Ensuring each Lidl bit makes a big difference
In August, Lidl Northern Ireland appointed Gareth Breeze as its new Regional Logistics Executive so Irish Trucker felt it was time to catch up with him to learn more about the day-to-day activities at this exceptionally-efficient hub in Crumlin, Co Antrim.
These are busy times at Lidl Northern Ireland’s logistics centre in Nutts Corner, Co Antrim and Gareth Breeze is glad to report that they show no signs of letting up heading into the New Year.
Lidl Northern Ireland is part of a group that has over 10,000 stores in 27 European countries, with more and more expansion into the USA planned in the coming years.
Its Nutts Corner logistics centre was opened in 2003 and is strategically-placed to deliver daily to a network of 38 Northern Ireland stores - and the facility benefited from a £20 million investment in 2016, increasing its size to over 34,000 square metres.
This provides a state-of-the-art logistics environment, which includes multiple temperature-controlled areas serviced by cutting-edge refrigeration systems using natural refrigerants and utilising heat recovery to provide heat in the warehouse, significantly reducing energy consumption.
The centre employs over 160 staff from Lidl’s 760-strong Northern Ireland workforce, utilising lean techniques and systems to ensure productivity is maximised throughout a finely-tuned, award-winning logistics process.
Pick by Voice technology, for example, is used to pick orders daily, shipping 30,000 pallets per month to stores. The centre receives goods from suppliers all over Europe and is proud to work with over 40 local suppliers providing fresh products.
Lidl Northern Ireland also works in partnership with Fareshare NI to provide surplus food which is re-distributed to local charities promoting a more ethical solution to the disposal of waste.
The company is continually striving for innovative solutions to streamline its operations and recently launched a brand-new, bespoke SAP-based warehouse management system, becoming the first Lidl warehouse in Europe to do so.
While only in his new role a couple of months, Gareth has spent the majority of his Lidl career in the RDC in Mullingar, as well as in the Head office in Tallaght, Co Dublin, and is happy to say that the group continues to be on “an upward trend”.
“I took over as Regional Logistics Executive in August and I’ve been with Lidl for five-and-a-half years now. Prior to taking the role I trained in Germany and the US,” he outlined.
“We’ve 168 staff in our warehouse and approximately 80 trucks. Right now we are dispatching to 39 stores across Northern Ireland. I’m glad to say that Lidl in Northern Ireland is on an upward trend.”
As Logistics Executive at Lidl NI, Gareth is responsible for overseeing the entire logistics programme for Northern Ireland, encompassing: the goods in department and management of associated stock; the selections department, which picks orders for stores; and the transport department, which ships stock to stores and also handles waste management and recycling.
Every pallet seen in a Northern Ireland store passes through Nutts Corner, making Gareth’s job a vast brief to say the least.
The actual transportation itself is subcontracted out to five carefully-selected hauliers, who handle the physical distribution on Lidl’s behalf.
From the hub in Nutts Corner, they manage all the route planning, as well as organising what stock goes where. The information goes to the Transport Manager of the haulage company concerned and they will provide the trucks and drivers required.
All of the hauliers have dual-temperature-controlled refrigerated units so that they can ship refrigerated and ambient produce in one run –chilled at 4 degrees and fruit and veg at 14 degrees, all of which is closely monitored.
Each trailer is equipped to carry a full selection of products –frozen, chilled, bread, fruit & veg, ambient, meat and non-food.
Activities at the hub generally start at 6.00am and continue up to midnight. On a daily basis, between 16 and 18 lorries leave the Nutts Corner RDC, each of them delivering to two stores, while up to 60 trucks come into the facility per day, dropping off deliveries from suppliers.
While it might sound like a complex chain to manage, Gareth says that Lidl have streamlined and perfected the system through their experiences on the international stage.
Along with all this, further growth and expansion is projected for Lidl Northern Ireland with a £20m investment in the RDC carried out in 2016 to futureproof the business and cope with the expected growth.
The hub’s state-of-the-art refrigeration system has reduced its energy consumption, which makes it more efficient, while improved racking and storage systems have also been installed. This has been a tremendous benefit in terms of helping to optimise its overall efficiencies.
The feeling is that there are opportunities for further growth, which includes increasing the network of stores in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“The key thing is to improve our level of efficiency. We want to make sure that we can maximise and take SAP/EWM to the absolute potential it has and keep up the trend of the growth of turnover,” Gareth concluded.
Lidl Northern Ireland