Logistics may be big business in the UK, but not every firm that operates in the business is big. According to the Freight Transport Association’s Logistics Report 2017, there are more than 178,000 logistics enterprises in the UK, many of which are one-person businesses. But together they turn over £1 trillion and employ about 8pc of the UK workforce.
Some national and international logistics companies are so well known that they are household names. Yet they do not necessarily offer a better service than their smaller, locally based, lesser-known rivals.
“We’ve won quite a few contracts against the big global companies based on the service we provide,” says Bruce Gunn, founder and managing director of Glasgow-based delivery company DNDP CIC, which runs a fleet of seven vans and also uses self-employed drivers with their own cars. “Small companies are very agile so we can respond to unusual requests and turn them around quickly.”
Mr Gunn says DNDP CIC’s corporate clients use his firm because it doesn’t combine their packages with parcels from other businesses in multi-drop vans. They are also attracted to DNDP CIC’s story – it is a not-for-profit social enterprise, only employing drivers who suffer from a mental or physical disability.
“We don’t sell the company on the fact that it’s a social enterprise,” he says. “We sell the enterprise and the top-class service. We have a 97pc hit rate in terms of packages being delivered on time and in the expected condition. I don’t know another courier that comes anywhere close to that.”
Some of the more curious cargo that DNDP CIC’s vans have carried over the years has included people’s ashes, body parts and samples from crime scenes. The firm’s drivers also helped a woman who wanted to leave her house urgently after splitting up with her husband. “She needed to move all of her stuff within a two-hour window between five and seven in the morning,” Mr Gunn explains. “That was a pretty unusual request.”
Paul Wilson, the managing director of the consultancy division for logistics adviser Davies & Robson, agrees that small, local firms can have the edge when it comes to keeping their customers happy. “If you can find someone locally, they will be a small business and the chances are they will deal much better with your products than throwing them down a conveyor to be sorted automatically and slid on to the back of a van delivered hundreds of miles away.”
He also says that small, local firms can be more flexible than their large, national counterparts about what they will collect, and when and where they will collect it.“I live in Horsham, but I bought a dining table from Glasgow on eBay,” he says. “The courier lived in Blackburn, but happened to be in Scotland, so he picked it up and brought it down to me on his way to Portsmouth.
“He did it cost-effectively and it suited his round, whereas national couriers don’t think like that. They have very strict requirements for a parcel, for example. Very few will transport anything over the size of a big carton.”
Nevertheless, Mr Wilson points out that the changing nature of the market means that what ostensibly might appear to be a large delivery company is really a network of smaller firms. “Amazon has set up its own logistics business,” he says. “From the outside, it looks like a huge operation with thousands of couriers across the UK. But the reality is that it is hundreds of companies, all operating locally with one, two or three vans.”
This is further proof, as if it were needed, that the big business of logistics is powered by smaller ones.
Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connect/small-business/operations-and-logistics/renault/small-logistics-company/ (Sally Percy, July 2017)