Gist aims to introduce further mechanisation to Marks & Spencer’s (M&S’s) distribution centres after signing a new 10-year contract with the retailer worth an estimated £2bn.
Michael Chambers, who is in charge of the M&S business for Gist, said automated sorting of trays post receipt at M&S food depots in Bristol and Faversham had improved throughput capabilities and accuracy, and was now being rolled out to a depot in Crewe. Ultimately, the ambition was to roll it out to all seven M&S food warehouses, he said.
Given that more than 90% of M&S food suppliers were now writing data to reusable radio frequency identification (RFID) tags embedded in returnable plastic trays, the time it took to book goods into depots had already dramatically reduced in recent years, he said. “We still have a manual backup, but the read rate is very high, and coupled with the mechanised sorting, the throughput capability is much improved.”
Invoice disputes and discrepancies between what was ordered, sent, booked in and processed were also gradually being reduced as more real-time information was being exchanged within the supply chain, he said.
Under the new contract, Gist has also picked up new business with M&S in southern Ireland and will be responsible for frozen products and fresh bread products delivered directly to stores.