Largest parcel hub in Europe officially opened ahead of 2015 seasonal peak
Europe's largest and most technically advanced parcel sorting hub was officially opened by DPD las...
Europe's largest and most technically advanced parcel sorting hub was officially opened by DPD last week at Hinckley in Leicestershire, England with a special ceremony in front of 400 guests, including representatives of many of the largest retail names in the UK.
Philippe Wahl, Chairman and CEO of La Poste, performed the official opening, while HM Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Jennifer, Lady Gretton JP, was also on hand to present DPD with the Queen's Award for Enterprise, on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen.
Leicester-born footballer and television presenter Gary Lineker was the guest of honour.
The giant new £100m superhub; which is capable of sorting 720,000 parcels per night, was delivered on time and on budget and will be fully operational ahead of this year's Black Friday and Christmas Peak period.
In total, the project will create 1,000 new, full-time jobs in Hinckley with positions including; deck hands, parcel loaders, management, vehicle maintenance, HGV mechanics, security, admin and IT.
In addition to the official opening ceremony, DPD's retail customers and shareholders were given 45 minute long guided tours of the facility by members of the team that delivered the project.
Dwain McDonald, DPD's CEO, commented; "Our new Hinckley superhub is an absolutely stunning building and the whole project is a credit to everyone involved. I'm incredibly proud of my team and what we have achieved, so it was real honour to be able to invite Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Gary Lineker and our retail customers to see the facility for themselves."
"The superhub is way beyond anything else in the UK and gives us significant scope to expand in the next few years. We've been consistently investing in our network and growing our capacity for some time now to ensure we stay well ahead of the increasing demand for DPD's services. We've also opened around 20 new depots in the UK in the last two years, half of them being brand new purpose-built developments. But Hinckley is the clearest signal yet of our intent.
"Our retail customers already know the quality of our service compared to the rest of the next-day delivery market, today they also saw the scale of our ambition and the level of investment we are making on their behalf."
DPD's growth is based on its unique Predict and Follow My Parcel services which give customers advanced notification of a one hour delivery slot, and allows them to track their driver on a map, or access five ‘in-flight' delivery options if they can't be home to accept their parcel. In 2015, the company also introduced DPD Pickup - a network of 2,500 parcel shops - allowing customers to divert deliveries to a convenient pick-up point, close to their home or work.
In April 2015, DPD was awarded the Queen's Award for Enterprise 2015 in the Innovation category, for its unique one hour delivery service, Predict.
DPD is a member of DPDgroup, one of Europe's leading parcels groups, wholly owned by France's La Poste, the second largest postal group in Europe. The company employs more than 9,000 people in the UK, operating more than 3,000 vehicles from over 50 locations and delivering 1.6 million parcels per week.
To mark the opening, DPD has also created a short film to show the progress of the build from the excavation of the original site to the stunning new building that exists today. The film can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/dpdgroup/review/138852522/04a129a850
Driver shortages: Why the industry needs to be worried
While driver shortages are a global problem, with a recent survey from the International Road Transport Union suggesting that driver shortages are expected to increase by 25% year-on-year across its 23 member countries, the issue has very much made itself felt for UK businesses in recent weeks.
A perfect storm of factors, which many within the industry have been wary of, and warning about, for months, have led to a situation wherein businesses are suddenly facing significant difficulties around transporting goods to shelves on time, as well as inflated operating costs for doing so.
What’s more, the public may also see price rises as a result due to demand outmatching supply for certain product lines, which in turn brings with it the risk of customer dissatisfaction and a hit to brand and stakeholder reputation. Given that this price inflation has been speculated to hit in October, when the extended grace period on Brexit customs checks comes to an end, the worst may be yet to come.
"Steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole"
That said, we have already been hearing reports of service interruption due to lack of driver availability, meaning that volumes aren’t being transported, or delivered, to required schedules and lead times. A real-world example of this occurred on the weekend of 4-6 June with convenience retailer Nisa, with deliveries to Nisa outlets across the UK affected by driver shortages to its logistics provider DHL.
But where has this skills shortage stemmed from?
Supply is the primary issue. Specifically, the number of available EU drivers has decreased by up to 15,000 drivers due to Brexit alone, and this has been further exacerbated by drivers returning to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as changes to foreign exchange rates making UK a less desirable place to live and work. This, alongside the recent need to manage IR35 tax changes, has also led to significant inflation in driver and transport costs.
COVID-19 complications have also meant that there have been no HGV driver tests over the past year, meaning the expected 6,000-7,000 new drivers over the past year have not appeared. With the return of the hospitality sector we understand that this is a significant challenge with, for instance, order delivery lead times being extended.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier this month became the latest in a long line of industry spokespeople to write to the government about the driver shortage for trucks. The letter echoed the view held by much of the industry, that the cause of this issue is both multi-faceted and, at least in some aspects, long-standing.
So, many in the industry are in agreement as to the driving factors behind this crisis. But what can be done?
Simply enough, outside of businesses completely reorganising their supply chain network, external support is needed. In the short-term, the government should consider providing the industry with financial aid, and this can also be supported more widely with legislative change.
Specifically, immigration policy could be updated to place drivers on the shortage occupations list, which would go some way towards easing the burden created by foreign drivers returning to their home countries. Looking elsewhere, government should also look for ways to increase the availability of HGV driver tests after the blockage created by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Looking more long-term, steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole. As it stands, multiple sources suggest that the average age of truck drivers in the UK is 48, with only one in every hundred drivers under the age of 25. We must therefore do more to increase the talent pipeline coming into the industry if we are to offset more significant skills shortages further down the line.
On the back of a turbulent year for the supply chain industry, it has become increasingly clear that the long-foretold shortage of drivers is now having a tangible and, in places, crippling effect on supply chains.
Drivers, and the wider supply chain industry, have rightly been recognised for the seismic role they played in keeping the nation moving and fed over the past year under unprecedented strain. If this level of service is to continue, we must now see Government answer calls to provide the support the sector needs, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to find a solution. If we do not see concrete action to this effect soon, we are likely to be in for a turbulent few months.
Rob Wright is executive director at SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector