East as a gateway to and from Europe. It will be interesting to see how this moves forward with Brexit.

WLN – Who are your major customers and what do you do for them?

UPN is unique in that unlike companies in other logistics sectors and indeed unlike some of our Pallet Network competitors, it’s our network members who are our customers. We help our regional members throughout the UK to provide a quality nationwide service to their customers. This of course means that indirectly and directly all over the UK we are dealing with a truly diverse range of household name brands across many vertical sectors.

WLN – How do your products benefit your customers’ businesses?

UPN has established a strong nationwide brand reputation. The UPN brand is associated with “First Class Travel for Palletised Freight”. Our members are able to buy into this brand to offer a strong nationwide pallet delivery service as a part of their service proposition. Our seamless nationwide delivery service for palletised freight is enhanced by our operational and IT support teams.

WLN – Why should customers choose you as their main supplier in your area?

It’s got to be our clear consistent desire to provide our members and their customers with a truly high quality palletised delivery experience that is second to none. We are clear on the absolute importance of the last mile delivery and how this needs to be as close to perfect as is possible in all aspects – Operational, Customer Service and IT Support. We recognise the importance of the physical aspect of getting goods to shelves on time in good condition and problem free. Companies spend massive amounts on marketing and promoting their own sales and service propositions, we are the people who make sure that it gets there.

Companies are always looking to shorten lead times, to optimize JIT opportunities and to minimise costs. This is where we come in with flexible, reliable, on time support, we like to think that we at UPN provide service levels second to none in our sector.

WLN – What’s business been like in the past year? How have conditions changed over this period and how have you reacted?

Business has been very good this year. We have seen a big boost in volumes. Overall growth in UPN in 2017 has been excellent. We are continuing to maintain our ongoing strategy of steady consistent controlled expansion. Over the year we have directly supported a number of our members with successful acquisitions of important large contracts to run through our network. Pleasingly we have been able to further strengthen our expanding network by bringing in some very strong new members into key postcode areas. I am confident this is set to continue too through the number of enquiries that we are currently dealing with from organisations keen to join our expanding network.

WLN – What were the business highlights for you in the last 12 months?

There were several big highlights actually. Firstly we saw a really important growth trend over previous years. Where historically we were experiencing a freight handling reduction over the summer months, this year it did not happen, we actually saw a significant increase in our volumes. Then we had the addition of ten really top class new members to enhance the overall quality of our network.

Thirdly we were able to continue to grow market share.

Finally I have been really pleased with the ongoing improvement of our service performance KPIs right across our network and our business. It really has been a very good year for UPN.

WLN – What’s been your most outstanding recent project?

A big development in UPN in 2017 is the introduction of our “paperless paperwork system”. This is a bespoke UPN system developed by our in-house IT team developed to manage and control the flow of customers’ own paperwork more cost effectively and more efficiently within our delivery system.

Despite the growth in our freight volumes, the flow of physical paperwork through UPN has now been significantly streamlined. Our new IT initiative is enabling both UPN centrally, and our members nationwide, to save significant staff hours whilst at the same time actually improving the overall quality of service provided. Our new IT system for the electronic management of customers own paperwork, is further contributing to our ongoing improvement of the overall UPN member and end user customer experience of our services.

WLN – How have you fine-tuned your offering in the last 12 months and why?

Well the best example is, as I have just mentioned, the introduction of our new system for managing customers’ own paperwork. It’s cut out significant time and effort to all involved and of course reduced the amount of actual paper running through our system which provides its own small but always important environmental impact

WLN – What recent enhancements have you made in customer service?

Customer Service is a cornerstone for UPN. We are always challenging and seeking to improve on our KPI’s in all aspects of UPN Customer Service. And indeed it really is all about service. UPN continue to be fully focused on application of an ongoing formula of – Challenge – Review – Develop – Improve. Both centrally within UPN and all across our network – ‘Team UPN’ are continually challenged to fully optimise the overall customer experience.

WLN -What new products have you brought out?

UPN already provide a full and comprehensive range of service delivery options for palletised freight with both UK and European services and service options for Micro pallets right through to 2.2 metre high Full pallets.

Through our recent introduction of online service KPIs, UPN members can now monitor and manage their own performance in real time to fine tune their service levels to the benefit of UPN network members nationwide, the overall UPN service, and most importantly end users nationwide.

WLN – What factors do you see affecting your business in the coming year? How will you turn these into opportunities?

A Big factor for all of us is Brexit, and a year on we are still waiting to see how this crucial development is going to pan out. There are also rising costs. In this changing economic climate it’s important that networks can maintain efficiency and offer an efficient network for members to operate within.

The UPN IT system makes our Pallet Network much less labour intensive so we are an excellent option for any regional haulier looking to improve efficiencies within their own business. We are a flexible, friendly, and supportive network that demonstrates operational excellence whilst at the same time enabling meaningful cost benefits. This will without doubt help us to retain members and at the same time also attract new member interest.

WLN – Are you planning to branch into any new areas, target new customers and take on more people?

As I have already alluded, UPN are about steady, structured controlled growth. 2017 has been an excellent year for us and we are looking for our growth trajectory to maintain the impetus we have developed this year.

Our strategic plan has never been to become the biggest Pallet Network. Our goal is to manage strong, steady, stable growth right across our nationwide membership. I am pleased to say that UPN is in really great shape for a strong and progressive future.

WLN – Are you investing in new premises and extra staff? What about staff development and training?

Our strategic plans are well on track and our Hub at Fradley Park has excellent capacity for our current growth projections. As I have said many times, our UPN staff are what differentiate us as a network, they are the difference between a good company and a great company. Ongoing staff training and development is integral to our development as UPN.

WLN – What big news from UPN can our readers look forward to seeing in Warehouse & Logistics News in 2018?

I am anticipating that you will be hearing more news regarding our positive growth trajectory.

As I have mentioned, our network is now in really good shape and is providing a tremendous platform for the next stage of our growth as a network provider. All the signs are excellent for 2018 to be another really good year for UPN so I think you will be hearing news of growth, expansion, investment and of course IT development.

WLN – And finally, if you had to sum up your company in a tweet what would it be?

UPN – Quality Driven, Member Focused, IT Innovators pushing forward service excellence within the pallet network sector to even greater heights!


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