Love in the racks

For the second time in a week I’ve had the pleasure of visiting our Direct Services building in Meadowfield.  It’s a great big modern and handsome building with a spacious yard at the back.   I say pleasure without a hint of sarcasm or facetiousness as the visit stirred some memories held deeply inside me, memories of a former life.  The pleasure wasn’t from the thrill of seeing all the diggers and gritters and grass cutting machines that serve the county so well but instead it was the excitement of being able to walk amongst the stock out in the yard and in the racks in the stores.

I love what I do now for a living but I will always have a soft spot for working in a warehouse, in distribution as it was once known or in logistics as it has now become.  I started in the motor trade in a small parts and paint warehouse for a company called Brown Brothers that had a large distribution centre at Wolverton near Milton Keynes.  Several warehouses later, I then moved to the office products trade and worked for a company called Spicers.  I was in charge of a 10,000 square metre warehouse but the company had a massive distribution centre at Sawston in Cambridge – I say massive, it was the biggest in Europe.  Its roof was so large that you could have played all of the Premier League matches on it at the same time.  It was a fantastic spectacle, with a lights out operation and unmanned lifts to put away and retrieve pallets all driven by our new logistics system (in fact that is how I got into ICT).

Everyone has their own thing.  For some it is the burnt hydro-carbon smell of a vehicle workshop, or the reassuring hum of a data centre but for me there is something special about working in logistics, the goods in, the goods out, the rattle of the hand cart as its arms slip under the pallet or the chirp of the rubber wheels of the fork lift truck as it turns on the sealed concrete floor, the aisles and bays and racks with their logical alpha-numeric location names, the bulk store and the overflow stock, the Dexion shelving for the small parts and of course the security cage for anything of value, the dust on the goods, the shrink-wrap and cardboard that is swept up at the end of the shift and don’t forget the sense of begrudging camaraderie during the annual stocktake (it was before perpetual inventory).  Goods come and goods go and as long as the wheels were turning on the lorries we were making money.

There was also the special language that any industry has and we talked about such things as first in first out (FIFO), return on stock invested (ROSI) and economic order quantity (EOQ).  We would focus on stock turn and storage foot prints and sales per metre as well as pick quality and demand failure and I loved it.

For me it was love in the racks.

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