ECU UK relies on innovation and customisation to capitalise on new avenues and new markets in a post-Brexit Britain
UK is on the up. Enthused by the British government's robust stimulus package to drive economic growth, the country is emerging strongly to retain its position as a pivotal player in the global market. In 2017, manufacturing growth picked up significantly, while the services sector — the mainstay of the economy — remained steady. According to the Office for National Statistics, the economy expanded impressively in the third quarter of the year, beating the previous quarter's reading and the forecasts. The year-on-year growth rate has shot up by 1.5 per cent, and the economy is in line to register smart growth in the months and years to come.
Even as the clouds clear after the eventful Brexit period last year, industry experts are hopeful that the changing economic dispensation could well bring a new set of opportunities for business. While much depends on the trade and tariff agreements that Britain would negotiate with the EU, the industry is confident that hard borders and regulations are unlikely. ''The UK's logistics sector has traditionally relied on migrant labour to sustain a diverse and flexible workforce. While tighter regulations may inhibit this in the near-term, we are hopeful that eventually the quest for economic growth will prevail and the logistics sector will be one of the key beneficiaries of the renewed focus,'' says Ian McCarthy, sales director, ECU Worldwide UK, adding that more red tape could create more demand for expertise and value-added services from logistics companies. ''Another big opportunity for the logistics business will be UK's new trading relationships with countries outside of the EU,'' says McCarthy.
The logistics sector is one of the bright spots in the British economy that forms the backbone of British industry. The 10th edition of UK Logistics Confidence Index, released in October 2017, revealed that businesses are buoyant in the post-Brexit era. Its survey of more than 100 senior decision-makers from across the logistics sector showed that a majority of them believe that the industry is in more robust shape now against a number of key measures, that it was five years ago. The results suggest that the intense competition seen in the sector over the last few years has led to more effective financial management and leaner operations.
ECU Worldwide UK offers the best product and service options to its customers. ''We like to lead from the front in our domestic market and have a great team of people supporting us,'' says McCarthy.
The company won the Consolidator of the Year award at the Global Freight Awards by Lloyds for the second consecutive year. A great deal of hard work goes into making sure that customers are aware of the event and provide their support.
''We ran an internal competition with the UK staff to canvas votes from clients,'' says Darren Hall, Country Head, ECU Worldwide UK. ''We also promoted the nomination via email marketing and social media. We recruited the support of the ECU group and our overseas offices and agents to get the message out. And all combined did a sterling job.''
The team also won the Sea Freight Solution Provider of the year, competing with multiple entries from other players, by showcasing its achievements of the past 18 months. The entry submitted by the UK team provided details on how the team used innovations to bring about unique transition for customers.
Growing customer demand for more control and visibility over their cargo has lead ECU Worldwide UK to innovate ways to cater to their needs. The company, for instance, runs a range of KPI (key performance indicator) metrics, which are measured on a regular basis and published. This has had a dual effect, giving customers demonstrable service efficiency, and inspiring the team and suppliers to drive towards excellence.
ECU Worldwide UK, which has set the benchmark in automation and innovation, has been privileged to participate in many of the IT and tech projects. It was the first to run the Topaz software globally and also helped develop parts for the new, low-energy UV curing system, the E2C system.
Recently, the company has been focusing on improving the take up rate for online /EDI bookings and also undertaking various electronic data interchange (EDI) linkage projects to automate processes between ports and suppliers. The company runs over 100 direct LCL lanes to and from the UK. ECU Worldwide UK has two main Container Freight Station partners for Export and Import LCL.
Besides the two offices in the UK — in Southampton and in Basildon, London — the company has franchise offices / agents in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The operational / sales / finance functions are divided between the two offices. With over 60 employees, the company has a great blend of youth and experience, and is looking forward to rapid growth in the near future.
For exports, ECU Worldwide UK operates a network of 11 third-party CFS across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, running the trunker vehicles to ECU's loading hub in London. ''This enables our customers to deliver locally for convenience utilising ECU's economies of scale to save cost. For 2018 we are looking into the possibility of launching a northern loading hub which will further benefit clients as well as potentially reduce our internal cost per cubic meter,'' says McCarthy.
In terms of imports, ECU manages third-party CFS at every major port with direct link to the HMRC (UK Customs) portal. ''We now operate a bespoke customs clearance division, adding value to our clients by offering clearance services,'' says McCarthy, adding that the company has registered a significant increase in inland domestic transport over the past few years and this is a reflection of the market demand for a one-stop-shop where customers prefer to outsource the shipping, customs clearance and transport to one provider.
To meet this demand, ECU UK plans to develop a network of domestic haulage providers, a combination of pallet carriers and general groupage operators to handle the varied types of freight. ''Currently we arrange an average of 850 export collections (45%) and 1200 import deliveries (65%) a month. We also now offer specialist solutions such as approved vendor delivery to Amazon DCs where we pack, label and deliver cargo that suits FBA requirements,'' says McCarthy. This niche is proving popular with clients where the demand for ecommerce is increasing.