By Tim Ellis, Logistics Network Manager
I’ve spent most of my career managing large depot programmes, but when the spade hit the ground at Biggleswade in Bedfordshire yesterday, it was a special moment for me and the Logistics team. It officially marked the start of the biggest, most high tech regional distribution centre in our network.
When it opens in 2022, Biggleswade (just north of the M25) will be a huge, fully composite depot, handling over 2 million cases a week of Frozen, Fresh and Ambient. At 660,000 sq ft, it’ll be the biggest depot in our network by a long way.
We don’t build new depots every year so when one comes around, it’s a great opportunity to refresh all the elements that work well in existing sites and make improvements, too. We work with the operational teams to improve our design and make sure the building’s fit for purpose for what we need now, and to build our capability for the future.
That’s what’s so exciting about Biggleswade. Not only will it be the biggest depot in our network and transform our growth into London, the South and South East, but we’ll be building in new ideas to create something really special. From the sustainability in the design (it’ll be one of the most sustainable in the country) to the colleague experience, we’re taking some inspiration from Angel Square, as well as other buildings, to make it a state-of-the-art environment that our 1,000+ new colleagues can be proud of.
I’ve worked across virtually all our whole logistics network during my 30 years with Co-op; as Project Manager on projects at Birtley, Newhouse, Castlewood, Plymouth, Thurrock, Dalcross and Wellingborough, and I’ve seen the business grow considerably in scale and volume. So, I was really thrilled to be asked to support on a new site in the South East: working on the business case, tendering for the contractor, and getting board approval is an exciting time.
Biggleswade will be a lengthy and complicated project – building such a huge space will take us until the end of the year, then it’s another 18 months or so for us to fully fit it out and ramp it up, transforming it from a large shell into a market-leading distribution centre ready to deliver an improved service and availability to our Food stores now, and in the future. I’m excited to get started!
I love being able to work across lots of different teams and co-ordinate such a large programme – seeing it right through from beginning to end. It’s challenging but so rewarding when you can see everyone pulling in the same direction. Every time I drive to, or passed, a depot, I feel so proud that I played a huge part in it.