By Tim Ellis, Logistics Network Manager
Just north of the M25, our biggest ever depot is really starting to take shape. After a year of hard work on the ground, we’ve reached the next milestone of our Biggleswade base build; completing the main build of the outside ‘shell’. It’s taken us just short of a year, since the spade hit the cold February mud in 2020. And though, from the outside it looks pretty much finished, right now it’s still just a shell. It’ll now take us the best part of this year to fully kit it out, transforming all 660,000 sq ft (the size of 313 tennis courts!) into our largest regional distribution centre ready to handle over 2 million cases a week of Frozen, Fresh and Ambient from January 2022.
It’s a really complicated project, and we’ve faced some challenges and delays along the way. Covid lost us two weeks in March and we never really recovered because it impacted supplies and social distancing on site. Then from autumn, we’ve had so much rainfall it slowed down the concrete works.
We had to quickly develop some new ways of working as a result of Covid too, with teams not travelling as much, but thanks to brilliant teamwork across all functions, and really good working relationships with the developer (Tritax) and contractor (Winvic), we’ve been able to work through any issues or problems well.
Not only will it be one of the greenest depots in the country, running on 100% renewable electricity, we’re focusing on our colleague experience by creating a modern, positive working environment centred on wellbeing. We’ll be recruiting over 1,000 new colleagues to work at Biggleswade, and we want it to be a place they’re all proud of. We’ve already appointed our new DGM, Ahmed Sharif from Thurrock depot, and we’ll start gradually recruiting other management roles now too.
Biggleswade is a perfect location to help transform our growth into London, the South and South East. It’s part of our ambition to make sure we’ve the right distribution facilities in the right places, to deliver an improved service and availability to all our retail stores, and our FRTS, franchise and wholesale partner sites across the country.
It’s a really exciting project to be part of. As well as being a state-of-the-art now, we need to make sure we future-proof it so that it’s not just fit for purpose now, but will also help us build our capability for the future. We’re so excited to start the fit-out and watch this huge empty shell turn into a fantastic Co-op building!