Engaging customers the Unipart Logistics way

Engaging customers the Unipart Logistics way

Unipart Logistics is a well-established and well-known independent logistics company whose sound reputation and strong corporate philosophy is underpinned by the lean style of management founded by Japanese car manufacturers.

The Cowley-based company is part of the Unipart Group founded some 25 years ago, but which has seen significant growth over the past 15 years.

The Unipart Group employs 10,000 people across the globe with about 2,500 based in the West Midlands and has in excess of a £1billion turnover.

Bernard Molloy, Global Industrial Logistics Director, said: “One of the biggest single reasons for our success is our employee engagement programme.

“Our people use the tools and techniques of the Unipart way to ensure continuous improvement and by solving problems at their own level.

The Unipart Way

The Unipart Way is based on Lean principles which are a way of working designed to maximise efficiency and minimise waste, constantly improve processes and build skills of the employees both within its own organisation and that of its clients.

“Jaguar Land Rover have worked with us for 25 years and in the logistics world you are lucky if you get a three or five year contract. However, because we are recognised for these principles we recently signed a 12-year deal with Homebase.”

Diverse client base

Unipart Logistics’ long list of diverse clients from all over the world, which includes companies such as Waterstones, Sainsbury, Volvo, Vodafone, Sky and Long Tall Sally, pays testament to its success.

Its services range from warehousing, fulfilment and engineering support services to reverse logistics. It also manages, end-to-end, global supply chain solutions that include sourcing, procurement, technical services and business support.

“Our manufacturing division makes exhaust and fuel systems for cars as well as heat exchange systems. We are not just a logistics business but also a manufacturing one,” explained Molloy.

“We are also world class lean practitioners, consequently those skills give us a lot benefits in logistics and supply chain management.”

Engaging employees

The employee engagement programme has stimulated some of the best service standards offered across the world.

Looking after its people, as Unipart Logistics, knows only too well pays off when it comes to offering those high standards of service. Employee motivation is garnered by implementing regular training days and initiatives such as Faculty on the Floor.

“What we say is that you can learn at 10 and do it at 11, so it is a constant way of continuous improvement,” explained Molloy.

“We also have a programme called Gate to Great, so when you come into the company you might be lacking skills, but can work your way up to become accredited and even become the trainer, which gives a high degree of job satisfaction and personal pride in work.”

Technologically advanced

Within its own supply chain, Unipart Logistics has some fairly unique systems in areas such as forecasting and scheduling, and supplier management and carries out a lot of purchasing on behalf of its clients.

Its comprehensive tracking systems means that Unipart Logistics will know immediately when a dealer has fitted a part for a vehicle and will automatically replenish the part.

All the latest technological techniques applied within the supply chain industry have been adopted by Unipart Logistics, including the latest enterprise resource management software, RFID equipment, and automated voice picking.

“We are a world class SAP house and have actually adapted it to a new level which includes our own systems giving us high capability in logistics for managing the supply chain,” said Molloy.

“However, sometimes having too much automation can work against you and we like to ensure our distribution centres are highly flexible too.”

Flexible services

An example of that flexibility arose when Unipart Logistics stepped in for a failing bumper supplier who could not respond quickly enough to the demands of its client.

Unipart Logistics installed relevant machinery for carrying out all the necessary modifications to the bumpers, so they didn’t have to go back to the factory and thus provided its client with best service support possible.

Unipart Logistics is an award-winning company and is one of only 150 firms to achieve the Investors in People Champion award, and one of the largest companies to do so as most holders are small to medium sized businesses.

It has also recently added to its trophy cabinet having won the Supply Chain Global Awards 2013 Aftermarket Parts Logistics award and was the overall winner in the Supply Chain Standard, European Supply Chain Excellence Awards 2013.

As for the future, Molloy revealed that the company has an eye on emerging markets particularly those in Middle America, the Far East and Turkey.

He said: “Five or six years ago we had nine distribution centres outside the UK and now we have distribution centres around the world. We see emerging markets as a big opportunity for us and will be looking at developing our distribution centres ensuring that they are strategically located.”

Frank Burns