Pall-Ex’s ethos is delivering a quality pallet distribution service, and our customers have come to expect only the best levels of service all year round.
We have worked incredibly hard to fine tune the accuracy of our forecasting and volume projections, to enable us to deliver on this expectation.
To give you an insight on how this supports us to provide our market-leading services, Pall-Ex operations director Adrian Bradley explains some of the work we undertake to ensure we forecast with the greatest degree of accuracy at all times.
Factors affecting volume
There are a number of factors that we monitor in order to anticipate the demand for our services throughout the year. Together with pallet input, we consider absences, training requirements, turnover and vacation costs.
Seasonality is important of course; we are all familiar with the demands placed on our industry around Christmas and Easter, and with the volume increases and non-moveable deadlines at these times, it is vital to ensure appropriate staffing and operational plans are in place to cope with the amount of freight.
Our operations team doesn’t just consider the obvious factors, however. We examine a multitude of factors to accurately forecast volume spikes, including global marketplace trends, information on the European economy and figures from leading trade associations such as the Association of Pallet Networks (APN).
At Pall-Ex, we champion mutually-beneficial relationships; and our ability to work with our customers to understand their specific peak times and support them with their increased delivery requirements enables us to uphold that promise, and incorporate these within our projections.
The importance of people
To deliver the highest possible standards, we invest heavily in our people. We have an entire team dedicated to monitoring all of the factors that impact on future business demand.
With fluctuations in business, demand comes the requirement for changes in the operational workforce capacity, and it can be particularly challenging to upscale our workforce during peak periods. We are continually recruiting for experienced counterbalance forklift drivers who are familiar with fast-paced working environments.
In order to forecast staffing requirements accurately and promptly, in October 2016 Pall-Ex introduced the hub planning workbook (HPW), a bespoke tool which forecasts freight volume and analyses Pall-Ex’s outgoing costs per pallet. Through the more accurate monitoring of staffing levels, the team were able to decrease the reliance on temporary staff by 43.8 per cent, enabling the best quality workforce to be deployed, thereby improving customer service. Staff satisfaction has also increased as a result, with a 100 percent retention rate in Q1 of 2017.
The science of forecasting
The information we have gathered on the likely peaks and troughs for our business is fed into annual plans for one year, three years and five years. These plans are drilled down into weeks and months to anticipate pallet input and proactively manage our operation.
Short-term projections link with our overall business plans and allow us to plan our staffing levels. The one-year plans are reviewed on a monthly basis to ensure that we continually update them according to anticipated trends, growth or other changes.
We use the three and five-year plans for long-range preparation, as they can identify items for consideration well in advance, allowing us time to put plans in place for a variety of potential outcomes. These longer-term plans also link with the facility’s needs.
Our dedicated team enables us to plan as accurately as possible, which is vital to the success of our operation. Our daily projections in 2017 have only ever been out by a maximum of 3.2 percent, which is an impressive figure considering we handle around 10,000 pallets a night within our UK hub.
The key to success
In a service-led business such as ours, consistency is key. We need to offer a high standard of service all year round, which means that our operations need to be fluid and adapt to the different demands of the seasons and our customers.
Our proactive approach to forecasting and implementing processes for peak times enables us to provide our customers with over 99 per cent of inbound goods scanned, minimal disruption throughout the year and a consistent, uncompromised market-leading service.
From a management perspective, accurate forecasting is the key to delivering a quality service whilst managing costs, to enable us to deliver the highest standards of service at a competitive price to you, our customer.
Director of operations