Leading UK intermodal and bulk freight provider Freightliner, a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W), and Unipart Rail, supply partner to the rail industry, were triumphant at last week’s inaugural Freight Transport Association (FTA) Logistics Awards, picking up the award for ‘Most Innovative Company of the Year’.

Exceeding strong competition from category finalists such as Packaging Services Europe, Berendsen PLC, and Hermes UK, Freightliner and Unipart Rail were recognised for their integrated supply chain solution – SmartServe.

In 2016, Freightliner built a new locomotive vehicle maintenance facility at their existing site in Crewe to bring the maintenance of their fleet of Class 86 and 90 vehicles in-house.

Having previously worked with Unipart Rail, Freightliner sought Unipart’s support in developing a proposition that would completely outsource the supply chain operations for the new depot and enable it to be fully operational within a challenging nine-month deadline.

Starting the project with a joint vision of creating a new approach to optimising maintenance operations, Freightliner’s management team was able to focus on the logistics and operational issues of creating the vehicle maintenance facility.  Unipart Rail was able to concentrate on sourcing, planning, controlling and supplying over 700 parts to the line-side locations of the Freightliner maintenance technicians.

Dave Curtis, Freightliner’s Engineering Production Director UK said, “SmartServe ensures that the right parts or tools for the job are always to hand. Turning inventory management into an operation resembling a lean production line is helping to drive waste out of the organisation and increase recycling and re-engineering of critical parts whilst encouraging positive attitudes to work.”

Apart from having a thoroughly successful operation from the ground up in less than a year, the SmartServe solution has delivered demonstrable cost savings, more productive staff who are able to focus on repair work rather than tracking down parts, ready availability of tools and parts providing a more efficient maintenance service, and availability of locos maintained to the highest levels.

Karen Beardsley, Managing Director, Supply Chain Solutions, Unipart Rail said, “The way in which the teams from Unipart Rail and Freightliner work together in the true spirit of collaboration meant that many new, innovative ideas were discussed and implemented quickly and effectively. This spirit is reflected now in the day-to-day operation of the facility and it is good to see how all of our staff have embraced these new ways of working rather than the traditional arms-length relationship between supplier and customer.”