Bacton Transport, a prominent logistics and transportation company, has been part of the business landscape in East Anglia for over 90 years. We spoke to Andy Stevenson, Bacton Transport’s Finance Director about their recent growth and plans for the future, as well as how they have coped with the challenges of the past few years.
Very much a family firm, Bacton Transport was founded in 1932 and started life transporting milk from Suffolk farms to the local dairies. It is now owned and run by brothers Charles and Ed Downie, grandsons of the founder of the business, who have brought a number of complementary skills: Charles worked in logistics for some years before joining the family firm about a decade ago, whilst Ed has built up an indepth knowledge of the business, and is known for his rapport with their 100-odd drivers.
The business has quietly grown to become a major player in freight and storage, collecting and delivering over three thousand tonnes of freight and six hundred individual consignments every day. As well as their main base in Woolpit, Suffolk they have a secondary depot near Nottingham which handles deliveries to Aldi supermarkets and have recently acquired a new storage warehouse facility at Haughley Park near Ipswich. This strategic move aims to meet the growing demand for storage and distribution services in the region, allowing the company to further enhance its operational capabilities and serve its customers more effectively.
So, in an industry with razor-thin margins, how do they manage to create sustained growth? The answer, says Andy Stevenson, lies in the strength of their company culture, continually seeking excellence, and developing an inclusivity that tries to foster a sense of belonging across every part of the business. This determination to put the needs of the customer first is what drives the business ethos, or as Andy puts it: “We never say no”.
Working with their customers in this way is in line with Bacton’s long-term strategy for business growth and means adopting an empathetic mindset to understand the clients’ needs, so they can deliver workable options to meet that requirement. A good example is the decision to take on storage and assembly work as an adjacent line of activity to their transport contracts. “Clients can bring in parts for goods which can be assembled in the storage unit before we deliver forward deliver them on,” says Andy. “We are also now really pleased to now be able to offer ETSF (External Temporary Storage Facility) storage of uncleared goods imported from outside the UK, allowing the client to defer making a full customs declaration and paying duties and taxes until the end of the goods’ agreed storage period.”
Along with every other transport and logistics business, Bacton Transport has needed to respond and adapt to deal with the challenges of COVID-19 and its repercussions. “The pandemic was interesting,” comments Andy, wryly. “After the initial shockwaves, we could see that e-commerce enabled demand to bounce back, but, like everyone else we were soon faced with a shortage of drivers, and the supply of vehicles dried up. Although trucks are beginning to be available again, costs have gone up significantly, and we are paying 40% more that we were four years ago. Finally getting the trucks now that we ordered two years ago can quickly cause cash flow issues, so you need good financial management to keep that side of things stable. Working with Scrutton Bland has helped us enormously, for example their audit team has not only kept up compliant but has helped to reveal ways to improve our systems and controls.”
“Transport and haulage remains a big energy consuming sector, so any sustainability initiatives are a good thing all round,” continues Andy. “Bacton Transport are a member of the Suffolk Carbon Charter, which means we’re committed to working on sustainable solutions such as solar panels, water capture measures and LED lighting. Just recently we’ve been told that we have achieved Carbon Charter Gold from Suffolk County Council as we’ve made a 21% reduction in our carbon footprint since our last assessment two years ago. We’ve also reduced the top speed of our fleet by 3 miles per hour, which sounds like nothing but actually reduces our miles per gallon fuel consumption by 10%. Like everyone else we’re keeping an eye on electric vehicles, but they’re not quite commercially viable for us yet, although recently we have been working with Volvo to help them compare the costs of running diesel trucks compared to electric.”
But it’s not just about the trucks. Bacton recognises the importance of training their drivers to a high standard and the firm has just achieved FORS (Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme) silver and gold accreditation. “We had to deliver 1100 hours of driver training, and 40 hours of manager training,” says Andy. “We spent over £50k on extra tuition, and we even had to get the drivers onto bicycles and cycle to the next village so they could experience what it is like to have a huge truck drive past them! We now no longer use agency drivers, as we want to provide the best professional service from our inhouse pool of employees.”
Looking forward, Bacton’s recent expansion into Haughley Park will have a positive impact on the local economy by creating regular job opportunities within the community. “We need to employ a diverse range of employees, including warehouse staff, logistics professionals and administrative personnel, thereby driving economic growth and fostering employment in the region,” comments Andy. “Our goal is that as we continue to expand our operations, we remain a key player in the UK logistics industry, offering tailored and sustainable solutions and contributing to the growth and success of businesses in our region and beyond.”
Scrutton Bland’s audit is much more than a process to certify accounts and ensure you’re compliant with the law. It becomes a powerful tool for optimising your organisation and a vital input for a robust business plan with built-in resilience. Contact us at email@example.com or call us at 0330 058 6559.