TFD rises to chocolate challenges

Few can resist the sweet temptation of chocolate. But behind that shiny packaging and the silky, sweet indulgence within, is a complex logistics challenge.

It’s a challenge that IMPERIAL Logistics group company, TFD Network Africa, has risen to since becoming the integrated logistics service provider for Beacon, as well as for premium European brands Lindt and Ferrero.
IMPERIAL Logistics, over 35 years, has become a leader in the third party logistics (3PL) arena. It is growing its confectionery business – and has invested in the specialised skills and resources to succeed in this testing sector – with positive spin-offs for new and existing clients.

Total refrigerated solution
TFD Network Africa’s warehousing has been tailored to meet its confectionery clients’ requirements, with a refrigerated depot in Johannesburg and refrigerated sections (dubbed “choc boxes”) within the company’s facilities in Durban and Cape Town. Refrigerated containers are also catered for, with TFD’s depots boasting “plug-ins” for these.
MD Hein van Waveren notes that TFD has the capacity to handle containers, including unpacking these by hand when necessary, a practice known as “handballing” in the industry. In addition, high-tech refrigerated “docking” stations are provided for refrigerated vehicles.
“We are one of the few players in the industry to offer a total refrigerated solution,” says Van Waveren.

Skills development averts sticky situations
Upskilling its existing staff and boosting its capacity has also contributed to TFD’s increasingly sweet success in the confectionery business. “It’s not just the warehouse staff that must have an understanding of the products’ heat sensitivity, but drivers and crew too,” he explains. “What good is a refrigerated warehouse and vehicle if the product is unloaded in the sun?”
Also a significant factor – and logistics challenge – is the fragility of the product, so employees in all areas need training on product handling.
Communication along the entire supply chain is critical in order to maintain visibility and ensure the smooth transfer of the confectionery from one link to the other. TFD works closely with the stores and distribution centres – some 3,000 locations in total for its confectionery business – and there is constant communication between vehicles, stores, DCs and TFD’s facilities, Van Waveren states.

International best practices
Co-packing also forms part of the company’s service offering. This entails taking bulk material (like individual chocolates), and creating a product, including re-packing and labelling. In all areas, TFD follows international best practices, and complies with its European confectionery clients’ stringent international standards.
In-store merchandising doesn’t usually go hand-in-hand with outsourced logistics, but TFD is adding value for its confectionery clients with its point-of-sale service offering.
Another value add from TFD is the destruction of old or damaged stock, which is particularly important with premium, imported brands. “To stop the risk of the product – or even the packaging – getting back into circulation, possibly for resale on the black market, we have a compactor in our facility. Product that isn’t compacted is safely disposed of in lockable bins.”

Peak performance
TFD ensures that it has the capacity to deal with confectionery’s peak periods – mainly ahead of Easter, Christmas and Valentine’s Day – by bringing in additional labour and working overtime. On the reverse logistics front, the company has also established a constant queries department, to follow up and monitor all confectionery returns.
He stresses that while TFD has built up unrivalled expertise in confectionery, the organisation is not offering its clients a “one-size fits-all” solution. “We have created the capacity – from a resource and infrastructure perspective – to meet the challenges of the confectionery industry, and we have a supply chain model that we are able to optimise for the benefit of all our confectionery clients.”
But, Van Waveren emphasizes: “We are still maintaining our focus on each of our clients’ unique requirements. From dark, white, chilli and mint to bunnies and eggs – the world of chocolate is diverse. At TFD we understand this, and we are committed to ensuring that our clients reap the benefits of our focus on confectionery, but still get the complete, tailored solutions they require.”
TFD Network Africa:
Tel +27 11 842 3000;;