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25 years of growth at GBA

Jul 5, 2012

named GB Agencies, Grimsby-based GBA was founded in 1987 by Alan with a total complement of staff providing ships to short-sea car carriers in the ports of on the river Ouse, some 50 inland from the North Grimsby and Hartlepool in the northeast of These ports enjoyed the of the car traffic to the north of the country.

Managing Director Captain Sam MBE became the company’s sixth when he joined in 1991. 17 years at sea, the last years of which saw him in command of vessels trading into Grimsby and Hartlepool amongst ports, he went on to work in the and terminals industry for five before joining GBA. “At time, Toyota was looking for an port in the UK to service its first factory at Burnaston near he recalls. “We were researching during 1991 and Grimsby was as Toyota’s port of export, it still is 20 years later. was really when we decided as a to diversify into terminal and we exported our first Toyota car out of in 1993.”

“With GBA we have successfully operating our Grimsby-based / import terminal for the last 20 says Mike Mills, Manager, Toyota Vehicle Group. “We have built on our and today they have the for also managing the factory and yard activities at Burnaston and the operations in Portbury and Southampton.” The milestone came in 1995, the Volkswagen Group decided to its then in-house operation and GBA was in winning the contract. The company operated a Toyota terminal and a terminal for exports and imports in Grimsby. Today, GBA employs 600 staff in the UK in addition to its workforce at the factory in Pune, India, the company helps to ensure quality processes are adhered to for vehicles, and the export terminal it for Honda in Turkey.

Having started as shipping GBA today provides a full logistics service to its customers. “As as diversifying into terminal we decided over the years to on the automotive industry and took the decision to vertically integrate the industry’s value and logistics explains Judah. “We diversified into stevedoring, liner freight forwarding and PDI operations. In we acquired what was then a trucking company. We provide end-to-end logistics from the right through to the end-customer. We on delivering quality and efficiency to our with whom we have closely over many in very loyal and secure Whilst we have diversified trucking, we don’t profess or to be the largest trucking company in the UK. is not at all our aim or ambition. Trucking is a small of the total logistics that we but we ensure that what we do is the right fit for the right customer adds value to both customer and our operation.”

From 1st this year, GBA secured the BMW in the north of England servicing coming into the port of providing the stevedoring and terminal along with transportation to Vehicle Distribution Centre in near Doncaster. It is one of the latest in an portfolio of OEM customers. Operating over 15 major ports the UK, GBA handles VWG and Vauxhall in the North, Toyota, GEFCO, Bentley, Kia and through the Humber and in southern handles Honda, Toyota, and VWG along with line-off and operations for Honda and Toyota at factories. GBA also continues to act as agents and liner agents for a of shipping lines from UK ports.

“You can see the passion and the that the guys have for the says Mark Worthington, Manager at BMW Thorne. “It runs the entire company. To use a shipping they tend to bring the in rather than tell us the storm; which is something I They are good at coming up solutions and they’re very and flexible. We have in excess of storage spaces at Killingholme and we up to full capacity almost Can you imagine the nature and scale of the when it came to the transition? We delighted with the results. early days in our relationship from what we’ve I would imagine that the 25 years are assured.”

Sam Judah is quick to attribute success to the quality and loyalty of its One barometer of employee job satisfaction is the of days off sick. “We attribute our to our culture and our values of trust, respect and customer satisfaction. Our turnover is minute as is our sickness at less than 2%. We have had two of staff with 15 years of sickness and 48 staff with years of zero sickness. in itself is a measure of how our staff themselves a part of GBA. If you your people well, they will treat you If they enjoy coming to everything else follows.”

The four years have not easy for the automotive industry and are few in Europe who would consider the continent’s economic woes are it. GBA is not a newcomer when it comes to with recession. Over the 25 of its existence it has weathered three, Judah considers the most to have been the worst.

our customers, we had to react very to the fall in volumes in 2008, and we had to some radical steps to our headcount. In 2007, we were around 1.7 million cars. we are handling around 1.4 million and over the 25 years since we terminal operations, something 13 million units. I don’t that the UK, or indeed Europe, is out of the much to the contrary given the we find ourselves in a double-dip – albeit a somewhat technical We, however, are focused on what we as can plan for and react to, rather something over which we no control.”

In the past, shipping truckers and terminal operators been vocal in response to the reductions demanded by the OEMs. are some signs, however, the recent financial crisis is to more understanding between the providers and the car manufacturers.


“We are extremely transparent in the way we work our customers and their goal also be ours,” says “During the recession, we sat down our OEMs to discuss how we could the business. There were painful times for both of us, but our were, and are, understanding, that we have that of relationship with them. It is all maximum output, total and minimum costs. I do not think the manufacturers are asking too much of suppliers; it is a must-have situation for to survive in this very economic climate. We understand our and they understand us, and together we are the service levels and the total required for delivery to the end user.”

the year there are always that you don’t expect and you plan for,” says Slough, Head of Vehicle Group Services, Volkswagen UK. “We have often called on GBA for kind of help and, far, they have disappointed. Sometime this GBA, through the three Grimsby, Sheerness and Tyne, have helped us to deliver and no less than five vehicles for Volkswagen in the UK. That’s reason for yet another celebration.”

are many logistics service who believe that longer-term are the way to mitigate diminishing margins and in obtaining finance for new investment. Sam however, says that lengths are reducing. “We have long-term relationships and long-term but the current economic situation and the of 2008/2009 have made cautious about the longevity of and of contracts. Provided we can understand then we are able to work with a customer and still a long-term relationship.

“In an ideal we would all love long-term however, that is not always We have had ten-year and seven-year and, yes, they are reducing, but we don’t need to get on long-term contracts. It is more delivery and long-term relationships. The contract length now is around years and, if you are lucky, you get five. I don’t think customers, if they are happy the quality and the service, would to change either, so an understanding has to be between the supplier and the customer in for both of them to look

Certainly, GBA’s customers to be more than happy their current arrangements. “We are demanding as a customer, and we are not the experts on says Simon Stacy, of Logistics for Honda Motor “That’s GBA’s job and we rely on totally. They are constantly our requirement.”

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“GBA have fairly fundamental in our growth and our over the years,” adds Ajmal, Head of Supply and Business Process at Kia Motors. have good staff for them and we always get the results we want.”

Even in good OEMs’ production forecasts can considerably. I ask Sam Judah how difficult makes the consistent utilisation of and what needs to be done to forecasts?

“Prior to 2008, the issue was the availability of land,” he “The OEMs were relaxed about their and their sales forecasts, meant that they had amounts of stock and land was high on their list of Since the recession, volumes dipped and they had to reduce inventory costs. This a problem for a lot of suppliers insofar as, if we had leases on land, we had to manage the space. Moving forward, has to be the key to ensuring that your structure is accurate and that you your business. The OEMs take the point of view they will only pay for they use but, on the other there could be an instance we would not have the land if was all they were willing to This is where partnership has to in. The supplier has to sit down with the and together plan the correct of assets, be they land, manpower or whatever. I think has happened and, therefore, we been able to meet the requirements.”

Since the recession, the OEMs are their inventory better. It of course, with the order which is in their hands in of sales forecasts and production. as business grows, one has to be mindful this doesn’t slip

“It is a difficult equation and it hasn’t over 25 years,” says “The end customer has such a lot of today and everyone is very in product terms. The customer can a short lead time for the of his car, which leads to the producing cars for stock. levels have, however, lead times are a lot shorter and the is far better than it used to

On May 4th this year, the first was driven into the seabed of the Humber at the port of Grimsby to work on a new river berth. £25 million project, which be completed in the autumn of next is the result of investment by Associated Ports (ABP) and is supported by Volkswagen and GBA. “Currently, mooring at the inner dock 1,000 vehicles or less of the constraints of the lock gate,” Judah. “The outside will enable ships up to 3,000 cars to moor, and will cater for the volume which Volkswagen are looking for the next decade or so. It is an important for Grimsby because it secures the future for at least the next of decades.”

Volkswagen in the UK last sold 407,000 vehicles; a which they hope grow 35% by 2018 to 550,000 half of which will through the port of Grimsby. now has a reputation as the UK’s number one car port, and GBA has to take a huge of credit for that,” says Fitzgerald, Port Director for ABP in and Immingham. “We are in the long-term business, and we we will also be celebrating the and the hundredth anniversaries with

GBA’s growth over the 25 years has been remarkable but Sam believes there is much to come. “Firstly, we must our current operations,” he says. “We deliver a consistent quality and effective operation to our existing I don’t put growth of the business that. If we can’t deliver then we do not grow. Only comes steady and sustained which is essential in the current I have no ambition to acquire the growth has to be organic and based on our principles and values. It is extremely to see our young, dynamic managers’ Some of our managers today off as drivers or terminal staff becoming team leaders and assistant managers, managers and managers. If we can continue to do this, the will grow in the same way it has over the last 25 years. is nothing to stop us from a company which employs or 2,000 people in the next 25 and, with the young we have, I am sure we will be to achieve it.”

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