29 Jan 2014 10 years and still growing
Pallet-track celebrates a decade of expansion
A decade on from when Pallet-Track opened its doors for business on 30th January 2004 the Black Country-based company now has a combined group turnover of £80 million. The Wolverhampton hub handles an average of 8,000 pallets per night and a staggering 10 million deliveries have been achieved to date without losing a single consignment, a record which is unequalled in the freight industry.
This was all very hard to imagine when the founder Nigel Parkes started the business ten years ago.
Pallet-Track was established in Woden Road West in Wednesbury and on its first night of operation 852 pallets left these more modest facilities, a record number that was beyond all expectations at that time. Parkes was determined to succeed but to get the business up and running had meant some personal sacrifices. He was ‘maxxed out’ on credit cards and moved back in with his parents for two years to get the business established.
Parkes recalls: “I was working constantly long hours and if I was going to business meetings, I would colour my shoes in with black marker pen because they had become so scuffed,” said the 43-year-old entrepreneur who started to build Pallet-Track with long-term business partner Carl Jones in 2002 – it took two long years of ‘hard graft’ before it was up and running.
“The irony was that we had £380,000 sitting in the business account which was the network member share money but I promised that if the business did not work out I would refund the then 46 shareholders every penny they had invested – so we simply did not touch that money.”
“Your word is your bond and if you cannot keep your word, you have nothing in business or in life,” he added.
Parkes and Jones need not have concerned themselves too much as the business took off with double-digit growth year on year between January 2004 and 2009 – and it only slowed down to single digit growth because the recession took hold of the economy.
In 2012 Pallet-Track broke through the 9000 pallets in a single evening barrier.
Pallet-Track also acquired a depot in Brighton to service the South-East region, Parkes commented “The bigger you get, the harder it is to maintain the figures, but we are once again back in double-digit growth”.
Since those early days, the company which co-ordinates and optimises the efficiency for deliveries of its member’s pallets throughout the UK, has trebled in size.
Over the last 10 years, more than 10 million pallets have been moved from the Black Country and not a single one has been lost, an industry-beating statistic.
Pallet-Track has put the Black Country on the national map and the recession-busting palletised freight industry has helped the UK economy become more cost and fuel efficient during the well documented economic downturn that this country is just emerging from.
Pallet-Track based at the 267,000 sq ft Titan Distribution centre in Millfields Road, Wolverhampton since 2008, forms the central hub for a national network of regional hauliers – Pallet-Track shareholder members. These members bring their goods into the hub and other members then take them to other parts of the UK. This simple yet effective business model is known as ‘hub and spoke’.
Pallet-Track works with a broad range of manufacturers, producers, retailers, suppliers and stockists – supplying many household names across all sectors including consumer, business and industrial brands. Pallet-Track and its 70+ shareholder members transport anything from building and construction materials, through to sporting goods, clothing and accessories.
At a time of sky-high fuel costs its national hub and spoke operation reduces haulier’s costs and their impact upon the environment by cutting delivery distances and making sure that no trucks run empty on any leg of their journeys.
The network currently boasts 75 depots across the country and employs 1,800 staff that are directly involved in Pallet-Track freight operations.
Parkes models his business success upon the Cadbury family; the Birmingham based chocolate pioneers whose corporate ethos was as much about social philanthropy towards its workforce as it was about making profits.
“To me the business is more than just making money. I always wanted to be a good boss and we have a great track record of 90% retention. It is about making a difference to industry and doing things right and working closely to bring your people on” he said.
The Wolverhampton hub, which was opened after a two-year search, operates Monday to Friday and comes alive at night with trucks pouring in from all over the country.
“It was always about location for us. I wanted us to be in the Black Country but it took us two years because although we looked at many sites that ticked the boxes on paper, they were too close to residential areas which would be difficult with 400 truck movements every night. You have to get on with your neighbours,” said Parkes.
At night the distribution centre resembles a well-choreographed dance as the forklifts operated by highly-trained drivers move seamlessly between trucks to load the vehicles for their onward journeys.
The company through its members already has tens of thousands of customers across the UK. The rising cost of fuel has also contributed to Pallet-Track’s growth with shareholder members finding it more economical to its palletised freight network.
“The whole world has changed. We have had to become more competitive and leaner in the new markets where just in time and ‘next day’ delivery is now the norm – the model has shifted to 80% next day.”
“Although the market has changed, which has meant adjusting our business, we have fundamentally maintained our core values and strength as a company and we do things in a socially responsible manner whilst ensuring the profitability of the business – this is core to the DNA of the company,” he concludes.