On 10th August 2000, Ital Logistics was incorporated and Roberto Tagliareni, Director of our Italian partners ITX Cargo made up the Italian end. And a fortnight after that, I found myself sitting in one of two seven foot square unrendered brick cubicles at the back of a warehouse in Rochdale, ready for action.
After a couple of weeks, I employed my first recruit and, a couple of months later, another. Come the end of his ‘partial’ year we had turned over £400,000, and had established the Italian service to a minimum of twice-weekly in each direction.
In April 2001, we moved from Rochdale to reside in Cardinal Maritime’s facilities at Eccles, and my wife Dianne joined us managing accounts, having assisted part time during the previous months. The year concluded with an audited 17 months turnover of just over £1.8m, with a small profit, and all invested monies repaid, this despite a couple of bad debts which served as an early lesson in commercial industry hazards.
During the latter part of 2002, we entered the British International Freight Association (BIFA) Awards, and to my surprise were shortlisted as finalists in the category of “Best European Forwarder”, pitched against some fairly big giants of the industry. Come January 2003, when the Awards Day came, we were announced as winners of the category, and so notched up our first of two such awards. 2002 concluded with a turnover of £1.5m, up on the previous twelve months.
Following the opening of a Verona branch by ITX (spanning 2002/3), we commenced a direct line northbound between Verona and the UK at the turn of the year into 2004, gradually separating the North Eastern cargoes and the Milan cargoes. At this time I became a Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor. Having the on-site knowledge was, and has since proven to be, integral to the development of Ital Logistics’ specialist area of expertise.
At the end of 2003, David Garratt stood down as a prelude to his well-earned retirement, Dianne and I taking his shares with Dianne becoming shareholder. Sadly, late 2014 David passed away after illness. His contribution will never be forgotten.
October 2004 saw us move, with Cardinal, to Sharston, a 30,000ft² modern facility which provided the next platform for development. Even allowing for the expense of moving, we returned a turnover of just shy of £2.6m, but with an even greater return close to our industry sector average.
During 2005 we commenced our service with Greece, and also acquired the Investors in People Standard, which we have continued to retain.
We are pleased to have achieved the standard with very little change to the structure which was present at our beginning, as it enforces our belief that we operate our organisation effectively. It shows that, not only are we customer focused, but also that the personal development of our employees is important. Let’s face it, without such development, our business strategy would rapidly fall down – our people are our company.
2006 became an interesting year in that I placed an operational presence at our Romford warehouse facility with the intention of increasing our presence in the South of the UK. During the following three years, I increased the workforce in Romford, but eventually was forced to close the operation office mid 2009, as after three years, not for want of trying, it was just never going to ‘cut the mustard’. But if I hadn’t tried, I’d always have wondered.
During 2006 we also exhibited at La Dolce Vita, the first of several exhibitions which we have been involved in. It proved instrumental in providing an insight into the world of exhibitions and how little time is made available for set-up and dismantling.
Able to keep the BIFA award winners logo on our stationary for five years, I thought that we should enter again into the awards for 2007. Uncannily, we were again shortlisted for the finals, and quite unbelievably picked up the winner’s trophy a second time. Statistically, we ended 2007 on £4m turnover with an increased return of almost one per cent above the industry norm.
Doing nothing new, but just carrying on in the same vein, 2008 returned us a turnover of £4.8m as we increased, in particular, our Spanish and General Forwarding lines, as well as growth in the Italian lines. Despite the economic doom and gloom of 2009, our turnover again increased, this time to £5.25m. Profit in 2009 was minimal, but still positive.
On several occasions we shared resources with the Italian Chamber of Commerce, this time in the presence of the Italian Ambassador for trade at the Freemasons Hall in Manchester as he visited the UK.
Due to high costs, many international hauliers, both UK and foreign, were stepping back from transporting dangerous goods. With this in mind, to maintain and increase our available fleet of ADR hauliers, during 2009, we entered into an agreement with UK haulier, Swains of Stretton, to operate five liveried trailers round tripping between Manchester, Milan and Verona each week.
All able to carry dangerous goods. the ability to guarantee this many trailers each week, with ADR licenses, enabled us to segregate more effectively, aiding our specialism in this sector.
2010 marked our tenth anniversary. No mean feat given the competitiveness of our business and the start of the recession that kicked in some 15 or so months earlier.
Also in 2010 we sponsored the Grassington Arts Festival, where I was able to meet and chat with iconic keyboard legend, Rick Wakeman, one of several musicians whose musical styles have been my tutor. Autographing my Moog synthesiser was an added bonus!
The HAZculator®, in case you haven’t read about it elsewhere, is an Excel workbook which I created in 2009 in draft form which took the IMDG & ADR data and merged it all together so that my team could ensure documentary compliance without the need to navigate 4 volumes of hardback.
In recent bi-annual updates, starting with 2011, this now does much more and checks compatibility for up to seven different UN numbers, returns Eurotunnel information, plus a rake of other information which we have gleaned along the way that isn’t written down in any book.
Skipping on, but not omitting to mention our third attempt in the BIFA awards, in 2012 we were finalists, but couldn’t make it three in a row.
Year on year our turnover has increased. Comparative figures from 2010 and 2014 show our Spanish services growing from £1.2m to £2.4m against our Italian services £3.3m to £4.3m and total figures of £6.1m to £9.3m.
In 2013 we introduced maritime and air freight into our general portfolio, to provide an additional string to our bow, and embellishing on our Spanish services, we are now venturing into the wider Iberian Peninsula with Gibraltar, Madeira, and all Iberian outposts.
Maintaining our presence in the chemical sector, we also sponsored for the first time the Chemical North West Business Awards 2013 which was held at the Imperial War Museum in Manchester.
On the 1st December 2014 we moved to new purpose-built premises on the northern fringe of Manchester close to the M60/M66 junction. The move, as a result of our continued expansion, will provide us with a platform to enable further growth as we enter the next chapter of the Company’s journey.
The facility comprises of 16,000ft² warehousing with 6 access doors, 2 of which are newly installed dock-levellers, a yard area of circa 22,000ft² with separate ingress and egress, and 24/7 manned security including ANPR for the whole business park. In addition we have also provided extensive CCTV and intruder systems.
2015 was spent ‘settling in’ to our new premises. Having been in 3rd party accommodation up to this time, whilst we encountered new challenges, we enjoyed the flexibility of dealing with our own business.
In August we celebrated our 15th anniversary, and at the same time the shares owned by Brian and Rob of Cardinal Maritime were bought back so that the business became 100% owned by myself and my wife, Dianne.
To cap off 2015, later in the year we were pleased to reach the finals of the annual BIFA awards in two categories; the European Logistics award which had won on two other occasions, the Extra mile award in relation to our intuitive HAZculator®, and furthermore, James Mears reached the finals of Young Forwarder of the Year.
Disappointingly, we didn’t come back from the January BIFA awards with a winners trophy, but I suppose a record of entering four times, winners on two occasions and finalists on the other two, is certainly something to be very pleased about.
However, the benefits of our new premises, and our ability to increase our throughput started to show as we increased our turnover by some 21% from £9.6m to £11.7m. The bottom line didn’t do much, bust considering the huge investments, both with the move, the share purchase, and the software development in preparation for launch, one has to be satisfied.
During this year we also commenced our service to France, primarily the southern part, and whilst this hasn’t seen the same development levels of our other primary services, it is still able to provide an effective alternative to many French carriers due to our ability to deliver directly with dangerous goods to the South of France with good transit times.
The start of 2017 was fraught indeed! Having spent a considerable sum of development time and money, we finally launched the first incarnation of FREIGHtsoft® and started using it. How were we to know that the WiFi signal required would be hampered by the signals on the fork lift trucks! So for the first six weeks we encountered untold troubles till this was identified! Since then we have been using the system and making continual adjustments and updates, continuing to invest time and money to reach where we are now.
Three years before I’d looked at new software and as nothing was available that I felt was suitable or would need a lot of adjusting, I made the [somewhat] foolhardy decision to embark on a new program from scratch! It has been a tough process, but by the end of this year we will have a system that combines all modes, incorporates our HAZculator®, integral CRM system, warehouse control, and storage systems, integrates with Sage 200 seamlessly, includes a freight planner, plus a host of other features too numerous to mention.
One we have tested fully and all the creases ironed out, it is likely that the product will be marketed in its own right. But should we give away some of our advantages gained with this software? Well – time will tell!
I would like to say that your team put up with a great deal of time wasting nonsense during their work, and handle it very well indeed for us 99.99% of the time and still deliver. That makes you and your team ‘AAA’ to me and I am very grateful that you all pulled the stops out to do what you did when it mattered, and I know you still had your day to complete on top of that. It’s good to know that when you are a point down, you find a way to still win the game in the last 3 minutes and produce two back of the net shots in a row. Today did that for me and my customer. Many thanks.