Changes at the top for express shipper APC Overnight
The last three years have witnessed remarkable changes at APC Overnight resulting in terrific growth in pre tax profits from £307,000 to £3.4 million in 2011 and with a turnover of £58 million. Each month the company delivers 1.4 million parcels nationwide – and the company is on course for another record year in 2012.
Written by Iestyn Armstrong-Smith
The chief architect behind this change in APC’s fortunes was Ivor Skinner, who became the company’s Managing Director in 2008. When he took over as MD, it was a critical time for the economy with the worldwide recession looming. This would prove challenging not only for APC but also for all businesses in general. With this in mind, APC looked for a focused and determined individual to help take the company forward regardless of the state of the economy; and, Ivor Skinner was the right person for the task.
Ivor Skinner’s strong leadership has helped APC weather the storm of an ongoing deep recession and guided the company into record growth and success. His enthusiasm, drive, people skills and passion for success have all helped APC rise above the challenges presented by the recession and increased the company’s service levels and its size and stature in the parcel industry overall.
After three years in the driving seat, Ivor Skinner has announced his retirement. His great legacy remains and will be highlighted by the company’s imminent move to a new £14 million purpose-built parcel sortation centre in Staffordshire. The new 128,000 ft2 national hub will more than double APC’s capacity and is essential to meeting the high demand from customers. Although retiring, he will continue to be very much involved in the company as a main Board Director.
“Being MD of APC has been the pinnacle of my career. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. We have had fantastic success in growing the company over the past three years and we are on track to break all records in 2012,” he said.
Ivor Skinner joined the next day delivery company’s directorship in 1999. Before becoming MD, he was Director of Administration and the Company Secretary. During his tenure, he has demonstrated strong leadership based on his personal business philosophy of attention to detail, quality of service and value for money. He has also been the media spokesperson for the company and has happily stepped forward to help the press.
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Prior to his career in the logistics industry, he was heavily involved in publishing with Northcliffe Media, launching regional free newspapers. This required working with courier companies to deliver the papers and he recognised that there was great potential for a delivery business in his home area of southwest Wales. In 1989, he, with his wife Gail, set up Celtic Couriers, a long-term member of the APC Overnight network based in Burry Port near Swansea. Initially, Celtic Couriers helped the Welsh automotive industry with same-day deliveries of components to carmakers in the Midlands.
The foundations of success
Ivor Skinner reports that many factors have contributed to APC’s upward curve over the last three years. These include continually increasing capacity to meet demand and strengthening the support to the 120+ depots that make up the APC nationwide network. The attention to APC branding for the next day service has given the organisation a much bigger and readily identifiable profile throughout the UK. In addition, public relations work and marketing support with the use of APC’s specially designed Strategic Support Vehicle has helped spread the word to customers the length and breadth of the British Isles. APC’s promotion of its premium services and its high level of reliability has been instrumental in helping hundreds of customers grow their businesses. The “Handled with Care” services in particular have helped wine, beer and cider merchants and food retailers extend their reach across the UK.
Under his leadership, the management team has maintained its strong direction - and with specialist heads of departments for operations, IT, human resources, network development, sales and marketing, and finance - each area of the operation has contributed to the company’s success while other organisations have struggled due to the downturned economy. The company’s investment in IT and in new environmentally efficient vehicles and trailers has also helped to drive efficiencies. APC is also a firm believer in training at all levels from sales to driver proficiency; notably, APC hub-based drivers are already well on their way to gaining their Driver CPC qualifications.
Edited by Kevin Scarpati
Driver shortages: Why the industry needs to be worried
While driver shortages are a global problem, with a recent survey from the International Road Transport Union suggesting that driver shortages are expected to increase by 25% year-on-year across its 23 member countries, the issue has very much made itself felt for UK businesses in recent weeks.
A perfect storm of factors, which many within the industry have been wary of, and warning about, for months, have led to a situation wherein businesses are suddenly facing significant difficulties around transporting goods to shelves on time, as well as inflated operating costs for doing so.
What’s more, the public may also see price rises as a result due to demand outmatching supply for certain product lines, which in turn brings with it the risk of customer dissatisfaction and a hit to brand and stakeholder reputation. Given that this price inflation has been speculated to hit in October, when the extended grace period on Brexit customs checks comes to an end, the worst may be yet to come.
"Steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole"
That said, we have already been hearing reports of service interruption due to lack of driver availability, meaning that volumes aren’t being transported, or delivered, to required schedules and lead times. A real-world example of this occurred on the weekend of 4-6 June with convenience retailer Nisa, with deliveries to Nisa outlets across the UK affected by driver shortages to its logistics provider DHL.
But where has this skills shortage stemmed from?
Supply is the primary issue. Specifically, the number of available EU drivers has decreased by up to 15,000 drivers due to Brexit alone, and this has been further exacerbated by drivers returning to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as changes to foreign exchange rates making UK a less desirable place to live and work. This, alongside the recent need to manage IR35 tax changes, has also led to significant inflation in driver and transport costs.
COVID-19 complications have also meant that there have been no HGV driver tests over the past year, meaning the expected 6,000-7,000 new drivers over the past year have not appeared. With the return of the hospitality sector we understand that this is a significant challenge with, for instance, order delivery lead times being extended.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier this month became the latest in a long line of industry spokespeople to write to the government about the driver shortage for trucks. The letter echoed the view held by much of the industry, that the cause of this issue is both multi-faceted and, at least in some aspects, long-standing.
So, many in the industry are in agreement as to the driving factors behind this crisis. But what can be done?
Simply enough, outside of businesses completely reorganising their supply chain network, external support is needed. In the short-term, the government should consider providing the industry with financial aid, and this can also be supported more widely with legislative change.
Specifically, immigration policy could be updated to place drivers on the shortage occupations list, which would go some way towards easing the burden created by foreign drivers returning to their home countries. Looking elsewhere, government should also look for ways to increase the availability of HGV driver tests after the blockage created by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Looking more long-term, steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole. As it stands, multiple sources suggest that the average age of truck drivers in the UK is 48, with only one in every hundred drivers under the age of 25. We must therefore do more to increase the talent pipeline coming into the industry if we are to offset more significant skills shortages further down the line.
On the back of a turbulent year for the supply chain industry, it has become increasingly clear that the long-foretold shortage of drivers is now having a tangible and, in places, crippling effect on supply chains.
Drivers, and the wider supply chain industry, have rightly been recognised for the seismic role they played in keeping the nation moving and fed over the past year under unprecedented strain. If this level of service is to continue, we must now see Government answer calls to provide the support the sector needs, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to find a solution. If we do not see concrete action to this effect soon, we are likely to be in for a turbulent few months.
Rob Wright is executive director at SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector