A cleaning sponge in the shape of a smiling face. It became a big hit in the United States and is now making its way into the European market. Following the success in the United Kingdom, a pilot project is currently underway at SMART HUB Logistics for the Netherlands: 700,000 units for Action stores. “This could be the beginning of something very significant,” says Jelle van Hasz, Chief Operating Officer at SMART HUB Logistics. “Thanks to a strong collaboration between companies in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, we’ve been able to optimize and make the supply chain for this client more sustainable.”
The sponges are manufactured in China and transported to Rotterdam by sea freight. There, the containers are transferred onto a hybrid inland vessel operated by BCTN and are delivered to the container terminal in Den Bosch via waterways. Jelle explains, “Due to our unique location right at the terminal, these containers can be placed at our loading docks immediately after being unloaded from the ship using a reach stacker. There’s no need for them to travel on public roads.”
The containers are packed with large boxes, totalling 721, each containing individual sponges. At SMART HUB Logistics, the containers are unloaded, and the boxes are placed on pallets.
Weener XL: trusted partner
Each individual sponge needs to be packaged separately for sale in stores. “To accomplish this, we entered into discussions with Weener XL, the work- and development company of the municipality of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, together with the client. We have collaborated with them in the past for large packing projects, and it has always worked out very well,” says Jelle. The client was highly impressed with the socially responsible approach of Weener XL, leading to a solid partnership.
Around the corner
Weener XL has recently moved to a beautiful new sustainable building in July, featuring a lot of wood and an open design. The building is entirely energy-neutral and boasts a pleasant atmosphere. What’s also convenient is that it’s just 2 kilometres away from SMART HUB Logistics. In the future, this distance can be easily covered using electric vehicles. Currently, regular Holweg trailers are used to transport the full pallets to and from Weener.
An ideal product
“These sponges are an ideal product for our employees with work-related challenges,” says Roy Faas, Business Account Manager at Weener XL. “For new assignments, our main principle is that the work should suit our people well. The tasks should be ones that everyone can perform to the best of their ability. Then, we determine what’s necessary to execute the work effectively. For this product, we’ve invested in a special tape machine for the display boxes so they don’t need to be sealed by hand. An added benefit of this product is the cheerful, vibrant face that immediately brings joy.”
In this initial phase, Weener XL is actively working on optimizing the production lines. “It always takes a few weeks for a production line to run smoothly and for everyone to understand their responsibilities. When we’re operating at full capacity soon, we’ll be producing 60,000 sponges per week.”
The power of collaboration
Once packaged, the sponges return to SMART HUB Logistics, which handles further distribution to Action warehouses. “Without a partner like SMART HUB Logistics, we wouldn’t be able to manage this work,” Roy explains. “We aren’t set up to unload containers or store inventory. The collaboration we have now is truly ideal. We all actively contribute to making it even better.”
Currently, the packaging materials come from the United Kingdom. “The supply wasn’t running smoothly, causing delays,” Jelle mentions. “Since the UK is no longer part of the EU, there’s also additional administrative hassle. We’re now exploring the possibility of having these packaging materials manufactured in the Netherlands or Germany. It’s a continuous process of optimization, benefiting all parties involved!”