Marks and Spencer recently opened their mammoth distribution centre in Castle Donington, Leicestershire.
The e-commerce HQ is big enough to house twelve jumbo jets or 3,500 double-decker buses and will be able to process up to one million items per day.
Open for Business in Leicestershire
The state of the art warehouse takes up an impressive 900 000square feet and has fully automated floor to ceiling shelving units, standing 25 feet tall.
It’s a high tech labyrinth, complete with cranes, conveyor belts and complex computer systems.
It’s also a tangible sign of new things to come for Marks and Spencer.
The centre is good news for the economy as it will provide around 1,200 jobs, as part of the company’s attempts to streamline its online sales processes.
The £200 million site is set to be part of M&S’s plan to replace 110 smaller warehouses with three large ones – in an attempt to reduce distribution costs.
According to This Is Leicestershire, another warehouse of 1million square feet has also been constructed in Bradford.
Alan Stewart, M&S chief finance officer told the paper that; “We are transforming our supply chain operations to make them fit for the future.
We’re extremely proud of our Castle Donington operation; it’s among the best of its kind in the world.”
The Daily Mail reports that the facility also features the largest solar wall in Europe which is used to help heat the building.
Adding to the ‘green’ element is the facts that the entire warehouse is carbon neutral and was constructed using concrete from a nearby, former power station.
Online Is Where It’s at
Teams of workers in hi visibility clothing shipped the first online orders from the warehouse last week and are gearing up for a full scale operation in the coming weeks.
The Independent reports that this mega facility is but a part of the company’s plans to drag itself into the 21st century; over the next six years Marks and Spencer will invest £1bn in its technology and supply chain.
Eventually M&S aims to scale down from the 110 distribution centres it currently operates from to just three;
the Castle Donington warehouse, the one in Bradford and another centre in the south-east.
Another part of the master plan is to move off of the Amazon platform the company currently sells through; creating its own instead.
The current contract between M&S and Amazon, which expires next year, has restricted it in terms of overseas sales and in terms of the functionality required to sell clothing.
A key part of the new strategy will be to introduce next-day delivery along with the new online platform.
Laura Wade-Gery, the head of e-commerce at M&S, told the paper that; ““E-commerce has become the cuckoo in the business nest.
It has outgrown our business infrastructure. Our delivery proposition and availability is not as good as customers would like.”
As such the new e-commerce HQ is a vital element in Mark & Spencer’s strategy for the coming years.
Should it prove successful it seems certain that more people will be able to purchase a wider variety of the company’s products anywhere in the world.
In the meantime the warehouse brings much needed jobs and activity into a sector that’s been hit hard by the current economic climate.
License: Creative Commons
Pippa Green is a London-based blogger who regularly writes about the construction industry and local, related businesses like Dickies UK.