The BIG Interview – Grahame Bennett, Fleet Engineer at Marks and Spencer 

M&S is a leading British retailer bringing quality, great value food, clothing and homeware to millions of customers. Having worked with Gray & Adams to service customers around the UK, our two business have developed a great relationship over the years.

In this edition of The BIG Interview, we sit down with Grahame Bennett, to discuss innovation within the industry and the relationship between our two businesses.

Tell me about your career to date

I joined Marks and Spencer after a long career with The Royal Mail. I’ve always worked in the transport and operations side of the business, with a background in fleet engineering, innovation and working with policies and compliance. I also managed a few RDCs in the Southeast of England which was quite a diverse role from the operational side of things.
I then decided to make a change and moved to Marks and Spencer when the opportunity arose. The main difference in the two roles is that I now have to consider the refrigerated trailers for the M&S Food Business, this is where the relationship with Gray & Adams has been invaluable as they give advice that is really impactful and empowers our decision making from the fleet perspective.

Tell me about the relationship with Gray & Adams

I’ve only personally started working with them since I joined the team at Marks and Spencer, but the overall business had a pre-existing relationship with G&A, so I was introduced to the sales team quite quickly. The team at Gray & Adams are supportive and knowledgeable, giving great advice that supports the operational strategy. Coming from another branch of logistics, it’s been a learning curve when dealing with refrigerated trailers and the associated technology but the open and communicative relationship with the team at G&A has been invaluable for managing this.

How important is it that you work with suppliers who share the same values as your business?

It is important to us, and we also need suppliers who can work with us long term and help us with our planning. For example, Christmas is traditionally a very busy period for Marks and Spencer, so we must ensure we have the resources to react to the demand. It’s important that we have open and trustworthy relationships with our suppliers to manage those periods effectively and I believe Gray & Adams fit that bill.

How important is innovation and sustainability to Marks & Spencer

We are a hugely innovative business from a product perspective, but the culture of innovation does also flow down to the operational side of the business. We are always looking at new ways to reduce waste and become more sustainable. For example, we are looking at electric and gas fuelled options for our fleet, in particular, we are working with Gray & Adams for the electric rigid body vehicles. Incorporating these options into the fleet tends to present more upfront costs, but we understand that the solution will continue to add value to Marks & Spencer over the lifecycle of the fleet. It’s also the right thing to do, so we want to make an impact.  

What changes do you believe will face your industry over the next 2 years?

Businesses throughout the UK are feeling the effects of the supply chain being squeezed and also a labour shortage, especially with drivers and manual workers such as warehouse operatives. Therefore, I can see businesses looking to become a lot more efficient in their operations and perhaps using data to do so. Marks and Spencer use data across our fleet to help make better business decisions when it comes to purchasing and updating our fleet. The data helps us make decisions around specs for future orders, considering efficiency, driver comfort and the environment the vehicle and trailer will be working in. This helps us futureproof our decision making so I believe this will become more refined in the future, as other ways to gather and use data from the fleet develop.