Shed-loads of problems Wholesalers rise successfully to warehouse and logistics challenges

Cash & carries and delivered wholesalers have evolved considerably over the decades and become increasingly sophisticated businesses, with growing reliance on technology. But when all is said and done, both kinds of operation are still big sheds full of goods, which come in and are stored until they go out again, either bought by individual customers in the case of cash & carries or put on lorries or vans and taken to customers, in the case of delivered wholesalers.

These big sheds are drafty places with high ceilings. In the autumn and winter it’s important to reduce heat losses and re-circulate the expensive warm air to where people are working or visiting, in the case of cash & carries. As the summer approaches the focus changes and the pressure is on to keep warehouses cool.

Loading bays are another issue, with their own thermal problems. As energy costs have climbed over the last 20 years, automatic highspeed doors and PVC shutters have come into their own to protect the people working in loading bays from the weather.

Another pressure on today’s wholesale warehouses, handling multiple categories of goods under one roof, is the need to segregate space into contained areas to store different types of goods in distinct areas and where necessary do so at different temperatures, reduce the risk of cross-contamination, control the spread of odours and so on.

Speaking of storing goods at different temperatures, the impending phase-down of HFC refrigerants will have a major influence on the use of refrigerants in wholesale. The first really big cut in HFC supply comes this year, when there will be a cut of around 40%. For more details you can download the Food & Drink Federation‘s Update on F-Gas Regulation and Refrigerants July 2017 as a pdf.

Normally the food distribution industry keeps a low profile and gets on with the job quietly and efficiently, but KFC’s recent ‘Where’s the chicken?’ debacle made national headlines and showed how difficult it can be at times for large distribution operations to deliver to hundreds of end points from a single hub. To do so successfully, everything must be properly aligned, with everyone involved working closely together to put the processes in place and ensure all the ensuing logistics and IT issues are resolved. As the UK’s wholesaling revolution continues, with all the changes of ownership and organisation currently in hand, we can expect more such hiccups while things bed down.

And finally, the distribution process has been made more difficult over the last few months by the bitter weather and snowfalls, but to their credit the logistics and distribution specialists servicing the wholesale and retail sectors have done a great job keeping the products moving. At least we have a few months now to get ready for next winter.