Q&A with Adrian Dale, managing director at reusable packaging and supply chain solutions specialist Tosca
Q: Tosca acquired Polymer Logistics, a leader in retail ready packaging systems, in December 2019. Why has the Polymer business been rebranded as Tosca and what benefits will the name change bring?
A: Tosca is a 60-year-old leader in reusable packaging and supply chain solutions in the United States who acquired Polymer Logistics in December 2019. Polymer Logistics transitioned to the Tosca brand name to expand its geographical reach and increase its robust reusable packaging portfolio with a presence in the market in the United Kingdom, continental Europe, and the rest of the world, becoming one stronger partner. As Tosca, we can offer greater financial scalability. We are owned by Apax Partners a large private equity firm that gives Tosca the ability to grow with its customers and bring new and expanded solutions to market quickly to provide a higher-performing supply chain for our customers. Additionally, by becoming Tosca we have a global presence, keeping the outstanding local service that allows us to serve our customers with transcontinental solutions.
Q: What is Polymer Logistics famous for and what strength does that bring to the Tosca organisation?
A: Polymer Logistics is a leading provider of ‘One-Touch/Retail Ready Packaging (RRP)’ solutions. Since 1994, it has been helping retailers worldwide simplify supply chain management by offering them precisely what they need in terms of logistics services and display products, from the factory to the retail floor, thanks to our wide portfolio. Also, we are bringing our in-house production capability and R&D with great expertise across Europe and the rest of the world.
Q: What differences will customers see and experience as a result of the name change?
A: Our customers are going to receive the same great customer focus they know and need.
As one stronger organisation, Tosca brings customers greater choice in reusable packaging providers, servicing supply chains end to end, from the first mile to the last mile, globally because Tosca also acquired Contraload NV, a leader in plastic pallet pooling in the United Kingdom and European Union in August 2020. Together the combined company will continue building the reusable revolution, bringing efficiencies and savings to supply chains all over the world. Our customers they will also benefit from a growing global network with outstanding local teams to help them grow their business.
Q: What does the name change mean for Polymer Logistic’s existing UK customers?
A: The name change gives our existing UK customers greater financial scalability to bring to the market the solutions they need to get a higher performance supply chain. In our business, one solution does not fit all. Therefore, as Tosca, we have the willingness and capacity to custom-build solutions and fine-tune our network to solve our existing customers’ supply chain challenges.
Q: How will the business be structured and operate moving forward?
A: Our philosophy is to stay close to our customers, to serve them in the best way we have 17 offices over the world offering pooled and direct sale to customers (US, Canada, UK, Italy, Israel, Spain, Belgium, France, Germany, Turkey, Atlanta, GA) an unmatched global network density with 18 North American sites and 32 in continental Europe.
Q: What are UK retailers’ top supply chain challenges and how does Tosca help retailers overcome them?
A: It is a question of keeping their supply chains relevant for the changing environment. Covid, as well as changing consumer habits, are the top supply challenges that UK retailers are facing. At the same time, food safety and food waste are key concerns for them too. However, some retailers have invested in legacy fleets that do not meet the demands of today. To address these challenges, retailers need to future-proof their supply chains, making sure that they count with a partner that allows them to have a higher performance supply chain, making it cost-efficient and lean while ensuring that is sustainable and meet the highest standards of hygiene and safety. Tosca, as their suppliers, is providing solutions to manage all these issues, guaranteed them a higher performance supply chain.
Q: To what extent has the Covid-19 pandemic heightened retailers’ supply chain challenges and in what way?
A: Maintaining availability and dealing with demand spikes have challenged demand planners and we have had to work with all retailers on maintaining availability for changes in shopping habits. With more consumption at home, we have all had to focus more on specific SKU’s which reflect home consumption. Retailers have seen the benefit of working with a dynamic pooling company that can adapt their offer for different circumstances. Retailers have also needed the availability of packaging solutions that are easy to clean to ensure that the standards were the highest available to avoid cross-contamination.
Q: What extra solutions has Tosca implemented in response to the pandemic?
A: Online has grown enormously during the lockdown especially during the first lockdown and, we have supported this with an online crate but also some wheeled solutions. The other point is keeping our people safe implementing regimes to keep social distancing in place especially at break times and am pleased to say we have avoided shutdowns and maintained service to our customers.
Q: E-commerce has surged during the pandemic with multiple fulfilment options ie home delivery, click and collect, kerbside etc? How does Tosca support e-commerce growth and retailer efficiency?
A: When it comes to e-commerce, retailers need robust and well-designed containers that items can be placed in safely, transferred to delivery vehicles, and then transported to the consumer’s home or a local collection point. Selecting the appropriate container technology is a crucial decision as it can make a huge impact on every aspect of the delivery process. Tosca supports the growth in e-commerce by working with many of the leading supermarkets across Europe to design and manufacture bespoke reusable home shopping crates that meet both strict performance requirements and detailed branding specifications. Tosca offers a full service that includes in-house R&D and manufacturing capabilities which gives it the ability to partner with customers in the retail sector to bring new ideas to the e-commerce market in a shorter timeframe.
Q: What should retailers consider when selecting a supply chain partner?
A: The supply chain can be the strongest or the weakest link in any business operation. For retailers, it is vital to work with a partner that understands their challenges and can provide tailored solutions to overcome them to ensure the right support is given to optimise efficiency, productivity, and safety. There are three key factors that they should look at.
First, retailers should consider whether a partner can cover the entire supply chain. Individual partners have minimal visibility over activities of the other partners in the chain, limiting chances to prevent or react to any issues that may arise. Working with just one partner for sales, service, and managing the transportation network helps retailers to streamline the way the business is run. Optimal traceability over the whole supply chain is also a huge benefit as better visibility gives partners more control over the entire supply chain.
Secondly, retailers should contemplate whether their partner provides consultancy support. There is never a one-choice-fits-all answer when it comes to achieving a high-performing supply chain which is why retailers need to work with a partner who listens, understands the industry, and has the knowledge and experience to design the solutions that help you have a successful supply chain. Tosca has over 100 years of combined experience managing large supply chains and the financial scalability needed to grow and bring innovations to the market.
Third, retails need to think about whether their partner can improve their supply chain productivity. The supply chain contributes to the overall success of a retailer’s operation. That is why it is vital that the products used, from crates and pallets to dollies and displays, are designed with productivity in mind. Retailers need custom-built solutions that can increase performance at each stage of the process whether this is down to hygiene, ease of use, stackable, foldable, light, durable, or all the above. With an in-house R&D department, Tosca has the knowledge and capacity to custom-build the solutions that help you optimize performance at each stage of the journey.
Q: How important is end to end visibility of the supply chain?
A: Having end-to-end visibility over the supply chain enables retailers to strengthen and streamline the way their business runs and operates, resulting in a higher-performing supply chain. This approach empowers retailers, choosing a partner to serve them from the first mile of their supply chain to the last one allows them to reduce any future issues, for example, they have better control of their stocks.
Q: To what extent is industry experience important in selecting a supply chain partner?
A: It is crucial because it allows retailers to receive bespoke custom-fit solutions specifically designed for them and the challenges they face based on years of research and development into the best options, giving them peace of mind from a wealth of experience. Tosca operates at consultancy levels, understanding each of our client’s business and their particular challenges, that way we can come with the best-fit solutions for them.
Q: How can a supply chain partner help a retailer optimise their performance?
A: In general, terms, for a retailer to optimise their performance, they will need to ensure their products are where they need them when they need them. Great product design also plays a huge part, and a strong supply chain partner should be able to offer the knowledge and capacity to custom-build the solutions that help retailers optimize performance at each stage of the supply chain, reducing their costs. It is important to remember that no one solution fits all. Once we understand the challenges of our customers and analyse their current supply chain, we will come with the best fit solution to increase their performance.
Q: Tosca specialises in RPCs (Reusable Packaging Containers). What advantages do they bring to a retail organisation versus alternative solutions?
A: At Tosca, we are extremely focused on our customers’ sustainable solutions. RPC’s (Reusable Packaging Containers) allow forward-thinking retailers to introduce sustainable practices to the supply chain and reap the benefits of improved efficiency, better productivity, and reduced costs.
A lot of retailers use corrugated packaging due to the perceived low costs and easy recyclability. However, perishables do not make recycling corrugated easy or simple, and it is not resistant to moisture, insects or fungi and substances such as oil, or packaging tape which then makes the corrugated unsuitable for recycling.
RPCs are uniform in size, with a standardized footprint, strong and durable to protect perishables products, and are designed to interlink together, making it safe to stack them higher than corrugated without any risk of boxes being crushed or the stacks becoming unstable. This allows for more products to be fitted in each truck, and fuller trucks equal fewer vehicles on the road, saving emissions and reducing fuel costs.
Using RPCs means that staff does not need to waste their time breaking down boxes, taking them to the bailer, and preparing them for transport when they cannot be recycled all of the time. They help eliminate a significant source of packaging waste too which is great for both the environment and the retailer. Tosca’s RPCs also contribute to the circular economy as they can be reused over 100 times, after which they can be recycled into new products.
Q: Finally, how should retailers be future proofing their supply chain solutions?
A: As mentioned, for a retailer to optimise their productivity and future proof their supply chain solutions, they need to make sure that their products are where they are when they need them. Retailers that are not able to deliver goods at the right time and place will risk losing their customers to one of many competitors.
To prepare the supply chain for ever-changing consumer demands, retailers need to start embracing technology. Supply chains are becoming more advanced digitally and track and trace capabilities are essential in this. It gives retailers the ability to monitor the crates, pallets, and containers as they travel through the network meaning any potential issues can be addressed before they happen, and the data gathered by the system can prove a valuable asset in improving efficiency across the system.