Elanders: Supplying the whole package

25 May 2021

Known to many as solely a printing company, SCC member Elanders has in recent years transformed into a supplier of end-to-end supply chain solutions – with printing and packaging services as part of the overall offering. Kevin Rogers, Managing Director at Elanders UK, lets us in on the transformational journey, and how Elanders has helped customers overcome post-Brexit challenges with its expert advice and cross-border warehouse solutions.

Most Swedes will know Elanders as a printing company, but in recent years, the company has transformed its business to put 80% of activities in its supply chain solutions, while 20% of operations is within printing and packaging. “Our offering is an end-to-end supply chain service on a global scale,” Kevin Rogers, Managing Director at Elanders UK explains. “We offer an integrated and customised solution for handling all parts of a customer’s supply chain. This is where we would take complete responsibility for complex and global deliveries that may include items such as purchasing, warehousing storage, configuration of devices, fulfilment, e-commerce activities, and distribution, either locally or globally.”

Growing the UK footprint
Since Elanders opened its first UK satellite sales office for the printing company it was back in 1985, a lot has happened. “In 1999, Elanders acquired the business that I worked for at the time. The previous year in 1998, we moved the business, which was located in Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East, into a purpose-built 85,000 square feet facility,” Kevin recalls. Later in 2013 and 2017, Elanders acquired two specialist packaging companies in Scotland and in Nottingham, England. “In 2019, I gained the responsibility as Managing Director for all activities in the UK, including supply chain.”

Transforming the business
During the time of the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, digital media was having a breakthrough leading to a negative impact on printing. “Lots of it was going online, and a lot of information was being shared and looked for through electronic devices, which led to a decline in the number of pages produced.” At the same time, Elanders was getting asked by more of its customers to deliver a just-in-time service because they didn’t want to hold any stock in their facilities. “We were becoming a key supplier, because a lot of the print we were producing was a key component of the items being produced, whether it was household electrical goods for companies like Electrolux or Husqvarna, or automotive for companies like Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes and BMW.” This is when the idea of a supply chain led service was born. “We made the step into looking for what is termed as a third-party logistics business to acquire, which would then help us expand into dedicated supply chain services.”

Turnover quadrupled
Since 2012, Elanders has quadrupled its turnover and expanded into 20 countries, making the business a truly global service provider. Kevin says that there are today good synergies between the two parts of the business. “Elanders’ strategic move was to reduce our dependency on printing and move towards supply chain led services which can also require printing and packaging as part of the overall service. A lot of our supply chain customers, which we weren’t dealing with before for printing and packaging, do have a demand for some level of printing and packaging. Whether it is a miniature brochure that goes in the box with the consumer cosmetics which are shipped out, a piece of packaging, or an instruction manual for the consumer electronics, there are some really good synergies.“

Logistical challenges in the wake of Brexit
With the UK’s exit from the European Union, many of Elanders’ customers were faced with logistical challenges. “The biggest challenge that customers had pre-Brexit, was that nobody knew what Brexit was going to look like. Then, when it was announced that we would have a duty and tariff-free arrangement between the UK and the EU, everybody thought that means you can move any goods across the border very easily, or certainly without duty and tariffs. But that only applies if the product’s point of origin is either in the EU or the UK, and a lot of companies are bringing in products, mainly from Asia, to sell across both the EU and UK regions.”

Expert advice and practical solutions
Having facilities and teams on both sides of the channel, as well as in-house customs knowledge in both the UK and the EU, has enabled Elanders to provide customers with expert advice and to offer them practical solutions to their supply chain challenges. “For some customers, having goods in the EU and the UK is the right solution. For other customers, a bonded solution might be better, where a product coming in from Asia may go into a bonded warehouse in the Netherlands, Germany or the UK, meaning it doesn’t clear customs. When they receive the orders from their customers in the regions, we can either clear customs into the UK with one set of duty paid, or make a shipment out of the bonded UK warehouse into the EU, which means it’s only one payment of duty or VAT with their respective countries.”

End-to-end supply chain services solving post-Brexit challenges
To illustrate how Elanders’ services are put into work, Kevin explains how a major sports brand is trusting Elanders with all of its European distribution from its e-commerce platform. “We have a huge warehouse in Germany, and anything that you order from the brand, whether it’s shoes, clothing, accessories – it all comes out of our warehouse. We are fully integrated with the customer’s e-commerce platform and back-end systems, and they can see all the orders in real-time and status.”

Elanders also manages the returns, which is a huge operation since customers, especially in fashion and lifestyle, often order more products than they want and ship back up to 50% of what they have ordered. This has proved to be a real challenge given Brexit. “We have a returns hub in the UK where we consolidate all of the returns and ship them back in bulk rather than doing it one by one. We do all the inspection and the grading, and when we say everything is cleared for a refund, the brand can process it very quickly. Their challenge with the returns post-Brexit has been when the returns are taking one or two weeks to get back, they can’t process the refund, resulting in a bad experience for their customers.”

Only partway through the journey
Going forward, Elanders will continue to develop its value-adding supply chain services, especially for companies that require European and global services. In last year, Elanders also saw a major surge in e-commerce. “Our e-commerce services will continue to grow, and we also have plans to grow the UK, Asia and America’s business. This will be a mix of organic growth as well as acquisition. It’s just exciting times with lots of opportunities and developments. I think we’re only partway through that journey.”

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