Seabourne News

20-09-2012A message from Graham Beales, general manager at Seabourne Wisden and Franklin

Seabourne not just a courier company

I was aware of Seabourne’s existence as a result of using their services in the early 1980s; I knew what they did: they were a courier company. Joining Seabourne when I did was very timely; within two weeks I attended the annual strategy meeting, which proved I was blissfully ignorant.

At some point in the meeting, someone did mention vans and another person mentioned flying, but that was only part of the story. As the meeting unfolded I was bombarded with phrases like “the largest carrier of live seafood in the UK”, “two year project managing multimodal distribution for a client”, “storage and distribution for Vista Print”; I didn’t have much to say, not after two weeks.

So it turns out that Seabourne Group isn’t a courier company, it’s a group consisting of third party logistics providers, supporting every part of the supply chain for a large portfolio of clients.

The division I joined is Wisden & Franklin (Solutions) with a large proportion of storage and order fulfilment (Supply Chain). W&F is a traditional, very well established and respected provider of rework and refurbishment services. It has a long history working for some of the biggest names in UK retail, as well as global manufacturing brands. The division has been very stable in a frugal marketplace but needed to strengthen its position for future growth, so I was very aware of the challenges to be faced.

The tradition that has helped keep stability within W&F has not kept up with developments in the market place. Eastern European workforces have skill sets at much lower pay rates which, in some cases, make it more cost effective to ship product there and back rather than pay western European rates. Our competitors are finding innovative ways to win and retain clients such as “free” transport for rework projects. Clients are far more demanding; just getting the job done well and on time is no longer good enough; we must manage information, expectations and customer interaction. Predicting outcomes from rework, opportunities to enhance the final delivery of finished product and presenting results in a modern and professional manner are all essential ways of developing client relationships and therefore growth.

W&F are still winning good contracts and increasing the work we do for existing clients. Recently we have converted the axles for 36k scooters to a European specification. This took a big team over several weeks to complete with very strict controls. Another very recent and challenging project was to inspect and finish 138k CDs which involved the development and introduction of new technology and processes. A manufacturer needed to convert 4000 garden power tools from European to UK specification; they chose W&F because we have a lot of experience in this area. Not wanting to be viewed as simply a local supplier we have very recently completed a large inspection and rework project in Sweden.

So from initially considering Seabourne Group as just a courier company, it has been an exciting and enlightening start with some very exciting times ahead.