An aspect of the Stationery industry – A Student’s view

Late in 2014 it was apparent that with the rate of growth we were experiencing that we would run out of linear space in our warehouse.  We moved in to this unit at the Westbridge Industrial Estate late in 2013 and used only half the space.  It was a bit on the damp side but all that was available for my budget back then.  

As we added more M&G SKUs and increased our holding of faster moving items, it was clear that simply using linear space would not be sufficient.  I was just starting to think about how to accommodate the extra product when I got a call from my youngest son Rory who was at Northumbria University studying for a degree in Business and Logistics.  He needed a topic for an assignment.  I’ll let him tell the story in his own words.

M&G UK – The Case Study

Throughout higher education I was subjected to a mass of standardised case studies which focus on “successful” companies such as Amazon, Apple Inc, or John Lewis Partnership. These case studies would then be read, analysed, and questions would be answered based on the information. As I was conducting a Logistics degree, these questions were more often than not related to logistics and the supply chain. So I was delighted in my final year when my tutors gave us free reign to choose any business, big or small, to use as a case study for a module assignment.

The assignment was asking me to look at a business’s supply chain, and pick an area which we would “theoretically” make better. A basic example could be for instance, implementing bar coding to reduce time wasted and error in inventory management. It just so happened that at the time this assignment came around, Robert was looking at expanding his M&G warehouse yet again, but hadn’t the time to do the necessary analysis and research into what would work best. Having been involved with M&G since its arrival to the UK, I decided to use M&G UK as my case study business.

So, what exactly did I do? Having spoken to Robert about his capacity needs, it was clear he had so scale up somehow. Luckily the assignment was being conducted in a group of three other students, and we brain stormed some ideas (some wacky, some useful) in how Robert could overcome this problem. One option which we looked at was to outsource his inventory needs to a third-party warehouse. This had the benefit of being cheaper than owning his own warehouse, and having courier links already set up, so transportation of goods could be managed more efficiently. However, the reason we decided against this though, is that Robert would lose control over the stock, in a period of high growth and product innovation. After looking at these different options we realised that the only viable options for Robert was to expand either laterally, to an adjacent warehouse, or vertically by implementing a racking system.

The girls had the first pick of whtavistock (1) (1)at they wanted to cover, and since researching the racking would require ringing companies up for quotes, myself and the other guy were landed with vertical expansion. We wanted to use a local provider, as we wanted to keep the transportation costs of transporting racking to a minimum. After a fair few unsuccessful phone calls, and many red bulls later, we managed to secure Megarax in North Devon, to supply us with the information we needed. I’m not sure what I expected when I asked Megarax to come up with some information and maybe a quote about a racking system for Robert, but they replied with a diagram of specifications, pallet information, a user code for racking and the full cost of how much this would be. Needless to say I was pretty happy with what was presented to me (see sketch).

I’m not going to bore you with my 3000 word assignment and 20 minute presentation of what we did next, but we did decide on the racking system in the end, as it was far cheaper, and gave more “floor space” to work with. I ended up getting a pretty good mark for this assignment (being as humble as I can), but that was strangely not what I got out of this experience the most. I had worked alongside with, and communicated between real working companies, and realised the real world issues which can arise from planning. I was able to learn, and apply knowledge to a case study which was not out of a text book, but which was real. Moreover, on presenting my findings to Robert, he took on board with what we found out, and promptly decided to go against with what I suggested and move location to a bigger warehouse! Not what I was expecting, but this demonstrated to me the ever changing landscape of business, and sometimes, things don’t always happen as you expect them to. However, thankfully all my research was not in vain, as Robert now uses Megarax as a racking supplier, and is slowly implementing racking in his new warehouse.Racking

Rory Oxborough BA Hons

So there it is, having commissioned the work we ended up not using it directly.  We moved because a bigger unit, new, fully insulated and with office space on a mezanine floor unexpectedly came onto the market in town.  As it happened the extra floor space was only good for 6 months and we have since used Rory’s racking plan so it was not entirely a waste of effort.  Besides, it helped him get his First Class Honours degree.  Now he is deserting his post here to take up a place at RMA Sandhurst in September!  Robert Oxborough MBA

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