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ORDER FULFILMENT MONTH: Integration, automation and sustainability in action

In the fast-moving landscape of retail, order fulfilment has undergone substantial transformation, especially in the UK, where the market demands efficiency and consumer-centric services. As part of Order Fulfilment Month here in Supply Chain Briefing we examine key trends in order fulfilment and the implications for the UK’s retail supply chain…

One prominent trend is the adoption of omnichannel strategies. Retailers are integrating their online and offline channels to provide a seamless shopping experience. Consumers expect to purchase online and pick up in-store (BOPIS), or vice versa, with real-time stock visibility. This requires a highly responsive and interconnected supply chain infrastructure. For example, John Lewis & Partners has invested heavily in its omnichannel capabilities, allowing for greater flexibility in how consumers receive their products.

Another significant development is the rise of automation and robotics in warehouses and distribution centers. Automated picking systems, robots, and drones expedite the order fulfilment process, enhancing accuracy and efficiency. The online grocery retailer, Ocado, is at the forefront, operating some of the world’s most advanced automated warehouses. These technologies not only quicken the fulfilment cycle but also mitigate the impact of labor shortages and increase scalability during peak times.

Sustainability in fulfilment operations has also come to the forefront. Consumers increasingly favour businesses that demonstrate a commitment to the environment. As a result, retailers are adopting green logistics, using electric vehicles for last-mile delivery, and optimising routes to reduce carbon emissions. For instance, ASDA’s trial of electric cargo bikes for home deliveries in London showcases an effort to combine efficiency with ecological consciousness.

The “ship from store” model is a trend gaining traction. Retailers are using their local stores as fulfilment centers to meet the demand for rapid delivery. This leverages existing retail space and proximity to customers, reducing delivery times and costs. Marks & Spencer has been utilising this approach, turning stores into mini distribution hubs to speed up deliveries and click-and-collect services.

In addition, advanced data analytics plays a crucial role in understanding consumer patterns, predicting demand, and managing inventory. Retailers are employing predictive analytics to forecast trends and optimise stock levels, thereby reducing overstocking or stockouts. Boots, for instance, has invested in advanced data tools to improve stock management and meet customer demand more precisely.

Lastly, the emergence of flexible fulfilment services, like the gig economy-based delivery models, provides additional elasticity to the supply chain. Retailers can scale delivery resources up or down according to demand without a fixed overhead. This agility is exemplified by Argos partnering with delivery service, Shutl, to offer rapid delivery windows, sometimes within hours.

These trends in order fulfilment demonstrate a dynamic shift towards integration, automation, sustainability, and flexibility in the UK’s retail supply chain. By embracing these trends, retailers are not only enhancing efficiency and customer satisfaction but also future-proofing their supply chains against the fast-changing retail landscape. This progression towards a more resilient and consumer-responsive supply chain is setting a new standard in retail fulfilment that others are likely to follow.

Are you searching for Order Fulfilment partners for your business? The Total Supply Chain Summit can help!

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Transforming supply chain performance and security – the SI opportunity

Supply chain disruption is predicted to cost organisations around the world an average of US$184 million per year and demand is surging for better end to end visibility to improve resilience and response to disruption. While IoT has transformed supply chain visibility over the past decade, only 15% of the world is covered by terrestrial networks which means vital insight about freight location and status remains uncaptured. With innovative Systems Integrators (SIs) adding Satellite IoT to extend asset tracking across the globe, the industry can now achieve timely interventions to improve security, reduce wastage and carbon footprint and manage customer expectations. Eric Ménard, Vice President Strategy and Business, Astrocast, explains why the shipping industry is on the cusp of a Satellite IoT enabled revolution…

Systems Integrator Opportunity

For all businesses involved in transportation, from shipping to trains and road hauliers, accurate information about the location and working status of trailers and containers has become ever more vital. The accessibility of cost-effective Satellite IoT (SatIoT) solutions is opening the door for SIs to provide solutions to meet an array of operational demands across the supply chain.

Shipping lines can track containers not only at sea but on land, especially at ports. This helps to improve fleet management and optimise supply chains in the face of on-going disruption and unloading backlogs. Up to date information can support proactive maintenance, minimise asset downtime and improve supply chain resilience. Adding IoT temperature sensors is particularly valuable, especially for containers (Dry and Reefers), to improve control throughout the supply chain. If a power outage occurs that affects temperature within a reefer container, for example, the problem can be flagged to a control centre. If possible, an onboard engineer can then remediate the problem; if not, the cargo owner is immediately aware of the need to provide replacement goods to fulfil their obligations.

For high value cargo, including pharmaceuticals, adding satellite connectivity to operational IoT deployments is providing the ability to control the logistics chain from production through to end customer. It is minimising wastage, improving integrity and, as a result, reducing insurance costs.

Design Requirements

For SIs, the supply chain provides a compelling market opportunity. But how easy is it to add SatIoT to existing IoT solutions – and does the business case stand up? Certainly, the arrival of a satellite connection designed specifically for widescale IoT deployment is a vital component in creating Return on Investment (ROI). These Operational IoT applications, such as location tracking, do not necessarily require the continuous or real-time communication associated with high-cost, power hungry traditional satellite links. Reliable interim communication provided by modern cost-effective satellite services is good enough.

These solutions are also designed to use minimal power, a key consideration when attaching an IoT sensor to a shipping container which can cross the globe many times a year. Every part of the solution, from antenna design to robustness of equipment and battery life, must be optimised to ensure deployment is a one-off event. Ensuring battery life extends to 10 years can transform the ROI.

SIs can also explore the value of two-way communication, such as remotely changing the temperature set point of a reefer container, changing the frequency of temperature recording or confirming data transfer has been achieved through an acknowledgement mechanism. Ensuring the data is actioned in the field is also key to the ROI. A single, fast intervention to repair power failure to a Reefer container at sea could repay the entire investment for the entire fleet immediately. 

Added Value Innovation

There are a number of additional areas of potential innovation to consider. Theft and piracy, for example, where thieves use technology to ‘block’ cellular networks and compromise existing IoT based alerts and alarms. Adding SatIoT – which works on a different network – to the solution provides another layer of asset security and tracking to minimise loss.

In addition, the ability to identify whether a container has been entered or tampered with in some way during the voyage, would support the war on piracy and drugs. Adding smoke detectors would raise the alarm when fire breaks out on board – an increasing concern if owners fail to inform the shipping company that the container holds self-combusting cargo such as Lithium-Ion batteries.

Indeed, the next step will be to extend the use of IoT from containers to individual loads, using tiny devices to track high value items all the way through the end warehouse or distribution centre destination. SIs can add even more value to this data, using Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools to offer customers more insight.


The shipping industry has a massive demand for better information to mitigate the impact of global disruption. But this is just the start for a market that has an array of complex operational challenges in its management of 50 million containers across the globe. The opportunity is compelling: SIs need to build a solid foundation and business case today.

How integrative approaches and digitalisation have transformed 4PL

Fourth Party Logistics (4PL) supply chain management services have undergone substantial shifts in their operational paradigms in recent year. As businesses sought more extensive and integrated solutions, 4PL providers adapted and innovated, often driven by technological advancements and changing market dynamics. Here we trace the pivotal transformations in 4PL supply chain management, based on input for delegates and suppliers at the Total Supply Chain Summit…

  1. Digitalisation and Data-Driven Decision Making: One of the most prominent evolutions in 4PL services is the adoption of digital tools and technologies. The past decade has witnessed the incorporation of data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. These tools help in predictive analytics, ensuring better forecasting, and optimising operations, thus ensuring seamless supply chain management.
  2. End-to-End Integration: Historically, 4PL providers focused on coordinating various logistics service providers. Over the last decade, the emphasis has shifted to a more holistic, end-to-end integration, creating a singular entity that offers comprehensive supply chain solutions.
  3. Sustainability and Ethical Sourcing: With growing consumer awareness and regulatory pressures, sustainability has become paramount. Modern 4PL providers not only emphasise efficient logistics but also ensure environmentally friendly and ethically sound supply chain practices, integrating green initiatives into their core strategies.
  4. Customer-Centricity: The competitive landscape of the past decade has pushed 4PL providers towards a more customer-centric model. Tailored solutions, transparency, real-time communication, and a focus on enhancing the end-customer experience have become standard offerings.
  5. Risk Management and Resilience: Recent global events, including trade wars and the pandemic, have highlighted the need for robust risk management strategies. The past decade has seen 4PLs prioritising contingency planning, diversifying supplier bases, and developing agile models that can adapt to changing circumstances.
  6. Collaborative Partnerships: 4PLs have evolved from being mere service providers to collaborative partners. There’s an increased emphasis on building long-term, strategic partnerships with businesses, ensuring mutual growth and adaptation in an ever-evolving market.
  7. E-commerce Integration: The e-commerce boom has reshaped supply chains. Recognising this, 4PL providers in the last decade have developed specialised solutions catering to e-commerce, ensuring faster deliveries, efficient returns management, and integrating tech tools for real-time tracking.
  8. Advanced Technologies Adoption: Beyond digitalisation, 4PLs have embraced advanced technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) for real-time monitoring, blockchain for transparent and tamper-proof documentation, and autonomous vehicles and drones for deliveries.

The last decade has been transformative for 4PL supply chain management services. With a blend of technology, integrative approaches, and customer-centric models, 4PLs have redefined their roles, ensuring more efficient, responsive, and resilient supply chains. As the global market continues to evolve, 4PLs are poised to remain at the forefront, adapting and innovating in response to shifting needs and challenges.

Are you on the hunt for a 3PL partner for your business? The Total Supply Chain Summit can help!

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

CASE STUDY: Flooring manufacturer accelerates shuttle cycle between factory and warehouse with moving floor system

Finding new ways to optimise supply chain and logistics operations is crucial for companies today to maintain a competitive edge. Shuttling manufactured goods between the factory and the warehouse can be a significant drain on resources and one that is often overlooked. But not by prominent flooring manufacturer Bjelin.

As part of plans to future-proof its operation in Sweden, the company enlisted the help of Joloda Hydraroll, a global leader in loading solutions, and its Finnish distributor, NWE Network Engineering, to streamline the loading and unloading process, reduce carbon emissions, and uphold the highest safety standards.

Future-proofing for rapid growth

One of the world’s largest flooring producers, Bjelin was founded in 2016 by Darko Pervan, the Swedish-Croatian inventor and entrepreneur who developed and patented the first mechanical floor-locking system. In the eight years since, Bjelin has grown into a global company with more than 2,500 employees. The company’s biggest markets are Europe, the USA, and Asia, where it predominantly sells hardened wood, parquet (engineered wood), and herringbone flooring.

The wood used to manufacture its products is FSC-certified and responsibly sourced from Spacva forest in Croatia, Europe’s largest continuous oak forest. Bjelin has five factories located nearby in Croatia and one factory in Sweden.

To continue its rapid growth trajectory, Bjelin identified the need to future-proof its Swedish factory and operations. The facility has gone from producing 40,000 m2 in 2016 to 2.2 million m2 in 2022, and Bjelin wanted to create the capacity to produce up to five million m2 in the future.

Transporting heavy pallets of various shapes and sizes

As part of the future-proofing project, Bjelin required a loading solution that could streamline the transportation process between its factory and a newly-built warehouse. Reflecting on the project, Pär Jönsson, supply chain director at Bjelin, commented: “Our expansion plan is quite immense and we could foresee future challenges with unloading and loading.

“We needed to find a solution to help the process become as swift as possible, whilst also taking out some of the forklift truck traffic from the loading bays.”

Bjelin’s factory is located in Viken, Sweden, which is 23 km away from its new warehouse in Helsingborg. The company must constantly load and transport raw materials from the warehouse to the factory, then return pallets of finished wooden flooring to the combined warehouse and distribution centre.

Bjelin produces circa 200 pallets per day of various-sized finished goods, which amount to between seven and 10 trailer loads. It is estimated that manually side-loading and unloading the trailers with forklift trucks would have taken between 35-45 minutes at both the factory and the warehouse.

In addition, each trailer load weighs about 20 tonnes (20 pallets at one tonne each), so securing the loads in the trailer with ratchet straps is essential. However, this process is also time-consuming and labour-intensive. Due to the varying shapes and sizes of the pallets, truck drivers need to secure the loads by manually threading and tightening ratchet straps to the trailer, which adds to driver waiting times.

Moving floor system with automated cargo securing

After getting in touch with Joloda Hydraroll, a thorough loading assessment was undertaken to understand the challenges Bjelin was facing. The assessment took into consideration the new operation’s loading and unloading processes, the journey time between the factory and the warehouse, and the types of pallets being transported.

Joloda Hydraroll proposed its Moving Floor System, an innovative automated trailer-loading solution with motorised and adjustable slats to accommodate palletised items of different shapes and sizes. It is designed to optimise logistics operations by reducing the need for forklift trucks and additional manual labour during the loading process. To minimise the time spent securing the loads, Joloda Hydraroll also worked with its partner NWE and provider of the FIX Truck-Safe System, a cargo-securing system with automatic lashing and re-tightening.

Jönsson explained: “After we identified a solution, we got in touch with Joloda Hydraroll for a quotation and looked at the size and scope of the business to gauge whether they’d be a fit for us. One of the most important things was that we buy and use equipment from well-known suppliers that can provide a solution and a service that we can lean on going forward. They also had some interesting references in Sweden.

“We are always looking for bigger companies that can grow, support, and handle different challenges; Joloda ticked these boxes. We got a good connection with their staff, and we liked that they showed an interest and came to look at our premises to find a solution that would suit us.”

Fast and efficient loading

The implementation of the moving floor system brought about a transformation in Bjelin’s logistics operations, and the new automated loading process offered several key benefits.

  1. Streamlining operations between Viken and Helsingborg: The system’s motorised conveyor-like slats move pallets in and out of the trailer, enabling a full trailer to be loaded or unloaded within three minutes. In addition, it now takes just one minute to secure loads using the load securing system and only a few seconds to release them.

This combined reduction in loading and unloading time has allowed for more loads to be shuttled in a shorter period and with only a few members of staff. The complete shuttle cycle between the factory and the warehouse is more cost-effective as a result and now takes just one hour. This is a 70% reduction in the time it would have taken had Bjelin not implemented an automated loading system.

  1. Upholding a clean track record of no accidents: With no forklifts required during the trailer loading process, the loading bay is a safe working environment for all members of staff and visitors. Fencing has been installed around the loading docks in both the factory and the warehouse, and emergency stops, light guards, and scanners have been fitted to prevent staff from coming into contact with the system while it is in operation.
  1. Reducing the environmental impact of transportation: In line with Bjelin’s sustainability ethos, the loading system lowers carbon emissions by:

a. Optimising trailer space to get the most out of every journey.

b. Reducing truck idling time while it is being loaded and unloaded.

c. Reducing the number of forklift trucks in operation in the factory and warehouse.

  1. Optimising factory and warehouse space: Palletised goods no longer need to be stored near the loading bay doors ready to be loaded onto a returning trailer. Instead, they can be loaded onto alternate loading docks in preparation for the trailer’s return, freeing up space.
  1. Indoor Loading: Loading is now completed indoors within a sealed loading bay, meaning cold or wet weather conditions cannot interfere or risk goods sustaining damage while being transported to the trailer. Air conditions in both the factory and warehouse are also easier to control and regulate without the loading bay doors open, and less energy is required to maintain a consistent temperature.


Through its commitment to innovation, Bjelin now stands at the forefront of modern logistics. Implementing Joloda Hydraroll’s Moving Floor System combined with NWE’s FIX Truck-Safe System to automate loading and unloading processes between Viken and Helsingborg has improved efficiency, increased productivity, and created a more sustainable and scalable logistics operation fit for future growth.

SAVE THE DATE: Total Supply Chain Summit – May 2024

If you couldn’t make last week’s Total Supply Chain Summit, don’t panic! The first of our 2023 events will take place on May 13th & 14th 2024. It’s free for you to attend and could help you reduce your expenditure by matching you up with innovative suppliers who match your business requirements. So register today to secure your place (live and virtual attendance options are available). Here’s why you should attend:
  • As one of our guests, you will be provided with a bespoke itinerary of face-to-face meetings with suppliers based on mutual agreement. No hard sell, and no time wasted.
  • You’ll have the opportunity to attend insightful seminars and interactive workshops.
  • Network with 60+ other supply chain professionals who share your challenges.
  • Enjoy complimentary lunch and refreshments.
Taking place at the Radisson Red Hotel & Conference Centre Heathrow, the Total Supply Chain Summit provides a platform for new business connections. But act swiftly! Register today!

Do you specialise in Order Fulfilment? We want to hear from you!

Each month on Supply Chain Briefing we’ll be shining the spotlight on a different part of the logistics market – and in November we’ll be focussing on Order Fulfilment.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help supply chain industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re an Order Fulfilment specialist and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Nick Stannard on

Nov – Order Fulfilment
Dec – Transport Planning & Load Optimisation
Jan 2024 – Delivery Management
Feb 2024 – Distribution
Mar 2024 – Forecasting
Apr 2024 – Warehouse Management Software
May 2024 – Total End-to-End Solutions
Jun 2024 – Cost Reductions
Aug 2024 – Logistics & Operations Management
Sept 2024 – Labelling & Packaging
Oct 2024 – 3PL & 4PL

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

80% of supply chain not accounted for in current digital decision models

The vast majority of the supply chain environment is uncaptured by supply chain decision makers’ current digital models, resulting in digital trade-off analysis failing to improve outcomes, despite the potentially transformative capabilities of these new tools.

Digital trade-off analysis includes things such as what-if analysis, scenario modeling, or simulations. Digital trade-off analysis offers improvements in analytical power and clarity when processes are adhered to and enabled with high-quality data.

“The ‘digital-to-reality gap’ will continue to hamper supply chain performance objectives unless technology investments are complemented by enabling decision support for local, cross-functional decision makers, who have better visibility into the hidden and often undigitized elements of the supply chain,” said Suzie Petrusic, Senior Director Analyst in Gartner’s Supply Chain Practice.

Gartner’s research, based on an analysis of 600 survey responses of supply chain decision makers received in December 2022, found that current use of digital models to analyze trade-offs made no meaningful impact on the rate of good decision outcomes.

Slightly more bad decisions were made with the use of digital tradeoff analysis than without and marginally increased the percentage of bad decision outcomes. The research defined a “good” decision as one that led to and met the decision maker’s expected supply chain performance and cost outcomes with low decision maker regret (See Figure 1).

Figure 1: Digital Analysis of Trade Offs on CSCO Decision Making

Source: Gartner (September 2023)

“More than half of supply chain leaders reliant on digital technology to make a recent strategic decision (e.g., S&OP decisions, network design decisions, or disruption response decisions) told us that they felt they would have landed on better decision outcomes without the use of their models, and our analysis suggests that they are correct,” said Petrusic.

“The fault is not just with technology itself, but rather with the incomplete picture of the supply chain that these digital tools capture,” added Petrusic. “Up to 80% of the actual, on-the-ground processes that these technology investments are meant to be ‘optimizing’ are not even reflected in current digital models.”

CSCOs are faced with two primary paths forward to improve end-to-end visibility and better decision outcomes: global or local, cross-functional strategies. A global strategy continues down the path of full digitalization including distilling complex end-to-end processes into a fully digital model and achieving a level of process adherence that has thus far eluded supply chain leaders.

A second strategy calls for empowering localized and cross-functional leaders already present throughout an organization’s supply chain with decision rights. These decision makers, who benefit from visibility unavailable to their global counterparts and can make use of the technology already available to them, have been shown to make good decisions 11% more often than global, end-to-end decision makers. By augmenting this human visibility through digital trade-off analysis technology, these local decision makers are 83% more likely to make a good decision than a bad one.

“A shift to relying more on a localized approach does not mean that CSCOs’ digital or globalization playbooks need to be reinvented, but it does suggest that some adjustments can be made where localized, bottom-up processes can provide both a more realistic picture on the ground and a better basis for digitizing process segments that would otherwise elude a top-down, global approach,” said Petrusic.

For CSCOs concerned with improving strategic decision-making and digital ROI, Petrusic recommends:

  1. Localizing more strategic decisions to a cross-functional level
  2. Digitizing the human element of local, cross-functional decision models
  3. Accelerating the digitization of supply chain’s end-to-end processes

Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay

PRODUCT FOCUS: Metafour Courier Software

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3PL MONTH: How to choose the right partners for your business

In an increasingly interconnected global economy, third-party logistics (3PL) solutions play an indispensable role for many UK-based businesses. These external service providers can undertake various logistics functions, streamlining operations for businesses. However, choosing the right 3PL partner is pivotal. Below are the essential considerations UK supply chain professionals should take into account, based on input for delegates and suppliers attending the Total Supply Chain Summit…

  1. Scope of Services:
    • Diverse Offerings: Ensure the 3PL offers a range of services, from warehousing to transportation and more.
    • Customisability: The ideal 3PL partner should be flexible enough to tailor their offerings to your specific needs.
  2. Technological Capabilities:
    • Modern Systems: A 3PL partner should utilise contemporary management systems to ensure efficient operations.
    • Integration: Ensure their systems can seamlessly integrate with your current software, such as ERP or inventory management tools.
  3. Geographical Coverage:
    • Local and Global: Depending on your needs, assess the geographic areas the 3PL covers, both domestically and internationally.
    • Network Density: A dense network can lead to reduced costs and faster deliveries.
  4. Reliability and Experience:
    • Track Record: Examine the 3PL’s history, giving priority to those with proven expertise in your industry.
    • Financial Stability: A financially stable 3PL is likely to be more reliable in the long term.
  5. Cost and Value:
    • Transparent Pricing: Ensure clarity in their pricing structure, including any additional or hidden fees.
    • Return on Investment: While cost is essential, assess the overall value they bring through efficiency, reliability, and expertise.
  6. Regulatory and Compliance Adherence:
    • Industry Standards: The 3PL should adhere to relevant industry regulations and standards, ensuring your products are handled appropriately.
    • Sustainability: With growing emphasis on green logistics, consider their environmental policies and practices.
  7. Scalability:
    • Growth Accommodation: As your business grows, the 3PL should have the capacity to scale with you.
    • Flexibility: Seasonal or market-driven fluctuations should be manageable by the chosen partner.
  8. Communication and Customer Service:
    • Effective Communication: Quick response times and open channels of communication are crucial.
    • Proactive Problem-Solving: The 3PL should not only address issues as they arise but anticipate and prevent potential challenges.
  9. Cultural Fit:
    • Shared Values: Alignment in business values and corporate culture can lead to a smoother partnership.
    • Strategic Alignment: Both parties should share similar strategic goals for the partnership to be effective.
  10. Contract Terms and Exit Strategy:
  • Clear Contracts: Clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and terms can prevent potential conflicts.
  • Exit Clauses: Consideration should be given to contract termination, ensuring a smooth transition if the need arises.

Selecting the right 3PL partner in the UK requires a comprehensive approach, evaluating multiple factors. By considering the points mentioned above, supply chain professionals can form strategic alliances that deliver value, efficiency, and growth to their businesses.

Are you on the hunt for a 3PL partner for your business? The Total Supply Chain Summit can help!

Image by EFAFLEX_Schnelllauftore from Pixabay

Total Supply Chain Summit: Registration closing for next week’s big event!

The Total Supply Chain Summit takes place next week – This is your last chance to register your FREE place!

Date: 16th & 17th October

Venue: Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester Airport

The Summit is a must attend event, bringing together industry professionals with leading suppliers, for 1-2-1 meetings, to create valuable networking opportunities in the logistics, warehouse and supply chain industry, completely free of charge! – Add your name to the guest list HERE

Suppliers attending include;


Castle Industrial Supplies

ALS Customs Services


Aramex Delivery Solutions



Great Bear




Mercury Gate


Objectivity Limited

Pallite Group


World Transport Agency

Kerry Logistics


BMB Logistics


What’s included?

🤝 A personalised itinerary of one-to-one meetings with solution providers

☕ Lunch and refreshments included throughout the event

👋 Networking breaks to build valuable connections within your field

💬 A seat at our insightful seminar sessions (included in your itinerary)

💤 Free overnight accommodation at the venue – Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester

🥂 An invitation to our gala dinner with a showcase of entertainment

LAST CHANCE TO BOOK – Register your free place here!