The twists and turns involved in establishing a warehouse within the EU.
Part 2 – Setting up shop
By Darren Cobby, Project Manager, ILG
Our decision to open a warehouse in Wroclaw, Poland, was signed off in September 2020 and I was assigned to manage the project the following month. Up to this point, my main role as Project Manager for ILG had been overseeing the smooth opening of new accounts. Poland, I quickly learned, would be like doing all that over an assault course.
Unfamiliar hazards and obstacles cropped up frequently, not least the Covid-19 pandemic, which prevented me from visiting the site. Fortunately I had the support of Yusen Projects and Solutions in Poland, whose presence and experience on the ground was invaluable.
Learning the hard way
Work began in earnest in December. We had a 5,400m2 (58,000sq.ft) warehouse to design, including racking, office layout and a mezzanine, which would prove a major learning experience all of its own. We discovered that Polish regulations require the installation of a sprinkler system, which would not have been a requirement in the UK, so we had to rethink our initial design.
We had to wait nearly six weeks to get new drawings done but in the end we came up with a solution that made the sprinkler system much easier to configure while remaining fully compliant with all Polish regulatory guidance.
This sort of discrepancy was a common feature of the project. Everything from forklift licenses to locker room layouts presented new rules to learn and work with.
Pause and restart
The project had to pause for three or four weeks over Christmas and New Year as we all waited for details of the Brexit deal. By the second week of January, however, the picture had become clear and we were seeing a wave of client interest. My attention turned to matters like access control, the data and power layout, CCTV installation and completing the fit out and finish.
The new warehouse management system (WMS) gave me plenty to think about. Our IT support team wanted to send their choice of kit but the Polish team wanted to source something locally. We ended up agreeing that the majority will be sourced and installed locally, so it’s easier to fix. It’s up to our clients how they split stock but all they need is an EU web store and we’ll be able to tap that into our WMS.
By March I was picking up with the clients that Cliff Allen, our Head of Client Relationships, had brought on board. I began to work with them on decisions like how they planned to split orders and the documentation they needed. At the same time, preparing the warehouse had moved on to day-to-day concerns like cleaners, security, pest control and waste management.
The final push
April is when I’ll see light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll be able to visit the site and start plotting where each account goes. The racking will be in, the data and power install will be complete and the office block and canteen will be built.
We have nine Polish staff, seconded from our UK workforce (a real asset – no work permits required!), going out to get everything ready for the opening on May 3rd. They’ll be assembling picking trolleys, labelling shelf locations and tote bins (8,500 in all) and taking delivery of all the packaging and consumables, carefully sourced to make sure they’re consistent with the UK packaging.
Come August I’ll be able to breathe more freely. The team will have found their feet, there’ll be a good volume of orders going out, we’ll have a new WMS system up and running and the warehouse will be filling towards capacity.
For our clients, the EU market will be viable again and they’ll be able to focus on maximising their European sales. It’s been a unique experience for me personally and I have had some steep hills to climb, but our hope is that investing the time of a collective team of eight people for the last six months will mean a much easier transition for our clients, and now we’ve got here, there’s no looking back.
Thinking of moving stock to the EU? We’re ready to help you. Call ILG on 0844 264 8000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.