HISTORICALLY, products manufactured locally in Asia and imported into countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore moved as boxes or on company-owned wooden pallets. The arrival and spread of multi-national supermarket chains in the region turned the pallet logistic business on its head.<[etk]>
These companies demand that suppliers move their goods on standardised, well-maintained pallets. With a keen eye on taking costs out of their logistics and warehousing businesses these chains, led by the likes of Tesco, Carrefor, Makro and others, want products flowing to their branches palletised and part of a pallet-pooling system. Now companies can send a pallet of product from Bangkok over the border to Singapore, and de-hire their pallets there.
Loscam Asia has grown with the spread of western-style supermarkets in the region, with offices and pallet operations in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Hong Kong.
“Growth over the past five years has been very good and this year we have plans to expand to three more countries. In Asia generally there is a growing middle class, who want to shop at air conditioned supermarkets and shopping malls,” according to Loscam CEO Neil McBain.
Neil said that in the early days it was a hard road to get manufacturers to see the advantages of pallet-pooling.
“Asia had no history of pooling and used different-sized pallets that were all locally owned. It was a matter of getting people to see the bigger picture – that pallet-pooling was not just about the pallet. It is about standardisation.
“Obviously, they had issues of control, but like everywhere else, once the forklift and pallets came together, the drive is for efficiency.
“In the last 10 years since we have been up there, governments have become involved in trying to streamline the supply chain, with standardisation. Pallets are a part of that, as are trucks, forklifts and IT systems,” McBain said.
“So you have had governments pushing supply chain improvement and you have had the customers wanting to take costs out. Pallet pooling provides a standard platform and cost-sharing, whereas before they had to own and maintain their own pallets.
“Now, they just transfer them through to the next user and we maintain them. It has taken a long time, however it really is working successfully now in most markets.”
Loscam works closely with a global group called ECR – Efficient Consumer Response – an organisation set up by manufacturers to address the supply chain issues in the region.
“Global companies are very supportive of ECR but pallet pooling is a small but important part of their focus. We have a regional manager for Loscam Asia based in Thailand and this year the company will be introducing new products to Asian customers, including IBCs and the introduction of Loscam Online for immediate tracking of transactions and documentation.
“With Free Trade Agreements being signed amongst the ASEAN countries, a lot of the trade barriers will come down and we’ll see a freeing-up of trade and increased cross-borderer activity.
“This product will be palletised as it will be moved by road transport and a manufacturer can hire a pallet anywhere and de-hire it somewhere else,” McBain said.