Home>Distribution>3PLs>Rich supply chain toolbox
Home>Industry Sector>Chemicals & Pharma>Rich supply chain toolbox
Home>Industry Sector>Distribution>Rich supply chain toolbox

Rich supply chain toolbox

23 February 2024

Logistics Matters editor Simon Duddy discovers Unipart is much more than a logistics company in a chat with Group Chief Executive Darren Leigh.

WHAT JUMPED out in our recent conversation, was the sheer size and breadth of the group, which brings its own set of opportunities and challenges. Unipart Group chief executive Darren Leigh concedes the huge scope of the company comes with its own challenges, but sees the variety of competencies as an overwhelming positive for customers and potential customers.

“Unipart provides customers with supply chain solutions and performance improvement technologies and over the last year we’ve collated all of our various offerings into one portfolio,” explains Darren. “We have over 870 different products, services and solutions that we offer our customer base. As chief executive I couldn’t describe each one of these in detail! But I can see the great potential for cross-selling and up-selling. It’s a very exciting time for Unipart, I can see many years of growth ahead simply by leveraging our vast portfolio.”

It is a rich toolbox to draw from, and with severe supply chain challenges coming thick and fast, there is no shortage of opportunities to test these capabilities.


Building more resilient supply chains is a key priority for many companies, in reaction to the pandemic and other instances of global supply chain disruption, such as the war in Ukraine, Brexit, China’s alignment with Russia, and much else.

Darren adds: “Customers are concerned about the supply of raw materials, especially from the Far East, as well as consistency of supply, and consistency of quality. They also want to know how to embed and utilise AI from a supply chain perspective, as well as facing the challenge of inflation.”

Unipart has been honing its solutions to deal with these, and other, problems.

Darren explains: “To deal with inflation, we work closely with customers to reduce the service cost on an annual basis. The Unipart Way is our philosophy of work, and that is all about continuous improvement, providing value for money and reducing costs for customers.”

In terms of working tech into the supply chain to support better decision-making, Darren sees a prime role for data.

He explains: “The answer to supply chain problems in many cases is data. Having valuable data across an entire supply chain enables companies to make critical decisions and address issues, for example, if a port is going to be closed, data in advance would enable a company to react ahead of time and in the most efficient way possible. Real time data and being able to use advanced analytics, dashboards and control towers in order to interpret the data helps companies to make informed decisions.”

With supply chain disruption placing greater emphasis on near-shoring and on-shoring, Unipart sees this playing into its ‘sweet spot’ of breadth of offering.

Darren adds: “We are a very broad organisation, with a huge portfolio of creative products, services and solutions that we can draw upon to meet customer supply chain needs. That helps us keep the group philosophy alive. We are always looking to combine products from across the group into solutions that meet customer needs. We’re not aware of any other company with the breadth of supply chain experience, capabilities and expertise that we have.”


Unipart has grown over time, both organically and through acquisition, allowing it to build not just logistics assets, but also manufacturing, engineering and consultancy capabilities.

One notable example is MetLase, a business combining precision engineering, fixturing and tooling solutions with the integration of digital technologies to optimise assembly, manufacturing and maintenance processes in complex and demanding industries.

Initially established as a joint venture with Rolls Royce to deliver engineering and fixturing solutions in aerospace, in 2022 Unipart bought out its partner and is fast extending the application its digital manufacturing and engineering solutions to support process optimisation and problem solving in industries including; aerospace, automotive, construction, defence, healthcare and rail.

Darren explains: “We are much broader than a logistics business, a consultancy or a manufacturer, we provide an entire range of supply chain solutions and performance improvement technologies.

MetLase is part of Unipart’s Technologies Group, a cluster of businesses that combine software and hardware engineering with digital technologies and data science to deliver performance improvement solutions that enhance sustainability and address industry challenges in multiple sectors.

One such example is the development of advanced automated warehouse technologies that support warehouse of the future capabilities that Unipart is integrating into its existing fulfilment contracts, as well as preparing to take to market a proprietary AMR hardware and software solution of its own.

Darren explains: “We have developed our own Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) and our own platform for orchestrating them. We have achieved this without help from outside manufacturers and integrators. We were inspired by Amazon’s $1bn acquisition of Kiva Systems to develop this capability.”


Unipart is moving up the value chain, and getting more involved in 4PL activities. This year, it launched the Lead Logistics Provider initiative, which is the group's 4PL offering.

“We are happy to take on this level of responsibility, where the onus is on us to provide the people, to do the training and make sure the skills are in our business, and that can provide the customer with more certainty.

“The Lead Logistics Provider initiative has gone very well. We launched it because our customers have been asking us about it, and with our breadth of capabilities we are well placed to provide that, and it moves us up the value curve. We embrace the entire supply chain, and in some cases manage 3PL activity from other providers as an LLP.

“There has been a lot of interest, and we are actively speaking to a number of customers about how we could move 3PL business to 4PL. We also have new companies coming to us, to ask about how we could become an LLP for them.”

The Unipart Way

This year is Unipart’s 50th anniversary and it is evident that The Unipart Way continues to be at the heart of the company after all these years.

Darren says: “It’s important for any company to have a strong culture, but perhaps especially so for a company such as Unipart, with so many moving parts. Processes alone aren’t enough. It’s more than a toolbox, it’s the way we think about problems, and the way we think about customers. The Unipart Way has been the engine of change and operational excellence for many years, it is demonstrated in the way we think, the way we work, and the way we behave; it continues to give us a real edge over our competition.

What we do every day continues to impress our existing customers; it is that culture of engaged, highly motivated, highly-skilled people that most often is the reason we attract new customers.”

For more information, visit www.unipart.com