Anything on the scale of Grangemouth’s massive new Asda depot is going to have a big effect on its surrounding area.
Recent articles in The Falkirk Herald, detailing concerns over traffic build up and controversy over jobs, seem to point towards that impact being particularly negative.
However, according to the depot’s general manager, the new facility is a positive addition to the Falkirk area.
And, responding to what he felt was negative coverage, Colin Reid invited the newspaper to tour the site and meet members of staff.
The Bainsford man, who now lives in Brightons, started working with Asda in 1989 as a warehouse operator. He now oversees an operation which serves the whole of Scotland.
One of the employees Asda consulted when the time came to design a top-notch storage facility - he visited other sites in the UK to see if there were things that could be learned from them - he also knows how important Asda’s presence is to local employment.
“There are more 2000 people employed locally by Asda, with 1200 in the two depots and the rest in the shops,” he said. “A national decision was taken to stay in this area.”
Asda has come in for criticism over the jobs situation at the new depot, with some accusing the firm of misleading people over the employment opportunities the site would actually create.
The general manager takes issue with this, stating more jobs will be there when demand dictates.
While Asda took on 90 new members of staff during 2012, the majority of those employees were let go at the start of 2013 and only 21 were kept on in full-time posts.
Mr Reid said: “Staff knew when they signed their contracts they would leave on January 5. You need a certain number of staff over Christmas and peak periods and you plan for that.
“Things then drop off and a lot of these guys go.”
The depot serves all 56 Asda stores in Scotland and two in England - shops in Carlisle and Corby, Northamptonshire - where there are sizeable settlements of Scots who like to keep stocked up on their Irn-Bru and Tunnocks goodies.
Mr Reid said the last month has seen volume increase to such an extent a further eight people have now been taken on as full-time members of staff, making a total of 29 new jobs.
“It’s great when we can bring people back in,” he added. “The full-time jobs are there, but only when we know what is happening with the opening of the new stores.”
Three more Asda stores are scheduled to open in Scotland in 2013, which means more work for the Grangemouth depot and a need for more staff - a fact which pleases Mr Reid. He said: “The new stores opening this year will take us up past 60 in Scotland. Each store opening brings a requirement for four or five full-time positions in the depot and a capacity to handle 111 stores gives us 20 years of growth.”
The depot only officially opened in November last year, and beat off competition from more than 20 UK-based facilities to be named Asda’s Depot of the Year 2012. It was a tribute to the efforts of staff who kept deliveries running smoothly despite the upheaval of the transfer from the old West Mains Industrial Estate site.
Mr Reid said: “The changes at the West Mains site in the last eight years saw staff numbers more than double from 300 to 600. The capacity of the old depot was just not big enough – we were having to go to the likes of WH Malcolm to get them to store items for us.
“You almost become inefficient because you simply have not got the space to work with. From a health and safety point of view you are putting pressure on yourself and your colleagues when space is at a premium.
“Around 35 stores was all it could cope with and when we left it was serving 50 stores.”
The former depot in West Mains will remain in Asda’s hands for the moment. The possibility of the site being used in the future to facilitate home shopping was mentioned, but the firm is keeping its options open.
The Asda facility in Bankside will also continue to store and transport chilled goods, while the Grangemouth depot houses ambient goods - food and items which do not require cold storage.
Mr Reid said: “We have £25 million to £30 million of product stored in the building at any one time and nothing stays with us for longer than a week. Things are always moving through.
“Products come in here this afternoon and will be in Asda shops and stores tomorrow.”