Freight in the City met with the man behind a thriving London consolidation scheme about how it is helping three local authorities make procurement, environmental and efficiency gains.
Launched as a pilot in January 2014, the consolidation centre has successfully expanded from an initial four suppliers to now handling goods from more than 120 firms destined for delivery to over 300 buildings in Camden, Islington and Enfield boroughs catchment area.
Led by Camden Council, the project has helped the participating authorities make savings in their supply chains through new procurement models, while significantly reducing last-mile vehicle movements in London and the associated congestion and emissions.
The trial’s success led Camden Council to announce in March 2015 that it would continue on a long-term basis, with an ambition to bring more partners on-board from both the public and private sectors, including schools, universities, hospitals and businesses.
A public sector procurement exercise was launched in mid May 2015 to search for a long-term logistics partner to operate the LBCS on a 3+1-year contract.
Symonds has been working with Camden Council for two years having joined from a background in logistics and supply chain, including a stint working at London2012.
He explains that in October 2012, Camden Council began to explore the idea of consolidation, “very much from a procurement angle” and how to make savings through adopting this concept. “A research and data gathering exercise took place which helped to shape a feasibility report. Shortly afterwards, the head of procurement at the time gave the go ahead to undertake a concept trial. We attracted EU and mayoral funding and started the trial in January 2014.”
The LBCS has three main purposes: first, financial gains through making supply chain savings; second, operational benefits for end-users, for example, freeing up facilities staff by arranging for all the day’s deliveries to arrive in one go; and third, from an environmental perspective – looking to reduce harmful CO2 and air quality and congestion in the capital.
Reducing the volume of orders and deliveries
Re-organising the way goods are procured and distributed internally within Camden’s main buildings has also played a key role in the scheme’s success.
Historically, staff would make individual orders for supplies, often delivered daily by suppliers, which would generate multiple vehicle journeys for equipment of a non-urgent nature.
“Working closely with the main stationery supplier for Camden, we’ve managed to reduce the number of orders in 2014 by 800 compared with the previous year, while the average order value has increased by 30%, which is good for the supplier as they are providing the same amount of goods, but making fewer deliveries.”
He added that a shift away from the historical next-day deliveries offered by suppliers was also something Camden pushed for. “Almost 80% of staff we surveyed said they were not inconvenienced by fewer delivery days. Reliability rather than an express delivery service is the key priority for us, but suppliers historically worked towards the latter. We asked staff to plan their orders more in advance and reduced the number of days they can receive their orders to no more than three days a week. It was a really good example of behavioural change.”
There has also been a push for a streamlining of suppliers to Camden Council, whereas previously there may have been several different office suppliers of similar products, all using their own vehicles, now this has been reduced to one supplier, delivering centrally to the consolidation centre.
DHL Supply Chain has provided two Euro-5 7.5-tonners for last-mile deliveries out of the LBCS during the trial period, however Symonds would like to see a lower-emission or ideally zero-emission option used in the long-term scheme, which starts in Oct 2015.
Sourcing the right vehicles is more of a challenge though, he explains, and urges manufacturers to bring forward some viable urban delivery vehicle options, particularly electric or alternative-fuelled trucks and vans.
“It’s difficult to source zero-emission vehicles, especially 3.5 tonnes or higher, so I’m interested in seeing what the vehicle manufacturers have to offer now and in the medium term.”
He adds that not only does there need to be more vehicle choices available, but that the accompanying infrastructure needed to keep pace.
“It’s not just about the vehicle size and fuel type, but also the available re-fuelling infrastructure. For efficiency reasons we would need to be able to re-fuel en route. Camden Council provides the only public bio-methane refuelling site in London at their transport depot in Kings Cross,” says Symonds.
Expanding the scheme
To date, the LBCS has focused on council buildings and council supplies, yet it now has ambitions to bring in more partners from both the public and private sectors. Business Improvement Districts will be a key target to bring on-board, as they have relationships with hundreds of businesses within a geographical area.
The name London Boroughs Consolidation Scheme is also expected to change in the long-term, as the initiative aims to attract private as well as public sector organisations to use the service.
LBCS’s new logistics partner will also be tasked with attracting new paying users into the scheme.
A trial of out-of-hours consolidation deliveries will also be launched to facilitate freight deliveries during works on the West End Project, which will see Tottenham Court Road converted back to two ways and have significant implications on deliveries. “What we’re looking to do is extend our consolidation scheme into an evening night shift and trial deliveries into multiple businesses,” says Symonds. These could potentially include retailers, cafes, restaurants and office buildings.
“We have already grown from four to 140 suppliers for deliveries just into Camden’s main building, so there is huge scope,” he adds.
Symonds says the LBCS shows how Camden Council continues to lead by example to its residents and businesses by delivering environmental and sustainability policies. “20% of Its own transport fleet has already been converted to biomethane, with a 70% target by 2020”.