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Arising from the merger of two critically positioned UK distributors in 2014, what is now known as the EVO Group quickly became note-worthy for its ability to deliver and distribute to businesses across a range of channels, in the shortest possible time. Operations General Manager Phil Allsop explains how the efforts of all those involved ensures that the customer remains the focal-point of all of the company’s operations and how he and his teams are looking to further increase engagement across all channels.
EVO Group is an entity greater than the sum of its parts, an accolade that is all the more impressive given the scope, scale and size of its constituent companies: Vasanta and office2officeplc (o2o). Listed on the Sunday Times Top Track 250 - EVO is a leading office equipment supplier with revenues last year of almost £660 million. It has a strong distribution footing in the UK and ROI. The Group’s specific wholesale and direct channels deliver managed procurement, distribution and supply chain services, alongside a strong business supplies offering.
All told, the Group is made up of specific channels under the brands of VOW, VOW Retail, Banner, bokz, Headroom and Truline, which together give it a footprint of over 50,000 customers. These are serviced by a centralised distribution network supported by three main distribution centres, as well as various localised cross-dock sites and a fleet of over 320 vehicles.
Allsop explains that the Group is able to target the market through a range of different channels: “We have three core businesses that operate out of EVO Group. We have a retail section which predominately covers goods for resale – we will provide customers with a product that they will then display for purchase. We also supply dealer networks where dealers sell on to end user, which include offices and SME enterprises. With the integration of Office to Office, we gained the Banner business which supplies directly into major accounts.”
Our sales teams are consistently out there, talking with our customers and meeting them. I myself spend a day every two weeks on the road with the sales teams to help understand customer needs and how we can mitigate any potential challenges.”
He adds: “We have sales teams operating out of Norwich, Droylsden in Manchester, Wakefield, and Lutterworth, while also having sales teams in Dublin and Belfast.”
EVO Group’s unrivalled position in the UK is maintained by a combined effort to increase customer engagement, aggressively expand sales, and to optimise its operations in order to guarantee next day delivery to its customer base. In order to achieve this, Allsop is tasked with ensuring that every aspect of the company’s supply chain is in-line with these goals.
He explains: “Next day delivery is a huge responsibility – we are able to take orders up until 6:30pm each evening and get those distributed by the next day. This ensures there is a balance between the distribution centres, mainly based on geography, but also order size.
“We disseminate the orders into the right warehouse to ensure that warehouse is fit for purpose. One example of this would be if I walked across the despatch area of Lutterworth and saw a pallet of paper to go to a single customer - I question who has ordered this. Whereas in Normanton, there are several pallets of paper awaiting despatch.
“Within Lutterworth, we are shipping out circa 220,000 items a day through automation and as you can imagine it's a hive of activity between 6:30pm and 11pm.”
While engagement has certainly become a buzzword for many in the distribution industry and beyond, Allsop describes that the EVO Group has its own culture and is self-directed for what it wants to achieve using this clear identity.
He says: “You will only get ideas to improve your operations from your teams. I personally put together a programme that has worked particularly well around displaying initiatives and encouraging people to come forward. They know their job. They know the shortcuts in that job - it’s about how do you evolve those shortcuts into a process that is then fit for purpose and within the boundaries of health and safety.
“As a business, we are always looking to expand. I think our sales team are particularly dynamic. They are always looking for opportunities. Saying that, we are pragmatic in implementing new ideas and know what our capacities are within our network and how best to gain maximum efficiency.”
The Group also works with external parties where relevant to ensure the service delivered to customers is constantly enhanced. Phil says: “For instance, we work with Hazel 4D who is the provider of packaging to EVO for the last three years. Their Total Packaging Management solution means that they store our stock in their warehouse for call off. We receive a daily delivery, and at the end of the month we are only billed for the stock that has been used. Furthermore, we are also working with Hazel 4D to look at further efficiencies in our pallet fulfilment.”
He also explains that, while the price of an item is obviously important to an office customer, the service and the accompanying service delivery are of equal, if not superior importance. Leveraging its sophisticated distribution network in order to fulfil the needs of customers in this way is how the company has been able to maintain its place at the top.
Allsop explains that in order to ensure that the EVO Group is consistently on track to deliver its operational strategies; it needs to have a constantly motivated and well-trained workforce who is willing to go the extra mile. He says: “As a business, we aim to attract graduates and commence with an apprenticeship programme. I'm a great believer in apprentices, particularly within operations, I think they are a must have for organisations that operate in logistics.”
“We operate NVQs, as well as on-site training which we carry out across the board, from manual handling all the way through to the supervisors and warehouse management systems. As a company, we also run a number of internal training and development programmes. In addition, we have a very recently launched mentoring programme within the business, combined with our internal awards programme – all supported with an annual employee survey.”
Not only does the employee survey support a culture of openness within the organisation, it also enables management to work with employees to drive positive, constructive change across the business. Even when it comes to its contingent labour force, EVO ensures that its agency takes the time with temporary workers to ensure that they are fully aware of the company’s operations and work ethic.
Having proved with its successful merger in 2014, the EVO Group has gone on to become an essential part of the UK’s business supplies network and a model for others looking to give true value to their customers. The company’s dedicated approach to its operational strategy and its supporting talent pool shows that the Group has firmly cemented its place in the market and is well-positioned to be a serious influencer for years to come.