The expansions are allowing the company to grow at an exponential rate. Just how far can one logistics company go?
Worldwide, customers’ expectation for fast, efficient and cost-effective transportation and delivery of goods is growing, putting greater demand on logistics companies.
The challenge of providing this all-encompassing package is a challenging one. The physical demands of sending staff, vehicles and goods over ever-increasing distances that cross continents, cultures, and legislation are severe enough without the epic balancing act required not to grow too quickly, or indeed too slowly, in a changing financial climate by managing staff and fleet levels as well as, perhaps most importantly, clients’ expectations.
One company that is rising to this challenge is Redhead International.
The freight transport company was founded in 1978 in Bradford, in the heart of West Yorkshire, and earned a reputation nationally for setting the benchmark of many a consignment. Today that reputation has grown internationally.
Backed by 200 staff at their Bradford HQ and depots in Burton-on-Trent, Basildon, Glasgow, Belfast, Bristol and Dublin, Redhead International is now one of the leading privately owned freight operators in the industry. The company handles over 19,000 consignments per month through more than 1500 UK and international trailer movements throughout Europe, Scandinavia, the Middle East and North Africa.
Employing the newest logistic and communications technologies the company is able to provide regular updates on pallet tracking – with progress and delivery times, ensuring everyone who needs to be is kept in the loop at every stage of the process.
Through a combination of strategically located depots and several strong partnerships with partners across Europe, Redhead has established a logistics infrastructure that has seen it expand into emerging markets and unchartered regions of freight transportation.
Location, location, location
Redhead’s board puts the success the company has enjoyed down to their ability to accommodate and be flexible, to collaborate, to hit deadlines, and to understanding their importance as a vital link in the supply chain.
Such credentials of reliability and adaptability have come to fruition on the back of the UK’s well-established ability in palletised distribution service provision, which allows relatively small amounts of goods to be transported when needed. Thus is particularly important when serving customers that work to ‘just-in-time’ procedures like the automotive and electronics industries, when multiple drops are often required and a dependable regular service is critical to on-going company and client success.
“The capacity to swiftly scale up and down to meet precise needs and timeframes is a vital characteristic of freight services in the 21st century. It’s about reassuring the client that whatever the question you, not only have the answer, but the capability to act upon it”, said Tony Suggitt, Redhead’s managing director.
The company has grown significantly over the last five to ten years, in particular with its expansion to a number of new depots across the UK, which has been brought about by Redhead’s demand from clients operating through the continent and the company’s own expansion into emerging markets like Russia.
Knowing exactly who and where their customers are and expanding around them has been instrumental in allowing Redhead to not only continue identifying customers who require small batches of pallets to be transported – up to four pallets – across borders, but to improve their service to existing clients as well.
A prime example of this policy came in 2008 with the opening of the Burton-on-Trent depot; designed to meet increased demand for the company’s international freight services from customers in the Midlands area. The Burton-on-Trent depot proved to be every bit as beneficial to the business as the company hoped and with a 3,000 pallet capacity and 1,500 m2 of warehousing space the facility now provides their customers in the Midlands with access to an international freight management company that can handle virtually any request from a single pallet to full trailers.
In May and July last year the company opened a further two new depots: A completely new depot in Bristol and a larger facility in Belfast. Both depots were opened to complement Redhead’s tailored services of flexible freight solutions to companies that need to transport goods quickly and efficiently across the whole of Europe, including Russia and the Balkan states. It’s proving successful as Redhead’s operations in these territories continue to rise.
Redhead has had a presence in Ireland for over 20 years, since opening a humble little office in Carrickfergus in 1991. Assisted by a depot in Dublin, the company has seen business in the country steadily grow and in July last year the time was right to invest in a new purpose-built depot in Belfast to support and increase the number of customers in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. More recently the company also expanded into a new depot in Dublin. In total the company has invested over £2 million in the two new facilities.
The opening ceremony of the new Belfast depot was performed by Northern Ireland’s executive minister for regional development, Mr Danny Kennedy. And the fact that finance minister Sammy Wilson, justice minister David Ford, and a number of chief executives from Northern Ireland’s business community together with suppliers from across Ireland were also in attendance at the official ceremony tells you all you need to know about the company’s importance in the country.
The new 33,000 square foot facility provides Redhead and its customers with state-of-the-art warehousing and order fulfilment capabilities, an 18-tonne overhead crane for heavy lifting, and new, modern office space to house an increasing workforce.
Redhead International’s director of Ireland and Scotland, Mark Cosgrove said the depot has allowed customers old and new to tap-in to Redhead’s well established UK and Europe-wide logistics infrastructure; “Whilst we have had this type of capability in Great Britain and Dublin for many years, the Mallusk depot allows us to offer customers in Northern Ireland a full package of managed logistics services and order fulfilment.”
Business in Ireland comes in many guises, including the print industry, where ever-decreasing deadlines for artwork, and fixed delivery times with inserts for the assorted magazines, periodicals and supplements has meant that operational success has become intimately tied to time specific pickups.
The company’s wealth of accrued knowledge and good practices in print logistics means they are the go-to guys for many publications and suppliers.
It’s not simply a case of asking: ‘Where do you want it and when?’, so niche is this logistics operation that the company employs a print logistics manager who oversees a dedicated print logistics team at Redhead that work closely with the customer to pinpoint, assess and swiftly rectify the compelling challenges raised.
The team undertakes a detailed research visit to each of the customers’ Ireland delivery points – a policy that allows Redhead to anticipate and address any potential supply chain issues well in advance. The customer is then presented with a proposal for an ‘end to end’ solution encompassing the pick-up of inserts from the UK to delivery at multiple drop-off points in Northern and Southern Ireland.
The time spent investigating and researching the entire logistic process eliminates the requirement for sub-contractors and alleviates any issues with weakened pallets and potential insert wastage. As well as simplifying the supply chain, Redhead’s communication lines are also streamlined to provide the customer with a single point of management level contact.
The seven figure investment in the company’s Northern Ireland depot will improve the print logistics operation there even further and prove to be a valuable asset to the company as it continues to develop its presence in Ireland. It will also provide local businesses looking to grow their export markets with the means to do so; a strategy that is in line with the Government’s focus on developing export-led economic growth.
From Russia with freight
The Redhead base in Bradford still provides the perfect springboard for deliveries into Europe while the additional UK depots have allowed the business to broaden its operating footprint and deliver a swift, reliable and flexible service to emerging markets and territories such as Russia, Eastern Europe and beyond.
These emerging markets will become both increasingly important and demanding on the back of major infrastructure projects, particularly in Russia as the country primes itself for hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 World Cup.
The Russian territories have been a haunt of Redhead for some time, and visits there are becoming more frequent as business relations between Russia and the rest of Europe continue to evolve.
The retail industry in Russia is one of the fastest growing markets, with big chains finally expanding outside of the capital and into the deeper regions of the country. As a result, logistics development that was once primarily concentrated in Moscow, has now spread to other cities and towns as they become more accommodating to international service providers to support retail initiatives.
This push to develop logistics infrastructure is part of an overall strategy to make Russia a gateway for goods moving between Asia and Western Europe.
Just a few years ago Russia established the Federal Programme of Transport Modernisation, a guideline for the development of Russian transport. The programme aimed to spur economic activity by developing transit corridors, increasing the flow of goods moving throughout the country and improving the quality of transport services.
It’s working: In 2010 Russia’s transport industry made the transition from slump and stagnation to growth, and the volume of commercial freight transportation, by all modes of transport, has increased year on year.
The sheer distances required to travel internally and the low quality of Russian roads coupled with non-rational locations of many manufacturing facilities, coupled with the archaic organisation of cargo delivery from manufacturer to consumer, contribute significantly.
With 35 years’ experience in the industry that is where a proven, efficient and trusted logistics partner like Redhead can make a difference. In fact, logistics outsourcing in Russia (cargo transportation, forwarding, warehousing and handling services) accounts for nearly thirty per cent of the total transport and logistics market.
As a result of the expanding retail industry and the country’s growing infrastructure, Redhead’s shipments in and out of Russia are focused around textiles, including components and finished goods, construction and manufacturing, as well as electronic goods and print.
The company’s approach to managing their clients who operate in, out of, and through Russia is exactly the same as how they manage their clients in the Midlands and Northern Ireland. A single point of contact is established in the form of a Russian speaker who now works from the company’s head office in Bradford, along with a proven an invaluable network. Both are assets which simplify the supply chain into and out of Russia, allowing the company to provide the same high level of service throughout Russia.
Partners in quick-time
The need for supply chain speed, security and reliability has never been more prevalent which is why Redhead has developed a network with some of Europe’s largest players in the industry, leading to just one question – who are these highly trusted collaborators?
There are several in-territory partners who together form an international network that assists Redhead in serving its clients in Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Northern Africa, Russia and the Balkan States.
When developing the company’s services into and out of these regions, it wanted to ensure the level of provision a customer would expect in Western Europe would also be available to them in these territories, which is why one of those strategic partners is Militzer & Münch – one of Europe’s most respected freight companies.
“To mitigate the challenges associated with providing an effective freight service to destinations in Eastern Europe and North Africa for example, we utilise our longstanding partnership with Militzer & Münch. This means that the key elements of flexibility and dependability are in place,” said Redhead’s joint managing director Tony Suggitt.
By partnering with German-based Militzer & Münch (M&M), Redhead is able to promote their services confidently knowing that they can provide a solution that meets their customers’ expectations.
With access to M&M’S 120 offices throughout the world; Redhead always has a man on the ground with a wealth of territorial experience and knowledge and a local team to draw upon.
M&M’s rail logistics service is a particularly useful resource that Redhead can utilise to deliver large materials consignments deep into the Russian heartland.
Another prime example of M&M’s relationship with Redhead is their involvement in garment industry logistics.
Every Thursday, Redhead trailers set off from the UK with components and arrive in North Africa on Monday, to meet the manufacturers’ requirement of having the whole working week to assemble garments. The collection of finished garments is then carried out by M&M over the course of the following weekend, when they are also taken into the company’s customs clearing facility, which also incorporates a quality checking area. Finished garments, already labelled and priced-up for the high street stores, are then ready to load onto the trailer for the return journey back to the UK.
It may sound simple enough, but when you consider the amount of stock involved, the rapid turnaround, and the distance the goods are required to travel, not to mention the quality and customs checks, Redhead and their clients can rest assured in the knowledge that the arrangement works.
The partnership with M&M also means Redhead can provide its customers with a number of added benefits including facilities for quality assurance and testing at source – one in every eight garments is checked – reducing returns, and keeping their associated costs to a bare minimum.
Most manufacturers will usually have customers and suppliers in a number of different countries, but by working in partnership with M&M Redhead can eliminate the need for goods to be imported into the UK for them simply to be re-exported back to a desired location in Europe. For example, Redhead frequently picks up fabrics and trimmings from Turkey and ships them directly into North Africa, without the need for them to be imported and re-exported; making considerable financial and time savings on behalf of its customers.
Redhead are pioneering new services in logistics and paving the way for UK companies to gain a foothold in these expanding markets which is when these partnerships will prove all the more prevalent in providing secure, reliable and adaptable lines of delivery.
Closer to home, Redhead recently announced that they have joined forces with the Hazchem Network, the UK’s only pallet network dedicated to the distribution of speciality chemicals.
The flexible service offered by Redhead will specifically target companies that are looking to transport between 1 and 4 pallets of speciality chemicals internationally.
On forging yet another partnership that will strengthen Redhead’s more specific services Tony Suggitt said: “We are extremely pleased to be working with Hazchem Network, the UK’s only pallet network that focuses on the distribution of hazardous chemicals. I’m sure that our combined expertise in this field will lead to a long and mutually beneficial relationship.”
People say that the key to a successful partnership is good communication but if each party can take an equal benefit from a collaboration then that always helps. The partnership with Hazchem Network is certainly mutually beneficial. Hazchem Network’s Ail Karim said of the partnership: “Redhead is renowned for offering customers a reliable and flexible logistics service. The company’s Smartfreight solutions meet the highest standards of quality and flexibility and will allow customers who require small quantities – between 1 and 4 pallets – of speciality chemicals to be delivered into and out of international markets to work with one of the UK’s industry leaders.”
These partnerships will allow manufacturers or distributors in the UK to take advantage of Redhead’s established international network, with access to multiple sites and suppliers across the continent.
It is an approach that has allowed them to lengthen their supply lines yet see no drop-off in service, flexibility and importantly, speed of delivery.
For the UK’s well developed selection of specialist logistics companies looking to operate in the emerging markets of Eastern Europe and Russia there are pitfalls certainly, but also a host of opportunities due to the cultivation of important strategic partnerships that ensure the seamless blending of logistical networks. A strategy that is sure to bring an array of long lasting benefits to all those involved.
Where to next?
“That really depends on who are clients are going to be over the next several years. We expand by setting up new depots and partnerships in relation to who are clients are, where they are based, and where they are heading” said Tony Suggitt.
The business model is clearly working. Current turnover is more than £31 million a year. But Tony freely admits that he is lucky that their business and the industry it operates in is being backed by significant government investment from the UK and abroad.
The British Government understands that maintaining the competitiveness of the UK logistics industry is critical. Its desire to boost the freight and logistics industry further is emphasised with a multi-million pound commitment to improving existing roads and creating new links between towns and cities that decrease traffic congestion.
Recently the Government has also trialled longer trailers and is aiming to simplify drivers’ working hours. It is also currently consulting on whether to increase the speed limit imposed on some HGVs.
So in a world when ‘tomorrow’ is too late, logistic companies that are continuously evolving their operational platforms to ensure their capacity to deliver a service that meets customer expectations and market needs will be the ones that not only survive, but stay ahead.
Tony concluded: “It is important to us that we can continue to guarantee our customers a reliable and regular service into and out of many evolving territories, but we want to build on the flexibility that our clients already experience. We understand however, that the longer the supply chain, the more problematic this can be, but our strategic partners in the field have a wealth of territorial knowledge and experience to anticipate, reduce and eradicate any problems.
“Our policy of working smart, whether it be through forging partnerships, embracing and incorporating new technologies into all aspects of our business from administration and finance to communications and security, helps make the physical task of transporting goods half way around the world that little bit simpler.”
Redhead’s strapline reads ‘The art of smart freight’, and though they may be the inventors of the art it is also one that they have truly mastered.