Laithwaites is the name behind The Sunday Times Wine Club, plus many other wine clubs for blue chip companies such as American Express and BA. Fast growth in home delivery meant that they needed to scale up distribution operations, and so the company tapped into outside expertise in the shape of The Logistics Business. Such expansion did not come without problems, as Helene Wylde, then customer services director, explained. ‘We started off in a fifty thousand square foot distribution centre in Reading, which we outgrew quickly. We then outsourced some of our operations and used a third party warehouse in Derby, which also relocated. With further growth forecast, the Reading site constrained, and an outside operator running some of our vital pick pack operations, we embarked on a logistics review’.
Yet with ever growing demands, existing staff were focused on maintaining the high levels of customer service which are behind the company’s success. ‘We decided to bring in some outside expertise to work with us developing our supply chain,” comments Wylde. “We needed people who know the logistics world inside out, could focus on the review without the distraction of day to day operations and provide independent advice. We were looking for a long term partnership and a really good fit for our culture, and that’s why we chose The Logistics Business. They really understood where we were coming from and had done similar work in the past’.
Analysis and validation led to the choice of a major new distribution hub in the West Midlands and a site was located at Gloucester Business Park, by junction 11a of the M5 motorway. Initially, the thinking was leaning toward a warehouse with a high degree of automation, but careful analysis of forecasts changed that recommendation. ‘We looked at a large building, but a more conventional operation’, comments Wylde. ‘Throughout this The Logistics Business were flexible in approach’.
The Logistics Business also played a role in specifying and selecting the all important computerised warehouse management system, which runs the 17,300 square meter (186,000 sq ft) operation. ‘The Logistics Business were able to guide us through the process and brought a range of skills to complement our team’, Wylde continues. ‘They were great to work with and delivered everything we wanted’.
The new site is at the heart of operations which see Laithwaites Wines delivering over 50 million bottles per year. Laid end to end, this would stretch from England to Australia, which incidentally is one of the sources of Laithwaites Wine’s popular, quality products.