Meachers has logistics covered
Meachers Global Logistics, joint 122nd on the Solent 250, is one of the UK‘s leading independent providers of logistics services.
For more than 50 years, the company – based at Nursling Industrial Estate in Southampton – has built an enviable reputation by providing customers with complete solutions to their freight forwarding, supply chain management, UK warehousing, distribution, logistics and contract management, training and advisory requirements.
Harder hit than other sectors, however, it is challenging for the service sector in this recession. Having taken over from his father Bob Terris, who remains as chairman, Stuart Terris says: “It‘s tough in the service sector – we‘re the last area to experience recovery, but the first to be hit. Food prices and distribution have been hit and the Far East economy has affected the movement of other goods.
“The general state of the economy is what I see as the main obstacle to growth this year and fuel prices have a direct effect on our competitiveness. As the price of fuel escalates our prices increase accordingly. Whilst this is the case for all UK-based hauliers, those based in countries with lower rates of fuel duty gain a competitive advantage and therefore drive industry out of the UK. The rising price of fuel also hits cashflow, as the credit terms taken by customers normally exceed those offered by the fuel companies. However, I remain an optimist, because it‘s been bad for four or five years now and the downturn will not last forever, but the economy will undoubtedly be a changed one after recovery.“
Terris has an interesting background, combining working in the logistics business with training as a chartered account at RSM Tenon. He rejoined Meachers in 1997, becoming managing director last November. He is well placed to spot a good fit for the longer term and to put into place the necessary finance. Having enjoyed an excellent business banking relationship with HSBC for more than 30 years, facilities to access funding, if required, are there.
“Meachers has both gained and lost business in the downturn. Over the past few years we have been offered many acquisition opportunities and while we are not actively seeking to expand through acquisition we look at each on its merit and if it is the right fit or complements our current profile then we are well situated to do so,“ Terris continues.
Meachers is fortunate to be a very big player, serving mainly blue chips across the entire spectrum of import/export, freight forwarding, supply chain management, logistics and contract management, UK transport, distribution and warehousing. Other companies may cover one part, but its strength is that combination of services. In the Solent region there is no competitor that offers the same complete range of services.
Employing 160, the headcount could rise by 20-30 if several major tenders are won, but it is a process which takes a long time. Terris adds: “Within large, multinational companies the decisionmaking process is a long one. We could hear this week or six months down the line whether we have been successful with a tender or not.“
With a £20 million turnover and strong board, comprising six directors, Meachers not only brings goods in and out of the Solent region and stores them, but also encompasses training and advisory services. The company recently added four new Actros 2546 MegaSpace tractor units to the fleet, the first Mercedes-Benz trucks to enter service at the headquarters. Having already operated a fleet of 15 Actros from its depot in Derby, the vehicles have proved reliable and fuel-efficient, as well as popular with drivers. Following the launch of the new model Actros, orders for a further 14 tractor units have been placed which are due for delivery over the coming months.
Pentagon Commercial‘s in-house instructor Phil Whiting has been employed to train some 60 drivers at both Meachers‘ locations, with a view to 2014 legislation, when operators nationwide will have to secure Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC) qualifications for employees. The new Southampton-based vehicles are also the subject of a five-year Mercedes-Benz repair and maintenance contract, with servicing being undertaken by the workshop team at Pentagon‘s local depot, conveniently situated on the Nursling Industrial Estate.
Since the 1996 management buyout, Meachers‘ pension scheme has been open to all employees, with drivers tending to remain in the job ‘for life‘. “In the past we have tried to train drivers through from a young age, giving them experience and training of all classes of vehicle, from vans, through Class 2 and onto Class 1 HGV vehicles. This is no longer possible due to our fleet‘s being almost exclusively HGV vehicles, so we now encourage retention of drivers through other methods, such as a pension scheme,“ explains Terris. “A qualified HGV driver tends to stay one for his entire career. Age is less of a barrier with modern equipment and we‘ve kept experienced drivers well past the traditional retirement age, although recent employment legislation works against us.“
As many Solent 250 companies have noted, employment legislation has made it increasingly difficult to actually employ people: “It tends to look after the individual, but it shouldn‘t be funded by businesses. As it becomes increasingly more onerous to employ people past retirement age it takes away a company‘s ability to retain valuable employees.“
Even if customers are undertaking credit checks on Meachers – unheard of in previous years but now a common occurrence as customers seek assurance of continued service – it is in a strong position for the future. Terris says the past year has been more positive and, as relatively new to his position, he is focusing on his personal goals. With the advantage of having undertaken every job in the company, except that of HGV driver, he understands and appreciates what his people do.
“I have a different management style to my father and I naturally want to establish my own way, including how I motivate people to improve and when they tackle new opportunities within the compan.“
Resources: Meachers website
Stuart Terris – Meachers Global Logisitcs