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PRS finds innovative way to maintain high pallet standards during European lockdown

09 Jun, 2020 | published at 11:14 CET

Alex's grand tour proves that quality never rests.

The global supply chain in the circular economy is only as strong as its weakest link, which is why one of Europe’s leading poolers of sustainable wooden pallets went the extra kilometre – literally - to maintain the high-quality standards of its products across France during the coronavirus lockdown.

Alexandre Ubinana, PRS Pooling’s collection services manager, came up with an innovative strategy of hiring a touring camper van so he could legally visit customers, suppliers and collection depots across France over a two-week period during the height of the crisis.

PRS is a pooling company which adopts the principles of ‘ECOnomics’ or ‘frugal innovation’, the ability to do more with less by creating more commercial, social and ecological value in the circular economy, while at the same time using intelligence to optimise efficiencies and key resources including raw materials, capital and time.

This kind of innovative thinking drove the success of this initiative because without regular quality assurance checks, Europe’s essential supply chain to the global polymer industry could have been compromised by a shortage of high-quality products.

Alexandre Ubinana - PRS

So, with hotels and campsites across France closed for business because of the pandemic, Alexandre, who has worked in the pallet industry for many years, decided a different approach was required.

Rather than the regular commute to work, Alexandre found himself waking up to a different view every morning as he spent his nights at roadsides, in forests and even in the French Alps as he went about his business.

With his camper van and the open road, he covered more than 3,500 kilometres on his quest, armed only with his letter of authority to travel as an essential worker under one of Europe’s most strictly-regulated lockdowns.

“It was vital for me to visit suppliers, depots and customers and as I couldn’t stay in hotels, I came up with the idea of renting the camper van which allowed me the freedom to do the job legally as I had the letter of authority to travel,” he said.

“It has all of the amenities that I needed, including a shower, so with enough clothing for the two weeks, I had everything I needed to do the job.

“It meant that I could travel into different areas and visit all of the stakeholders in one go and still retain good social distancing in the interests of safety.

“Business has not stopped for PRS - far from it – so we had to come up with a plan to ensure that we could carry on inspecting the quality of the pallets. If we could not do this there could have been an interruption in the supply chain.”

Alexandre, who does not even own a car because he does not need one where he lives in Marseille, said it has given him a new perspective on life.

“I didn’t think it was such a big deal, but wherever I turned up, everyone was really surprised and interested to see me and my mode of transport,” he said.

“Given a choice between a hotel and the camper van, I would choose the latter because it was so easy and flexible – I really enjoyed the experience of sleeping out, but I did miss my own bed after a while.”