From Concept to Reality


There is so much more to designing a warehouse, than designing a warehouse. You could have a consultant advise on your overall supply chain strategy, whether you need to go centralised or not, where you should place your site, whether outsourcing is the route to go?

Then you have the company that designs your facility and leaves you to it. At which stage you call in another company to assist you with operations. Or you could appoint Industrial Logistic Systems (ILS) to take you through the entire process from cradle to the last mile.

Having just celebrated their 30-year anniversary, “Supply Chain Today” speaks to ILS Chairman, Martin Bailey, Managing Director Gary Benatar, and Executive Director Clayton Thomas about their pivotal role in the supply chain locally and internationally.
Says Martin, “Staying current has been the fundamental secret of our success. Our wide range of international work and the fact that we speak at, and attend, many global conferences, think-tanks, seminars and works visits to overseas facilities, means that we are fully conversant with the latest trends.

Best ideas
“So when we get together with new and existing clients, we are able to sift through the best ideas out there to figure out the optimum supply chain and logistics strategy for each client. The supply chain needs to underpin and match the client’s overall business strategy, and above all it has to have a measurable payback.

“We can take what will work in a local context and for a particular client, and implement it from network analysis, infrastructure, design parameters, project management through to on-the-ground operations. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution.”

Individually addressed
This fit-for-purpose approach is mirrored in ILS’ approach to design. Gary adds, “You can’t just dust off old drawings of something similar you have done in the past, do a few tweaks and design by rote. Each and every client will have different requirements which have to be addressed individually to arrive at a relevant and unique solution.

“What works for one building will not do so for another. First comes the client’s actual processes which we have to understand thoroughly, before even beginning to put pen to paper. The building must follow the operations, not the other way round to arrive at an efficient solution. And of course, efficiency results in sustainability on every front – ergonomically, economically, energy efficiency, future-proofing.”

From the beginning, ILS made the decision to employ graduate engineers, many of whom are still with the company today. The result is an unequalled depth and breadth of experience brought to bear on every project. Says Clayton, “Each staff member is encouraged to think laterally. We need staff who have their thinking caps on. And we all weigh in, together with the client, to arrive at the very best result attainable.”
This capable and solid team, which is committed to continuous and appropriate learning, has consistently come up with solutions that can be benchmarked against the best in the world. In fact, the company has a number of firsts under its belt.

Emulated internationally
Says Gary, “While undertaking a recent project, which called for clean and hygienic returnable transit packaging for the retail industry, it became clear that there were a limited number of local suppliers to handle the crate washing facilities. Having investigated numerous international offerings, we selected an automated machine but requested various changes be made in light of the energy and water issues in South Africa.”

This first generation crate washing facility is on a par with European standards, while the second generation is expected to be 7x more efficient and the third generation 50x more so.

“We also had some of the mechanised features removed given the necessity to ensure work for our labour force. The supplier is now incorporating the changes we requested into their standard offering. It’s important to note that any move to automate or mechanise is made with the aim of creating a better working environment for staff, and not just for the sake of it,” Clayton highlights.

ILS was also instrumental in bringing jointless fibre-reinforced technology to South Africa thus reducing the cost of maintenance and extending floor life significantly. In addition, they can lay claim to designing the highest ASRS (automated storage retrieval system) locally at 43 metres. Reducing the footprint and maximising cube utilisation at this facility saved the client from having to purchase a larger site for their business.
Changing the way cellphones are tracked and distributed in South Africa can be attributed to ILS.

The highest turret truck facility; new energy-efficient battery-charging technology with less pollution; pushing the boundaries with larger column centres in DC’s; encouraging the use of curved roofs which leak less and are more economical; and combining shuttles with push-back racking and selective to arrive at a unique solution for a particular client’s warehouse, have also been emulated internationally.

While rightly proud of these achievements, having Company A undertake a supply strategy and Company B design the facility does not amount to a hill of beans if they are nowhere to be found when the operations commence in earnest.
The ILS team gets involved in capex and opex. They assist in the go-live, setting up the WMS, manning and staffing requirements, assisting with implementing labour and productivity standards, staff incentives, training the staff, training the trainers, IT etc.
Having been hand-picked for attitude, passion and enthusiasm, ILS interns cut their teeth in operations where they are exposed to real-life situations. They get to see how things work first-hand before venturing into design back at the office. There they form part of a team with a joint 208 man years of experience and the de facto leaders in the pharmaceutical, retail and manufacturing arenas.

Collective whole
Gary says, “We are all aware of the move to omni-channel, e-commerce, IoT and digitilisation which we believe will be driven by the supply chain. Right now, international bodies are looking at the serialisation of drugs worldwide and smart drugs which are those specifically concocted for an individual patient.
“You will be able to order your own recipe for dog food complete with a picture of ‘Woofie’ on the packaging.”

The whole package
He adds, “The fact that we joined EOH in 2015 will stand us in good stead. They are a major tech company with a strong culture match to ILS, one which believes in engaging with team members as part of a collective whole. Like us, it’s all about giving independent advice and doing what is right for the customer. “
Martin concludes, “There is no substitute for working with a client from feasibility, concept, project management and design, through to the thrill of seeing the operation come to life optimally on the ground each day, every day.”

Johannesbur: Tel: (011) 656-1100,
Cape Town: Tel: (021) 816-2000,

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