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Furniture is a Polish export hit. Every second piece of upholstered furniture placed on the market in one of the European Union countries comes from Poland. Furniture of the biggest brands is produced in Polish plants. All of this is a challenge for carriers as well as for logistics operators.

Of all the European countries, only Italy produces more furniture than Poland. Since Poland’s accession to the European Union, exports have doubled. Furniture logistics has become an important part of this market. Furniture is quite sensitive and requires specific handling. Their transport is considered to be one of the most demanding areas of forwarding services. Due to the fragility of the transported goods, both the experience in driving vehicles with this type of loading and the knowledge of proper security of shipments is extremely important. In addition, there is the specificity of the loading and unloading work, the variety of sizes, packaging, and the heavy weight of some furniture.

Processes in furniture logistics

Professional transport companies know that every product entrusted to them has its own specificity, and furniture is a product that needs to be handled with exceptional care. More and more often, logistics of furniture is outsourced to an experienced forwarding company. The manufacturer hopes that thanks to this, his furniture will not only be in the right place, at the right time but also intact.

There are plenty of companies that provide comprehensive logistics services for the furniture market, throughout Europe, some of them have made it a kind of specialization. Furniture logistics is divided into several branches, which differ from each other in terms of the way the tasks are performed and the end recipient. Furniture is delivered to retail chains, furniture warehouses and end users. The e-commerce sector is increasingly involved.

Specialist services of furniture logistics e.g. provided by ECE Logistics include such processes as:

– taking cyclical collective orders for the transport of furniture from producers or contractors abroad,

– planning of orders in dispatch rounds, defined by the geographical direction and limited loading capacity of furniture transport vehicles,

– the transfer of planned rounds as batches for production,

– setting the dates for the collection/loading of the furniture produced in the planned rounds,

– advising on dates/time-windows for the delivery of furniture to retail chains, furniture warehouses or end customers,

– loading/taking over of upholstered furniture on specialist vehicles of various volumes,

– on-time delivery of orders: with one or more unloading points,

– send an electronic delivery note to the customer a few minutes after delivery.

Specialists from the logistics company Fracht in their guide emphasize that nobody wants to buy furniture that is damaged in any way. Unwanted scratches, tattered corners or soiling will certainly not be accepted. Therefore, logistics specialists must take into account the preparation of furniture for transport and its subsequent transport in appropriate conditions.

How to secure transport in the furniture industry?

Should you transport furniture as a whole or disassembled, how do you plan to load and unload it, how do you arrange the furniture in the cargo hold of the means of transport so that it will fit in without bumping into each other and without posing any danger to other furniture? – that’s just some of the questions the carriers are facing.  

The answers are important, logistics operators must be aware that any damage to the cargo exposes the supplier to losses. Furniture damaged even to a small extent is either not suitable for sale at all or is suitable for sale but at a significantly reduced price. Therefore, the right safety precautions must be taken: anti-slip mats, edge protectors, beams, belts and airbags.  

Andrzej Kubit, Logistics Director at Paged, spoke for BiznesMeblowy.pl about challenges for warehouse logistics. He considered the efficient use of space to be one of them because most of the goods are packaged as assembled products.

“Many ready-to-transport furniture simply goes beyond the contour of a pallet, creating so-called “overhangs”, which makes it difficult to place and transport furniture rationally. Most often one order covers a wide range of products, from chairs and tables to larger chest furniture, so it becomes a big challenge to complete such an order so that it can be easily transported,” said the Paged representative.

After the assembly is completed, the furniture is placed in the picking zone, where the products are placed on pallets of various sizes. Mostly according to the customer’s order. Once the pallet has been assembled, it is sent to the warehouse and placed in a suitable storage area. Another option is to move it directly to the picking area and load onto the means of transport.

Organization of the transport of products

Fracht specialists, who have been working as the main logistics operator of Forte Holding for more than 20 years, explain how to organize the process of furniture transport. They organize this process from the moment the finished goods leave the production, through the stage of planning the shipment, coordinating unloading dates, preparing and placing the cargo on the vehicle, to the delivery of furniture to the end customer.

Forwarders, at the customer’s request, can calculate transport prices, but also advise on how to pack furniture, arrange the goods and secure them on the vehicle. They are able to choose the right means of transport (in terms of size, load capacity) for specific orders. They coordinate the transport process at all stages, using GPS positioners and maintaining direct contact with drivers (at any time the customer can obtain current information about the shipment).

It is obvious that an operator providing logistic services for furniture makers should have an appropriate fleet, although this role is usually well fulfilled by typical body structures or canvas and container trailers (especially Jumbo and Mega versions).

The operator does more than just transport.

The contracts of the carrier/logistics operator with the customer should precisely define e.g. who is responsible for the loading and unloading (which of the works will be carried out manually), how the notification is to be made, who is responsible for picking the goods, etc.  

Jarosław Pawlak from Anton Roehr described in Mebleinfo.pl a wide range of activities performed by companies providing operator services for the furniture industry. Here is what he was talking about:

– storage of larger batches of delivered products and/or unloading and further distribution of products already sold and intended for a specific recipient;

– comprehensive warehouse management;

– order picking, dispatch, loading and delivery of goods according to the customer’s orders;

– quality control of products;

– carrying out replacement and complaint deliveries;

– providing a full dispatch tracking service.

Transport is only one element of the whole logistics service for the furniture sector, different from the traditional transport of pallet loads. Despite the complexity of the tasks, no specific certificates are required for this sector. Many carriers admit, however, that before signing a contract, shippers ask about the type of certificates they hold. Among those who assess the condition and credibility of carriers are ISO 28000, TAPA TSR, or TCC Elite.

In the next part, you will read about storage systems, means of transport and other tools used in the storage and distribution of furniture.

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