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A case study assessment of the operational performance of a multiple fresh produce distribution centre in the UK

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Purpose ‐ The aim of this research is to evaluate the current operational status of fresh produce distribution centres in the UK and identify the nature and magnitude of the main logistical problems within them. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A critical evaluation of space and time utilization efficiency has been achieved by studying on-site operations in a multiple produce handling and short-term storage facility in Kent, UK. The objective of this research was to measure operational performance of distribution centres for agricultural perishables in terms of through-put and space utilization. Findings ‐ The inefficient utilization of storage space within cold rooms has been identified and quantified accurately, whilst the quality control task has been recognized as the most time-consuming task and a critical cause for hindering product flow. Practical implications ‐ Despite their importance, distribution centres for fresh fruit and vegetables have received little attention in the distribution and performance management literature. Given the lack of robust performance measurement systems reported, the measurement of operational performance in distribution centres for agricultural products was a challenge. Originality/value ‐ The measurement and improvement of the operational performance in each linkage of the fresh produce supply chain ‐ such as a distribution centre ‐ can lead in achieving higher levels of service at substantially reduced costs. A small number of publications are found in the literature providing information on physical distribution of agricultural perishables, and how the key features of perishability and voluminosity of the produce affect the distribution efficiency. In this research, a step towards the improvement of the fresh produce distribution industry operational performance has been attempted, by evaluating the current operational status of a leading multiple produce distribution centre in the UK.
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Keywords: Cold storage; Distribution management; Fresh foods; Operations management; Supply chain management; United Kingdom

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-05-16

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