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Supplying 7,000 Small Chemists

11th April 1958, Page 67
11th April 1958
Page 67
Page 68
Page 67, 11th April 1958 — Supplying 7,000 Small Chemists
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Growth of Drug Business Because of Road Transport Development: Daily Deliveries Within 40-mile Radius

By C. S. Dunbar, M.Inst.T.

THERE are about 10,000 or 11,000 pharmacies in Great Britain run by individual chemists or small companies unconnected with big groups in the trade, and of these independents some 7,000 are on the books of United Chemists Association, Ltd., whose managing director is Mr. S. Lovell Goulder. The multiples have about 4,000 shops.

Ucal, as the company are called, are basically a co-operative concern, started in 1909 by Harold Miller, of Cheltenham, whose idea was to give the independents the advantages of bulk -buying which the multiples already had. For the first decade of the company's existence, they supplied only their shareholders, but since then any business in which at least half the shares are held by a qualified chemist can become a customer.

• First at Sheffield

The company's first factory was at Sheffield, but in the early days an old house in Keynshambury Road, Cheltenham, was bought and, with. adjoining property, has since been the headquarters.

The steady growth of the business since the 1920s is largely because of the development of road transport and the opportunity it gives of dealing with demands for small quantities of goods in a reliable manner. Probably no trader is in such great danger of overstocking as a retail chemist, particularly since the inception of the National Health Service. Fashions in prescribing change and now that doctors no longer make up their own prescriptions, there is often a tendency for the public to try out some new drug or patent medicine which the chemist has to obtain.

Unless the retailer can buy in small quantities there is always the chance of non-returnable goods being left on his hands. The Ucal service is based on a regular delivery by their own vans and this is invaluable to the small pharmacist. Empties, many of which are charged Out at a high price. can

be returned regularly when the vans call, and much less packaging has to be done than when goods are sent by public carrier.

A certain amount of traffic to Scotland and the north of England goes by British Road Services, and to Ireland by rail, but the bulk of Ucal's production is delivered within a radius of 200 miles by C-licence vans.

All orders are received in the secretary's office, where they are marked with two code letters—one to indicate if the customer is a shareholder and the other to show the delivery zone.

Gazetteers, prepared by the transport department, are available to all concerned, and these give the zone letter of each place where there are customers.

A multiple-copy form is then typed out, one copy being the works order (in triplicate), onethe packers' note, one the dispatch note and another eventually becomes the invoice. The reason for the triplicate w.,,rks order is that the factory is divided into three departments—one dealing with Ucal's own specialities and drugs, another

with patent medicines' and the third with sundries.

A typist in the dispatch department makes out 'from the dispatch note a card in triplicate which acts as a label, a delivery note (for the customer to sign), and a record for the department's files. Special labels and signature cards (coloured red) are used for dangerous drugs, which are dealt with separately.

The three sections of the works send the goods for which they are responsible by conveyor or fork-lift truck (two Listers are employed) to the dispatch room, where the orders are assembled and put into cases. A simple but ingenious trip mechanism on the conveyor deposits each consignment on the packing table appropriate to its destination.

Daily .Service Within about 40 miles of Cheltenham a daily "delivery service is given. Vans are generally held until 10.30 a.m. to deal with last-minute orders. In addition, special "ethical" journeys are made as necessary, this term being used to denote supplies required in an unexpected emergency. Many places just outside the 40-mile radius receive a weekly service and others beyond a fortnightly one.

Manchester and Swansea come into the latter category, whilst the West Riding, west and north-east Lancashire, North Wales, Norfolk and Devon are served monthly. The extreme west of Wales is visited three times a year, Cornwall and North Yorkshire twice. In all these cases, customers can, of course, if they wish, .receive supplies in the meantime by public carrier.

Services to London An interesting journey is the weekly run to Welshpool, where deliveries for central Wales are transferred to Aber Carriers whose activities were described in The Commercial Motor dated January 21, 1955. Two vehicles are kept, in.London to give a weekly service to all customers in the Metropolitan area, and these vehicles are fed by a van which leaves Cheltenham three times a week.

All delivery points being known in advance, the traffic manager can give an exact routeing, and so retain a reasonable control over the drivers' activities. The consignment cards already mentioned are put into delivery order and clipped inside a stiff cover before being handed to the driver. '

Drivers are paid a flat wage and any excess time worked is compensated by time off. Allowances for meals and u34 accommodation are made when the men are away from home. Drivers are included in the concern's pension scheme and are paid for a reasonable period if they fall ill. Normally there are no night journeys and no Saturday work.

The fleet consists of 22 vans, varying in capacity from 12 cwt. to 4 tons and made up of 16 Bedfords (including a three-way loader), three Austins (including two three-way loaders), and three Thames Traders. The Traders, which are 2-3-tonners, are the first oilengined vehicles in the fleet and are averaging about 22 m.p.g. They have bodies built to Ucal's requirements by Messrs. V. Healey, Gloucester, and

feature Perspex panels in the roof and steps at the rear for easy entry when delivering to shops.

The Bedfords, which are in the 3-4-ton class, have been averaging 12 m.p.g. At one time the company's vehicles were fitted with a distinctive tilt body painted white with a sloping front down to the windscreen, but since the war a rectangular box body has been fitted.

Practically all overhaul work is done at Cheltenham, full advantage being taken of makers'. unit replacement scheme s. Three mechanics are employed, and these also attend to the 15 travellers' cars when any" majbr work on them is required.

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