The spatial organization of physical distribution in the food industry
Efforts to improve methods of freight traffic forecasting, to regulate lorry movements in sensitive environments and to rationalise deliveries to shops have been inhibited by limited knowledge of the way products are distributed. This thesis examines the shortcomings of previous methods of freight flow analysis, then proposes an alternative approach which takes much more account of the frameworks of marketing and physical distribution within which freight transport is organised. This approach is then adopted in an investigation of the factors that influence the routeing of food products from factories to shops. This investigation is based on data collected in surveys of manufacturers, multiple retailers, wholesalers and distribution contractors, and drawn from various published sources. Consideration is given first to the allocation of food manufacturers' output between different marketing channels. This determines the number and nature of agencies handling this output. Of these agencies, the manufacturer and multiple retailer generally have a choice of logistical channel, i.e. they can either transport goods directly or channel them through an intermediate stockholding/ transhipment point. The research examines the factors influencing the choice of logistical channel and the nature of the link between channels controlled by food manufacturers and retailers. The spatial structure of these logistical channels is also explored, particularly in terms of the number and locations of intervening nodes between factory and shop. Later sections of the thesis investigate the routeing of flows through this framework of distributive nodes. A distinction is made between the 'strategic' routeing of bulk movements between factories and depots, and the more localised 'tactical' routeing of deliveries to shops. At each stage, attempts are made to explain variations in the spatial organization of firms' distribution operations and to establish general relationships between distribution variables. Data on the present state and recent development of the food distribution system are used to help to explain trends in general freight statistics. The thesis concludes with an assessment of the advantages and limitations of this approach and consideration of the implications of the research findings for the way in which freight traffic is forecast and regulated.