Carriers must focus on innovation, customer service: Marks & Spencer

OCEAN carriers need to think in a connected way about their customers and offer innovative solutions to shippers’ challenges of on-time delivery and reliability, freight rate changes and educating them on costs, said UK retailer Marks and Spencer (M&S).

M&S head of logistics Jason Keegan said ocean carriers need to be able to prove their worth in terms of reliability and question if their concept of innovation is that. “In my view, slow-steaming is not an innovation as it costs M&S a lot of money in working capital,” he said.

“And on reliability – why is it so poor? In the UK we run 1,600 trucks for our secondary distribution business and 98 per cent of them arrive on time,” Mr Keegan told the TOC Conference in Antwerp.

Streamlining processes is the latest strategy from the British retailer with 300 wholly-owned, partly-owned and franchised stores in 43 territories across Europe, the Middle East and Asia creating an annual container throughput of 37,000 TEU. It has recently announced changes in centralising its UK distribution centres to four national hubs from a number of small logistic centres.

Container shipping needs to fit in with this by offering a seamless service, for instance in shipments for its global stores from the Far East to Europe and back, he said: “I would like to be able to drop some of the cargo off in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for our stores in South Asia, then to offload contents at out distribution centre in southern England before moving the container to Scotland for our stores there. It can then be used to move whisky back to Asia.

Customers need to be made aware of service changes by the carrier rather than the press, he said: “Please try and think like your customers and let’s also put an end to all of these sharp ups and downs on freight rates.”

Source: Asian Shipper (19th Jun 2012)

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