“We don’t look at ourselves as simply a transporter or a logistics firm, we are a complete service provider,” says Transtech Logistics’ business manager, Chokani Mhango, describing the company’s philosophy – and one of the biggest factors behind its success.
Founded in 1997 in Malawi, Transtech Logistics is a freight specialist, offering comprehensive and integrated solutions throughout South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and, of course, Malawi. The company operates a fleet of just under 100 Freightliner trucks, employing the same number of drivers and 40 additional staff at its offices in Lilongwe (Malawi), Lusaka (Zambia), Harare (Zimbabwe) and Johannesburg (South Africa).
The South African office – which is now also the head office – is a relatively recent addition, opening in 2013. He explains: “I am an economics scholar and started my career in banking. But after six years I was ready for a new challenge and Transtech’s managing director approached me with his plans to open an independent office in South Africa. The rest, as they say, is history.”
Transtech’s vision is to facilitate its customers’ entire supply chain, meeting the demand for both manufactured products from South Africa and beyond and various raw materials and agricultural products from southern Africa. Mhango says: “We are positioning ourselves in this very exciting space, being able to connect our southern African clientèle, with both SA and international manufacturers, and at the same time connecting agricultural exporters in Malawi, Zimbabwe and so on with our international customers. That’s why our slogan is ‘Connecting the African Continent’.”
And as the South African office starts its third year, it’s an exciting time for the company. “While the business as a whole has been operating for 18 years, this office is the ‘newbie’, so the first three years have been very important in the getting the right personnel in, getting the right structures in place and getting the right client base - building a structure for business,” says Mhango.
Attracting the right personnel is a key element of the company’s strategy, particularly as the logistics industry is very labour intensive. People are the heart and soul of Transtech and all our personnel are critical to the vision of the organization in order to cohesively run the fleet on a daily basis. “As management, we strive to create a corporate work environment that is second to none. Our recruitment policy endeavours to attract highly qualified individuals with a passion for this industry and we, in turn, strive to provide our personnel with a very exciting and challenging corporate environment that promotes free thinking, career growth and self-improvement.”
Transtech understands the importance of training and education for its staff, with some of the office team taking part in post-graduate programmes and regular training for all employees. Mhango says: “As a very wise person once told me, a person who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is uneducated the day after. And in the global economy that we’re in today, we’re faced with new ways of conducting business on a daily basis and it is therefore critical that our teams are up-to-date with latest systems, the new procedures, the different regulations and all the new opportunities that business of today demands.” This policy really helps when it comes to retaining great staff too, as they recognise Transtech as an employer that can satisfy their needs beyond a salary.
In addition to a professional and dedicated staff, Mhango also believes that technology is crucial to Transtech’s success as he believes that, in the transportation industry, technology can set you aside from everyone else. An example is how the company makes use of tracking technology. “One of the premier needs of our clients is tracking – they want to know where their cargo is at any time,” he says. “There is an automated tracking alert that goes out to clients twice a day, at 7am and 4pm. In addition to this, our operations team provide our clients with a more comprehensive report detailing all the events occurring on the date in question.” Transtech Logistics also has a new website in development that will allow its clients to log in at any time of day and track the cargo themselves, making use of the state-of-the-art tracking units. Furthermore this software can also asses the performances of the trucks – including fuel consumption – which then allows the workshop team to identify any concerns and defects as the trucks are coming in and thus turn them around very quickly.
Road transport is a critical component for any sort of business in southern Africa and this is reflected in the type of projects Transtech is currently working on, which include a coal mine in Mozambique and a new railway connecting Malawi and Mozambique. It is also working on a road construction project in Malawi, transporting raw materials such as bitumen. A diverse range of projects and clients again points back to Transtech’s determination to provide a holistic solution for anyone who has cargo to move, incorporating every aspect of the supply chain.
Mhango adds: “Transportation is just the first step of what we do here at Transtech. We strive to provide our clientele with a more comprehensive solution. All cargo transported on our trucks is considered bonded which then allows our clients to defer duty payments until the consignment arrives at its final destination.” This means that cargo doesn’t get delayed by customs officials which may in turn incur storage costs.
So, with its 20th anniversary approaching in 2017, what does the future hold for Transtech? As well as growing its fleet in the next few months, the company is also focusing on other markets, including domestic routes and consolidated work. A new department focusing on consolidation has been opened, as Mhango explains: “We have started to target private clients who may only have five or 10 tonnes of cargo to move. We have a warehouse on our premises and can consolidate all their products and once we secure enough cargo to make a full truck load we are good to go. We are currently dispatching two consolidated trucks a week but we are looking to improve that statistic to at least five a week by 2016.”
In a difficult economic environment, it seems that Transtech is rising to the challenge. Mhango concludes: “We are a growing organisation but we cannot just be a single-solution firm – we have to stand out from the rest – that is the only way we can achieve growth.”