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Fit for purpose


CSD Associates’ Ashley Evans starts the new year by asserting how the most effective layout for your business can rarely be delivered ‘off the peg’.

I’m going to hit you with three bits of jargon in the first paragraph this month: GLT1 + CPS2 + ITS3!

GLT — Grow Like Topsy

The expression comes from the American book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (and here’s an interesting fact — at the time of its publication, it outsold every book previously published in the U.S. except the Bible!). In the book, Topsy is quoted as saying that she just “growed” and so “it growed like Topsy” is often used to describe something that grew or increased by itself, without apparent design or intention — which is what many businesses do, not least my own!
A kinder interpretation of this process is that businesses evolve in response to current and changing circumstances, ie: it’s a good idea at the time — it’s just that when you look back with BOH4,you can see how you might not have done what you did and the business that I am going to feature this month was an example of this. It also suffered from my next bit of jargon…

CPS — Cherry Picking Syndrome

Visits to other merchants, BMF / buying group meetings and even incredibly informative articles like those found in PBM (!) can all generate good ideas which can be transplanted to businesses elsewhere. ‘Transplants’ can be a life-saving activity, but the receiving body can reject them — to carry on the medical analogy. By this I mean, a particular approach may not be relevant to a different business, or may be installed correctly / in the right location.

The ‘cherries’ which this particular business had picked were that it is a ‘good thing’ to:

  • Have a separate bag store, particularly if it can be separated from timber and joinery products;
  • Create a drive through for trade collection and covered loading;
  • Not waste good ground floor sales area on admin offices;
  • Invest in racking systems to make best use of building cubic capacity;
  • Store timber horizontally [a relatively new product group].

These ‘transplanted cherries’ are referenced in Fig.1 and more details follow.

Bagstore: In ‘better times’ a new ‘shed’ was put up on an underutilised part of the site — largely open-sided to allow easy fork lift access. It did the job but was found to be a bit removed from the ‘centre of activity’ on the site which led to service and the occasional theft problems.

Drive-through: Positioning one in the building which housed the ‘shop’ and original bagstore provided some covered loading but, apart from when the bagstore was in the building it was removed from most of the bulky goods. In addition, its width did not allow passing of parked vehicles which led to ‘log-jams’

Admin Offices: These had been located in the relatively new warehouse. Three modular buildings were acquired and located at the end of the warehouse — mainly because of the ‘service runs’. They were also a little removed from the main trading operation.

Investment in Racking: Originally, the main warehouse had stock laid largely on the floor and a selection of elderly pallet racking. When trading allowed, a significant investment was made in cantilever and APR5. This made much better use of space, reduced stock damage, improved stock turn, speeded up service / order picking and allowed for the stocking of a wider selection of materials.

Timber Storage: Storing full packs of timber on cantilever is efficient and minimises any tendency to bowing. However, as the timber at that quantity was a relatively recent range introduction the ‘storing timber flat’ idea was taken literally and split packs were kept in the cantilevers, wasting space and making customer collection and small-order picking, even for PSE & Mouldings, a slow process. The alternatives are obviously PHR6s or A-frames, but I am not going to get into that discussion here…!

This leads to the final piece of jargon, which is…

ITS — Invest to Save

When you looked at the operation with a pair of ‘outsider eyes’ it was obvious that the cherries which had been picked were all fine in themselves. However, because they had been introduced over a period of time, they lacked cohesion and some had not been best used, as hinted at above.

My overall concern was the way the business was spread out. A lot of the collection activity went on between the two main buildings when access to the Trade Counter was from the front. What’s more, the offices had ended up in the far corner and the new bagstore was almost on the site next door!

So, the main objectives were to:

  1. Focus the business between the two main buildings;
  2. Pull the bagstore into this area;
  3. Create a really useful drive-through facility;
  4. Expand the lightside sales;
  5. Create an effective PSE & Mouldings picking facility;

Clearly this was going to cost money — but the break-through was that we didn’t really need the ‘new’ bagstore. Cutting a long story short, this part of the site was sold off to a well respected local Plant & Tool Hire business which funded most of the development which can be seen in Fig.2 and included:

  1. Taking some cantilever outside, roofing it for dry carcassing;
  2. Putting the PSE & Mouldings off those racks into A-frames into the ‘old bagstore’;
  3. Using the space freed for the bagstore;
  4. Extending the self selection area with an entrance on the side elevation;
  5. Using the space in between as a real Drive-Through, which in itself allowed the following:
  • Simple, low-cost, petrol station forecourt-type roof over;
  • Central through route;
  • Park & Load lane either side;
  • Pedestrian walkways;
  • Undercover racking down both sides;
  • Offices moved to existing mezzanine over trade counter with good views of what is going on.

So, the cherries were at last effectively utilised, some capital was released as seed funding and the investment saved lots of effort to serve the lucrative calling customer.



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