Coolboxes & Customer Service..
While the refinement of a leather-topped desk and ready access to the decanters was not what I was expecting from my return to working in a commercial enterprise, neither was the situation in which I quickly found myself.
I joined the UK office of an Italian firm which supplied picnic goods (principally coolboxes, cool-bags and ice-packs) to major retailers in the UK – my initial role (falling back on my Business Studies) was as a credit controller which soon developed into additionally collating and managing the reporting of the UK production of coolboxes by a third party.
Because of the main products, the busiest period was from early Spring through to the end of August. Once this period was reached then shipments in from the Italian factories and UK manufactuers along with out-going shipments to customers meant that the warehouse and order-processing functions were at full-stretch. So when the Customer Services Manager resigned at the beginning of the season this caused – shall we say – some consternation within the company. I was asked to take on the role of Customer Services Manager with responsibility for sales order processing, warehouse management, liaison with hauliers, management of the UK production of coolboxes and purchasing of insulation and packaging materials for coolbox production. I confess that some nights I was counting pallets of coolboxes rather than sheep but it was an interesting and valuable experience.
The power of Pantera..
Many of the staff were on temporary contracts so it was imperative to have the sales office and warehouse staff working in a co-ordinated manner, ensuring that the warehouse staff had adequate notification of incoming goods as well as ensuring that the paperwork for orders to be shipped was presented so that orders could be picked, palletised and make ready for loading with minimum delays to hauliers – and that was the easy part! The speed with which any delivery vehicle (incoming or outgoing) was turned around was very important. One season the warehouse staff were made up of heavy-metal fans and, on entering the warehouse mid-afternoon, a director remarked that the choice of music was not to his liking; when asked if he had ever seen the warehouse staff working with such gusto and purpose he confirmed that he had not. So, while Pantera was not my cup of tea either, the warehouse team’s efficiency was so …rock on!
Keeping the plates spinning..
Whilst very tiring, this was a great experience – the scope of the role was vast and most days I felt almost like a juggler who has to keep the plates spinning.
The most rewarding parts were seeing the teams that I was responsible for working together and meeting our delivery targets, maintaining control over all aspects of production by third-parties, making sure that stock records were accurate, finding significant efficiencies in the purchase of materials* and still being able to enjoy working together despite the tight deadlines.
Then an opportunity arose which resulted in working in London for the next 15 years… The ‘News’ Years.
*I could now talk an insomniac to sleep describing the relative merits of double-walled corrugated boxes and the choices of outer materials to guard against side impact…but I won’t unless I am asked to do so.