Evolve - Bosch

An evolving partnership to cope with unpredictable demand

The British obsession with talking about the weather is well known, but for one outsourcing partnership it’s more than just small talk. For Bosch’s lawn and gardens division, the mere forecast of a sunny weekend can create an incredible spike in orders from 15 national retail customers for more than 170 different products.

So when Bosch put its warehousing and logistics business out to tender, it was looking for a partner that could deliver an excellent service to Bosch’s retail customers and a more modern system to help improve the manageability of unpredictable orders.

Nick Wilson, Logistics Director for Bosch in the UK, comments: “Getting more than a million lawn and garden products to our retailers at the right time in the right way is not a typical logistics operation. The challenges our partnership faced ranged from the limited time available for the transition, to evolving expectations and the volatility of demand. Both Arvato and Bosch have really been through a learning curve together in the first six months of our partnership.”

Speed of transition

As is often the case, the first challenge was how to establish a brand new set-up within a limited timeframe. “Our tendering and transition process had to be fast to fit in with Bosch’s business cycles. We signed the contract in mid-September, allowing just over two months for a full transition, ready for a 1st December go live,” said Nick.

This involved Arvato bringing on board new warehousing space and employees as well as setting up new systems and processes, all in anticipation of the upcoming peak season.

Learning curve

Approximately 40% more warehousing space was needed during the first peak season than was originally anticipated. “The product is big and unwieldy,” Nick commented. “And we can’t deliver to our retailers in a double stack. This means we need to have a lot of warehousing space, as well as keeping high volumes of products available to meet demand.”

In addition, the unpredictability of demand called for agility as well as flexibility. “To give you some indication of the scale of the volatility, we can have zero 40-foot trucks leaving the warehouse on one day and then need 70 the next - all dependent on the British weather. This meant we had to extend the team and working hours in order to be able to deliver.

 

“The strength of our relationship was really tested by these challenges in the early days, and I’m sure other partnerships might not have made it through. But we had honest discussions about how to resolve issues, how to ensure we had the right type and amount of resources in place, and how to best handle the volatility,” Nick continues.

The Arvato and Bosch teams worked closely together and communicated openly to resolve each challenge as it arose. Flexibility combined with a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude meant that Bosch and Arvato delivered on their first peak season as a team.

Moving forward

As businesses, Arvato and Bosch share a number of common traits – both have been in operation for more than a century with entrepreneurialism at their heart – so a strong cultural fit has really helped.

“It’s not just that we successfully delivered our first peak season together, but the manner in which it was done has really helped fast-track our partnership. The commitment, dedication and teamwork on show made the difference.

“I’m confident the team will continue to learn and the addition of new systems will help us make further improvements that can better inform our business planning and ability to manage the unpredictability. I’m almost looking forward to the next sunny weekend!” Nick concludes.