Is it time for groupage?

Apr 19 | 2022

Moving industry consultant John Payne asks whether it’s time for corporate accounts to embrace groupage.

John PayneWith the cost of shipping at an all-time high, and a changing world with smaller shipments, is it time for corporate moving companies to start operating and offering groupage shipping services to their clients?

With the impact of COVID-19, and the world’s economies now coming under intense pressure, ocean freight rates are at an unprecedented high. This has led to massive increases in the costs to relocate overseas, and our industry must pass the increased costs on to our clients. But we need to provide cost-effective solutions and if you don’t, and your competition does, then you could be left behind.

Traditionally corporate moving companies have used FCL, LCL and airfreight. Groupage had not really been an option because it has not been seen as a particularly safe mode of transport that can take longer while shipments are consolidated. There are also physical operational challenges in warehousing and container loading with separation of loads. Then there’s the destination service and operation, and additional handling, administration, etc.

For some, groupage has been a dirty word. Someone said to me recently that the corporate market would never adopt it. But I am not so sure. I have already seen evidence that some are already starting to offer it as an option, and more are thinking of doing it for their customers. After all, you can still put 200ft3 in an FCL if that is what the client wants and the account is willing to pay, but you could also put it in with two, three or ten other consignments in a 40ft HC container and save them thousands of pounds on each move. Ultimately, it’s just about doing it right.

It has been going on successfully for many years, commonly for migrant shipping. It was also commonplace for shipping antiques decades ago. Over thirty years ago I remember there was a huge market from the UK to the US for British antique furniture and bric-a-brac. Very expensive and delicate items would be purchased by fine art and antiques dealers from the other side of the pond, packed expertly, then dealers’ shipments were grouped together in warehouses and shipped in 40’ containers to give good economies to the canny US antiques dealers.

I was shipping antiques in those days and have since spent many years in the migrant and corporate markets, and I believe it’s time for change and an acceptance that groupage shipments for corporate moves are the way forward. I know it works!

So, can this be introduced into your business? With a good understanding and careful planning of every aspect, both operationally and administratively, it can.

You will need to have the packing, marking and inventory of each job spot on every time. Every job will need to come via your warehouse so keeping them separate and safe until you’re ready to load is essential. Then the loading and separation in the container needs to be carefully thought through, planned, and executed so that shipments aren’t mixed. Checking shipments into the container to ensure nothing is left behind might sound like common sense, but it must be executed properly every time.

At destination your operation or partner’s operation will need to understand exactly what to do when receiving, unloading, and handling your groupage shipments and have everything in place to check that everything that comes out of a container matches your paperwork, is correct and in order. They will have to separate shipments, store them safely, then deliver them, without mixing them up.

Processes are the answer. It just comes down to having a robust process in place and the correct training of operatives. I have seen enough of it to know that groupage really is not a dirty word or an inferior service when it is done right.

Consider whether it’s time to give a viable, cost-effective alternative to your clients. Is it time to offer groupage?

Photo: John Payne.