A sweet deal: Nestlé and XPO set to open massive distribution center in the UK

(Image: Shutterstock) 

On June 18, XPO Logistics announced their partnership with Nestlé as the two plan to construct “a 638,000-square-foot distribution center at the new SEGRO East Midlands Gateway Logistics Park (SLPEMG) in Leicestershire, UK.” This “custom designed distribution center…will feature advanced sorting systems and robotics alongside state-of-the-art automation co-developed with Swisslog Logistics Automation” and is slated to open in 2020.

The facility will be “strategically located in the Midlands to benefit from direct access to the M1 motorway for road transport, the East Midlands Airport for cargo flights, and an onsite rail freight terminal with direct access to the major UK ports of Southampton, Felixstowe, London Gateway and the Channel Tunnel.” According to SEGRO, this makes the spot the “number 1 location for UK logistics,” with “85% of the mainland UK population [in reach] within four hours” of the site.

The logistics park itself is set to hire 7,250 employees and has assured potential customers that they will have access to “an instant workforce ready to go.” An estimated 1,000,000 people live within “a 30 minute drive time” of the site, and “90,000 people are economically active but unemployed within a 45 minute drive time.”

This center is expected by XPO and Nestlé to become “one of the most advanced distribution management centers in the world,” granting consumers quicker access to some of Nestlé’s over 2,000 brands. “The facility, a digital warehouse of the future, will be occupied predominantly by Nestlé for its consumer packaged goods and will function as a testbed environment for XPO technology prototypes prior to global release,” according to a news release distributed by XPO.

Construction at SLPEMG began in January 2017, and the center will be ready to welcome its first occupants in September 2018. “SLPEMG is centrally located within the UK distribution warehouse market offering immediate access to the UK’s motorway network as well as dedicated rail and air freight services.”

According to XPO, “The Nestlé partnership we just announced is a world-first for both our companies. We’re creating a next-generation logistics environment for Nestlé brands, combined with an innovation laboratory for our XPO technology team. The term “digital warehouse of the future” is accurate as far as it goes, but it doesn’t convey just how transformational we expect this site to be.”

“Intelligent machines will play a big part in the operation. We’ll deploy collaborative robots, indoor drones, advanced sortation systems, and lots of other automation. Our proprietary algorithms will forecast Nestlé’s customer demand. Smart robots will take products from storage and build mixed pallets with a range of case sizes and brands.”

“Huge gantry robots will build what’s called rainbow pallets, with layer after layer of different Nestlé products. Once the innovation lab gets rolling, we expect to pilot technology that isn’t even on the industry radar yet. It’s on our radar, though.”

“The lab will be an incubator and a launch pad for all kinds of technology related to supply chains. We expect it to have far-reaching impacts in the industry. More directly, it will encourage Nestlé’s global operators to think innovatively and interact with our technology team. It’s a way to future-proof Nestlé’s supply chain.”

Member of Parliament for North West Leicestershire, Andrew Bridgen, echoed XPO’s sentiments: “This is excellent news for North West Leicestershire and the wider East Midlands economy. That two global giants – Nestlé and XPO – should choose to locate their new state-of-the-art, environmentally sustainable facility here shows that this region is a great place for businesses to invest. It’s very positive for the development of our local economy.”

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Maria Baker, Staff Writer

Maria is a staff writer who has covered everything from the environment to sign-on bonuses and women in the industry. She is a recent graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South, where she majored in English literature and minored in environmental studies. Maria loves writing about freight almost as much as she loves Emily Dickinson and the self-imposed challenge of finding the best iced mocha in Chattanooga.