There’s a big gap between the top players in the 3PL industry and the next level down but, in our uncertain economy, are SMEs ripe for takeover or can they use their flexibility to teach the big boys a trick or two.
The managing director of PDS International, John McClelland, says that perhaps larger companies have something to learn from smaller businesses like his – who already partner with other SMEs to supply additional services as the industry changes and more customers demand one stop shop solutions.
PDS International, based in North West England, is a successful third party logistics supplier employing around 70 people and providing an extensive comprehensive range of logistics and distribution services to major companies. It has over half a million square feet of warehousing on three sites and handles major brands such as Revlon, BaByliss, and American Golf.
John McClelland says: "When looking for a third party logistics company, businesses ought to look beyond the big players to see the expertise and added value smaller companies like ours can offer. Mutually beneficial partnering has been a successful working model for us for many years and has ensured we can offer the one stop shop solution that many companies look for.
"Feedback from some of our customers tells us that occasionally some of the bigger companies only offer a straightforward store and deliver service – they deal in high volumes and think in terms of dedicated pallets and full truck loads.
"We would ask if they can deliver the level of flexibility smaller businesses like ours are renowned for – personalisation of orders for example, right down to delivery of individual packages to consumers if required – as well as delivering on time every time with the big orders.
"We already offer a wide range of the value added services that businesses need including reworks, returns, fulfilment, personalisation and QC inspection. We handle these all efficiently in-house and, because we are developing ever more efficient processes and procedures, all our clients reap the benefits."
The company illustrated how it can take on the bigger players when it recently bid for a major contract to deliver logistics services for the SEB Group which handles major brand names like Tefal and Moulinex.
John McClelland explains: "Although we didn’t secure the contract on this occasion, we got down to the final two against intense global competition – and saw off some of the biggest players in the UK market. SEB understood our business model and liked it, they were happy with the level of service we could offer as well as our relevant experience in their market sector. The experience has really boosted our confidence to go after similar contracts, and it has shown that we can hold our own against much larger operators."
PDS was formed in 1995 by John McClelland, with John’s son David joining as commercial director in 2007. The company has an impressive weekly ship to list which includes all the major UK retailers and outlets including Argos, Boots, Makro, Costco, Superdrug, Amazon, Matalan, John Lewis, TK Maxx, Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons. On a weekly basis PDS also delivers to nearly 2,000 smaller high street retailers and to electrical outlets such as Comet, Curry’s, and Dixons as well as offering a mail order fulfilment service.
As well as its extensive in-house capacity PDS has long recognised the benefit of working with partners – giving it additional capacity to extend its services and helping it to add more value to what it can deliver to customers. For example it offers packaging services which are handled by its partner Porter Packaging, based in Warrington, in what is a long established and close working relationship. Because of this successful joint venture, PDS does not need to invest in equipment and capacity in-house, but can call on the expertise it needs exactly when required, helping it to keep costs down.
Summing up John McClelland said: "Businesses should not automatically assume that the bigger companies can provide a better service because of their size. Bigger is not always better in this industry – and smaller operations like ours which offers complete solutions and a broader range of value added services can often have the answer needed. Because of how we work, both with our internal services and our partnership arrangements, we often surprise customers by the capacity we can offer – which often far exceeds their expectations."
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