The extended supply chain – covering many thousands of miles, numerous countries, cultures and prevailing political conditions are far from being a modern phenomenon. They reach back into civilisation’s earliest incarnations, taking root in tales of the Silk Road and Spice Trails of the ancient worlds. Routes that saw goods of every type traded across the globe.
Some things never change, as we continue to live in a world of extended logistics requirements – transporting goods to even the remotest corners of the Earth. However, whilst the traders of yesteryear may recognise much of what is undertaken today, they would not recognise the complexity, flexibility, efficiency, reliability and timescales worked to by today’s leading logistics companies.
Working practices have been driven along at a considerable pace by both the rise of the Chinese economy and countries of the old Soviet Union, as some areas of the UK’s manufacturing industry know to their cost. However, whilst these evolving markets offer new opportunities, the road is not without hurdles and a principal one is the transport infrastructure.
In Western Europe the supply chain is a well-oiled machine, with vehicles on regular runs moving smoothly along motorways and highways that are, by and large, in good order – resulting in the transportation and delivery of a vast array of goods to numerous locations. Such a high level of cohesion is accomplished due to both the appreciation and practice of the ‘Just In Time’ concept – a philosophy that perhaps does not always manifest itself in places like Russia, the economies of the Danube valley – Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania – and the Baltic States. All of this has required companies to adopt flexible methods to deal with the situations arising.
Although these countries have all been in an accelerated race to catch up with Western Europe, with not insignificant strides having taken place in the guise of major infrastructure projects in areas such as transport, the recent worldwide downturn has slowed down or arrested a number of such developments.
Even though major projects such as the recent 2012 European Football Championship in Poland and Ukraine, the Winter Olympics of 2014 and the 2018 Football World Cup in Russia have been financially ring-fenced, the need for reliable and secure logistics services has never been more prevalent.
Creating this level of certainty is not an easy undertaking and can be only achieved by companies that have highly developed systems and processes in place. It is an area of ability that UK logistics companies continue to provide leadership in.
Setting the pace amongst such firms is Redhead International, one of the UK’s leading logistics companies that specialises in working with businesses in Russia, CIS and North Africa. When developing the company’s services into and out of these regions, it wanted to ensure the level of provision a customer would expect in Western Europe would also be available to them in these territories: “To mitigate the challenges associated with providing an effective freight service to destinations in Eastern Europe and North Africa for example, we utilise our longstanding partnership with Militzer & Munch (M&M). This means that the key elements of flexibility and dependability are in place,” said Redhead’s joint managing director Tony Suggitt.
Such a strategy allows Redhead access to M&M’s 120 offices throughout North Africa and Eastern Europe – including Russia, CIS, Turkey and the Middle East. Doing so ensures there is always a ‘man on the ground’ with a wealth of territorial and local people management knowledge to draw upon. This is also allied to M&M’s rail logistics service, which makes certain that, when required, large materials consignments can be delivered deep into the Russian heartland.
The service will be all the more prevalent as UK companies gain a foothold in these expanding markets and require secure, reliable and adaptable lines of delivery. The adaptability comes on the back of the UK’s well established ability as palletised distribution service providers – allowing even relatively small amounts of pallets to be transported when needed. “The ability to rapidly scale up and down to meet specific needs and timeframes is a vital component of such a service. It’s about reassuring the client that whatever the question, you not only have the answer, but the ability to act upon it”, said Suggitt.
An example of this capability is their involvement in garment industry logistics. Every Thursday, Redhead has trailers setting-off from the UK with components, arriving in North Africa on Monday, meeting the manufacturers’ requirements to have the benefit of the whole working week to assemble garments. The collection of finished garments is then carried out by M&M during the course of the following weekend, when they are also taken into the company’s customs clearing facility, which also incorporates a quality checking area. Finished garments, already labelled and priced-up for the high street stores, are then ready to load onto the trailer for the return journey back to the UK.
The partnership with M&M also means Redhead can provide its customers with a number of added benefits including facilities for quality assurance and testing at source – one in every eight garments is checked – reducing returns, and their associated costs to a bare minimum.
Redhead can also use its relationship with M&M to organise deliveries to multiple locations across Europe, Eurasia and North Africa, making considerable financial and time savings on behalf of its customers. A manufacturer will usually have customers and suppliers in a number of different countries, by working in partnership with M&M Redhead can eliminate the need for goods to be imported into the UK for them simply to be re-exported back to a desired location in Europe. For example, Redhead frequently picks up fabrics and trimmings from Turkey and ships them directly into North Africa, without the need for them to be imported and re-exported.
UK manufacturers or distributors wishing to take advantage of the benefits of Eastern European or North African manufacturing rates, with multiple sites and suppliers across the continent, can therefore easily benefit from Redhead’s long established inter-continent network.
For the UK’s well developed selection of specialist logistics companies looking to operate in Eastern Europe and Russia there are pitfalls certainly, but also a host of opportunities due to the cultivation of important strategic partnerships that ensure the seamless blending of logistical networks. A strategy that is sure to bring an array of long lasting benefits to those involved.