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"The Nightly Miracle" CILT(UK) Scottish Region visit to Menzies Distribution, Newbridge - Tuesday 22 November 2005

Members having the d

Members having the "Nightly Miracle" explained to them at the Menzies Distribution depot at Newbridge.

© John G. Fender 2011

The Scottish Region visited Menzies Distribution depot at Newbridge on the outskirts of Edinburgh and were given a presentation on newspaper and magazine distribution and a tour of the facility.

David Morton, Strategic Development Director for Menzies Distribution outlined the history of the company from it's beginnings in 1833 when John Menzies opened his first shop in Princes street. In 1835, he moved into newspaper wholesaling.

In 1857 the first railway bookstalls were opened and in 1859 the shop was closed. Expansion over the next half century saw warehouses opened in various parts of the country and in 1910 the company acquired its first petrol driven vehicle.

In 1928 the company returned to retailing and expansion continued with mergers and acquisitions. After the Second World War the company continued to grow and by the late 1980's the retail side of the business had expanded further through more acquisitions. In 1998 the retail division of the business was sold to W.H. Smith as part of Menzies refocusing as a logistics company specialising in time critical logistics.

Menzies Distribution is part of the John Menzies plc group which has two divisions, the other being Menzies Aviation, a provider of ground handling services to the airline Industry at airports around the world. Menzies Distribution specialise in added value distribution predominantly in the newspaper and magazine markets. Today, the plc has a turnover in the region of £1.5 billion with newspaper distribution accounting for approximately £1 billion. Over the past 10 years, the products being distributed have increased in complexity with more newspapers having supplements and free gifts. Magazines have also followed this trend, and now regularly attract buyers with free gifts such as CDs, golf balls, games, toys etc.

Newspapers and Magazines are created products where every issue is different, the content, the gifts, the layout, often the only thing that remains constant is the masthead. Each issue has a unique barcode, with around 3,000 different titles live at any time, requiring some 520,000 product line picks each day. The product is either delivered to or collected by Menzies Distribution from print centres throughout the UK. Newspapers are sold on a sale or return basis. 60% of newspapers sales are through small independent retailers, 60% of magazines are sold through large retail outlets, mainly the high street shops.

Currently Menzies distribution with 4000 employees serves around 21,500 retailers out of the UK total of 53,000 from it's 26 hub branches and 10 spoke branches using 1,400 vehicles operating some 93,000 miles a day - this equates to travelling to the moon and back each week! Using the latest systems, individual orders for each retailer are made up and dispatched so that they are delivered within an agreed time band for each retailer. The process covers goods receipt, cross docking operations, picking and packing, delivery, collection of returns, scanning of returns, invoicing, credit for returns, updating and analysis of data and forecast allocations leading back to the start of the cycle - an operation described as "extreme JIT cross docking". Menzies also operates a reverse logistics process by bringing back the previous days unsolds for processing and recycling. Every single copy of every publication returned has its barcode scanned before being sent for recycling. There are some 9 million items returned each with specialised vehicles taking the unsolds directly to a paper mill.

Stuart McLean, Menzies Distribution Logistics Manager, highlighted the changing shape of their transport fleet over the past 5 years. The vehicle fleet, including contractor vehicles, has increased by 100 vehicles to 1,400 with 360 vehicles now operated by the company. There are now 24 sites operating with tachograph vehicles and the company holds Operators' Licences in all but two Traffic Areas. The company has introduced a standard system at all operating centres, including a "Nil defect" reporting system for checking vehicle condition. The Company has invested heavily in both Management and Driver Training, a total of 60 Managers have been trained to CPC level to enable the company to have between 1 and 3 CPC holders at each site. There has been major investment in driver training and all drivers must undergo training covering all aspects of vehicle operation from daily walk round checks, to driving skills and also including road safety, documentation, and licensing aspects.

Menzies Distribution have developed an interactive Driver Training CD-ROM to cover all aspects of training from how to complete a tachograph to fuel efficient driving techniques. There are 17 modules of learning and for every module the driver is assessed. Drivers must achieve a minimum score of 80% to pass and those who are successful are issued with a certificate of achievement endorsed by the FTA. This method of training enables drivers to work at their own pace, provides an audit trail and allows "refresher" training to be undertaken in a cost effective manner. Menzies also shared with the group details of two major investments over the past 3 years. The company has installed dynamic axle weighing equipment across 19 of its sites and also has 10 sets of portable axle weighing pads that can be used where required. A major focus has also been placed on safe workplace transport with systems and flows redesigned to minimise risk of accident.

Grant Jordan, the Deputy General Manager then outlined the nature of the operations at Newbridge. The warehouse, covering 55,000 square feet opened in 2002 and services 1,650 customers. With 290 employees it handles around 390,000 copies of newspapers daily and 450,000 copies of the Sunday editions along with around 350,000 copies of the various supplements. There are some 1,400 magazines with around 1.2 million copies distributed each month and 360 other periodicals amounting to 440,000 copies being processed weekly. The Central Returns Unit handles some 570,000 newspapers each week and about 500,000 magazines monthly.

During the tour of the warehouse, the members were given demonstrations of the various stages in the work undertaken to ensure ontime delivery of newspapers, magazines and periodicals. Detailed explanations were given of the procedures used and the members were able to see the equipment used in making up orders for retailers. A brief visit (due to the very cold Scottish wind) to the vehicle area outside the warehouse enabled members to see some of the company's own vehicles and to see at first hand the measures implemented to provide a safe workplace. The evening concluded with a vote of thanks to the team who had taken the time to explain "The Nightly Miracle".

The Scottish Region would like to express it thanks to Menzies Distribution for hosting the visit and in particular to David Morton, Strategic Development Director, Stuart McLean, Logistics Manager, Grant Jordan, Deputy General Manager and Emma Swanson, Logistics Analyst.

Report by John Fender.


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