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Nivea manufacturer turns to LPR to solve pallet challenge

12 October 2018

Beiersdorf, the manufacturer of brands such as Nivea and Elastoplast, saw challenges stacking up at its West Midlands warehouse doors.

Beiersdorf delivers products to distributors and retailers across the country on over 160,000 pallets annually from the 180,000 sq ft warehouse in Holford, Birmingham. 

Beiersdorf faced two major challenges: the logistics of moving products from Euro-pallets to standard UK pallets; and, how to satisfy a major customer that was unable to handle UK pallets from Beiersdorf’s existing pallet supplier.

The first challenge meant that Beiersdorf was not as responsive to its customers’ needs when an urgent order arrived, as it would like to be. The majority of Beiersdorf’s products are imported from source in Europe on Euro-pallets, yet the majority of the company’s UK customer base only accept products on UK pallets. 

Inversion challenge

Peter Austin, transport manager UK and Ireland at Beiersdorf, explains: “This means the products we send out to UK customers have to be inverted [swapped from Euro-pallets to UK pallets] before they leave the warehouse. This slows our delivery process and makes response times tighter.”

Using pallet inverters, Beiersdorf turns each stocked Euro-pallet onto its side, releases the pallet and replaces it with a standard UK pallet. Standard UK pallets are larger than Euro-pallets, so this operation results in only three quarters of the pallet being covered with products; Beiersdorf then manually fills this space with additional products from the same batch, they then rewrap the pallet ready for despatch to the customer. It’s a time-consuming practice taking up to 8.5 minutes per pallet.

Previously, Beiersdorf’s process of inverting pallets took place just prior to goods leaving the warehouse, but this became difficult if the order was urgent. A solution needed to be found so that Beiersdorf could become more responsive to their customers’ needs and accelerate the distribution of products. 

To achieve this, they needed to implement a process to change and invert all stock on entering the warehouse. The problem was, they didn’t know how long they would need to use the pallets on site for (the ‘dwell time’) and, therefore, what the cost implication would be.  

Using this new process, Beiersdorf would be using their UK pallets for longer periods – 40 to 45 days - rather than 15 or 16 days under the previous system (when they only required pallets at the point of despatch).

Logistical flexibility

Beiersdorf’s second challenge was a recurring one with a major customer which they were unable to fix using their existing pallet provider. As Peter explains: “ASDA Lutterworth was unable to accept our products on our previous provider’s pallets as its automated inbound system rejected them. This prompted us to speak with LPR, as we needed to find a solution.

“Not changing our pallet supplier would have left us in the position where we were inverting from Euro pallets at inbound receipt, then being forced to invert that same pallet again at outbound in order to satisfy their requirements. This created a logistical complexity that impacted the business. Consequently, the process went out to tender and LPR responded.”

Beiersdorf needed a pallet supplier that was prepared to be flexible and able to ‘think outside the box’. Peter continues: “When we tendered, it was LPR who responded offering to support us with this issue. What’s more, they offered to trial the first six months to understand the actual dwell time requirement. It was a simple gesture, but it meant a lot.

“It’s a learning process between LPR and ourselves. We agreed to sit down after six months operation and review the process, having worked out a standard dwell time going forward. During the tendering process, we didn’t ask for favours; we simply asked for people to work with us. The response we got back from LPR was incredibly strong and forward thinking.”

Following a trouble-free transition from its previous supplier, Peter says he is delighted with the changeover: “We have found LPR’s people to be customer-focused, dedicated to finding workable solutions and with a similar mindset to Beiersdorf.”

Adrian Fleming, MD of LPR UK and Ireland, adds: “We are delighted to work with Beiersdorf and the smooth transition reflects the dedication, skill and professionalism of the entire LPR team in the UK.

“It’s our relationship with our customers, as well as our ability to add real value to their business, that makes the movement of pallets and goods, simpler, faster and more efficient.”