Imperial Logistics rules transport roost

Imperial Logistics is the top transport operator in the land; Greyhound is the best bus and/or coach operator and Hino is doing an outstanding job of delivering sales and service support to operators of commercial vehicles.

This much became evident last month, when the winners of the 2009 FOCUS on Excellence Awards, sponsored by WesBank, were named. In addition to lauding transport operators and vehicle suppliers, the Excellence Awards also name the country’s leading suppliers of tyres, fuels, lubricants and trailers.

As the only awards programme recognising excellence in both the freight and public transport industries, the FOCUS on Excellence Awards programme is to the commercial vehicle industry what the Car of the Year Award is to the motor industry. The finalists and winners in each category were scientifically elected by the industry itself. This year, the research team from Scott Byers asked a whopping 61 553 questions to respondents, before compiling the list of finalists and subsequent winners. The awards survey results were verified by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The awards are supported by all the leading associations in the commercial vehicle industry, and have been in existence for four years.

The awards banquet took place in Johannesburg, and was attended by the who’s who of the commercial vehicle industry. Naturally, the Excellence Awards finalists attended en masse. These companies represent the very best of the transport industry; they do an outstanding job, both in terms of product quality and service delivery.

The evening was a celebration of excellence. There can be no doubt that delivering excellence is the way to go… despite the fact that companies throughout our industry have experienced plummeting sales and therefore diminishing profits. In trading conditions like this, true excellence will always guarantee the continued success of any company. We have already seen sub-standard companies fall by the wayside in our industry; however, those companies that truly deliver excellence in all areas of their businesses continue to trade profitably.

While the winners obviously represent the crème de la crème of the transport crop, it is also a considerable achievement to be named a finalist. In order to be named a finalist, a company must deliver the goods in the service excellence department. The Excellence Awards aim to raise the bar in the commercial vehicle industry. This is such an important industry, which has a bearing on the life of each and every South African – whether these companies are delivering bread or transporting commuters to work safely.

WesBank has been the proud sponsor of the FOCUS on Excellence Awards for the past two years. As an organisation that celebrates expertise and know-how, WesBank believes the awards evening is an ideal opportunity to strengthen existing business relationships and form new partnerships with transport and logistics operators that value those same qualities. “Our support and sponsorship of the FOCUS on Excellence Awards demonstrates our commitment to being a value-adding stakeholder in this vibrant industry,” says Chris de Kock, executive head of sales and marketing at WesBank.

Top vehicle suppliers
So which companies are at the top of their game in our industry? For the fourth straight year, the Toyota Hilux was selected as the Best Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) on the South African market.

A very familiar sight on South African roads, the Hilux is one of this country’s best-loved vehicles and has come to represent quality, durability and reliability. Currently in its seventh incarnation, the Toyota Hilux has sold more than 12 million units worldwide since it appeared in 1967. “It’s fitting that the Hilux has won this award for the fourth year in a row just as we celebrate the one millionth vehicle off our local production line, and 40 years in South Africa,” commented Andrew Kirby, senior vice-president of sales and marketing, Toyota South Africa.

The other finalists in this category were Ford SA, General Motors, Hyundai and Nissan SA.

Hino took home the Best Medium Commercial Vehicle award for its Hino 300 (previously known as the Toyota Dyna). The other finalists in this category were Isuzu Truck SA, Mercedes-Benz SA, Mitsubishi Fuso and Nissan Diesel SA

Introduced to the South African market in 1965, the Hino 300 is the undisputed middle-weight champion of the local commercial vehicle market. As with the Hilux in the LCV segment, the Hino 300 embodies quality, dependability and reliability in the minds of commercial fleet operators. According to Casper Kruger, general manager of Hino, it was a great privilege to receive this award, particularly given the rebranding of the company earlier in the year. “Changing our brand has not cost us a single sale this year, and for that we must thank the support and loyalty of our customers,” said Kruger.

Mercedes-Benz won the Best Heavy and Extra-heavy Commercial Vehicle awards. The other contenders for the Best Heavy Commercial Vehicle crown were Hino SA, Isuzu Truck SA, MAN Truck & Bus and Nissan Diesel SA. The other Best Extra-heavy Commercial Vehicle finalists were Freightliner, MAN Truck & Bus SA, Navistar International, Nissan Diesel SA and Volvo Southern Africa.

The Atego is a heavy commercial vehicle that upholds a long and successful tradition in distribution transport through maximum reliability, outstanding performance and strength. The Actros and Axor, on the other hand, continue to make their mark on the extra-heavy vehicle segment, with a lion’s share of this market.

The Best Commuter Bus trophy went, once again, to MAN Truck & Bus SA, which beat fellow finalists Mercedes-Benz SA, SCANIA South Africa and Volvo Southern Africa. MAN traditionally occupies the position at the top of the bus sales rankings in South Africa and has the distinction of being the only manufacturer that offers a complete bus solution. “Great product, great after-market support and great customer relationships,” commented Ray Karshagen, business development management board member, MAN Truck & Bus. “We launched the first Lion’s Explorer bus in 2006, and as we stand here tonight, we’ve sold over 1 000 units onto South African roads, and it’s because of these three key ingredients.”

It was second time in a row for Volvo Southern Africa, which took home the Best Touring Coach award. The company beat MAN Truck & Bus SA, Mercedes-Benz SA and SCANIA South Africa, its fellow finalists.

With a proud history of bus production stretching back 80 years, Volvo is a global leader in the bus and coach industry. Volvo offers tourist coaches designed for efficient, safe and profitable transport. This, combined with a high level of passenger comfort and attractive exteriors, makes Volvo’s coaches a dependable solution for long-distance coach operators.

“It’s been a tough year for all of us in the transport industry, but for us at Volvo it’s also been a rewarding year,” said Anders Lindblad, president of Volvo Southern Africa. “I certainly believe that we are on our way to win more awards in the future.”

The award for Best Truck Supplier was won by Nissan Diesel. In arguably the most hotly contested category, Nissan Diesel beat off opposition from Freightliner, Hino SA, Navistar International, Isuzu Truck SA and Volvo Southern Africa.

With over 47 years of local experience, Nissan Diesel has recorded sales of over
60 000 units, of which 39 000 trucks are still on the road. With the full support of Nissan Diesel in Japan, Nissan Diesel and its dealership network remain as customer focused as ever, and this award is indicative of that.

Leading in the trailer game
The Best Supplier of Trailers/Tankers/Bodies went to Afrit, which beat Henred Fruehauf, Motortrail, Top Trailers and Transpec. With over 30 years’ experience in the industry, Afrit has become an iconic name in the local transport sector, currently leading the trailer-manufacturing sector with approximately 25% market share.

“It’s been a tough year for all of us, but we have worked together and made it through the year,” said Tjaart van der Walt, sales executive, Afrit, thanking local operators and vehicle manufacturers who have supported Afrit throughout the course of 2009.

Premier fuel suppliers
The award for Best Supplier of Fuels was shared by BP Southern Africa and Engen, which is indicative of the competitive nature of this sector of the market. There were two other finalists: Chevron SA and Shell SA.

BP is considered one of the most widely recognised brands in the world. Every day, BP provides energy solutions to approximately
13 million customers in more than 100 countries across six continents. The brand has been present in South Africa for more than 80 years. It is also the official fuel sponsor for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.

“We’ve invested a huge amount in fuel technology, particularly additives for economy of performance, and it’s wonderful to receive recognition for all our efforts,” said Tristao Abro, BP’s brand and insights manager.

Engen, on the other hand, is recognised as a fuel and lubrication industry leader and has shown a commitment to responsible corporate citizenship, the provision of quality products and services and environmental awareness and accountability. Engen’s Dynamic Diesel is a premium-quality, standard-grade diesel that can be used in all types of medium- and high-speed engines and is particularly suitable for modern road diesel engines where continuous high performance, power, cleaner combustion and improved economy are required.

“We have worked hard focusing on the commercial transport industry for a number of years and it’s rewarding in itself that the industry has recognised this and appreciates it,” asserted Lindsay Basset, key accounts manager, fleet sector, Engen Petroleum.

The Best Supplier of Lubricants was Shell South Africa, which beat fellow finalists BP Southern Africa, Castrol, Chevron SA and Engen Petroleum.

Shell Lubricants is the global leader in branded lubricants. It is the largest marketer of lubricants with 12% of the global lubricants market in volume terms. Shell’s products are available in more than 120 countries and comprise some of the biggest-selling lubricants brands in both global and individual markets. Its lubrication products include Shell Helix, Pennzoil, Shell Rotella and Shell Rimula.

“I am extremely proud to accept this award on behalf of an excellent team of perfectionists at Shell,” enthused Richard Butt, business to consumer, sales manager: lubricants at Shell South Africa. “But without our customers we are nothing, so of course we need to give thanks where it’s due. The loyalty and support we receive from this industry makes us who we are.”

Best of best in tyres
Competition in the Best Tyre category was especially tough this year – there are no bad tyres among the leading brands. However, the award ultimately went to Bridgestone, which defeated Dunlop, Firestone, Goodyear and Michelin.

Bridgestone provides transport operators with a comprehensive range of commercial vehicle tyres, ideally suited to a variety of applications. Bridgestone South Africa forms part of the global Bridgestone family that has been in existence since 1931.

Julio Fava, general manager of producer sales at Bridgestone SA, light-heartedly thanked each and every transport operator and manufacturer who bought even one Bridgestone tyre in the past year. “Without our customers, we have no business, so thank you for the continued support,” he said, adding his thanks to Maxiprest for its excellent back-up support of Bridgestone’s products.

A closely allied award is that of Best Supplier of Tyre Services, and five companies competed for this sought-after accolade this year. These were Bandag, Maxiprest Tyres, Supa Quick Auto Centres, Trentyre and Tyres 2000.

The ultimate winner was Maxiprest Tyres which, since its formation in 1988, has gone from strength to strength and has proven itself to be a leading truck, bus and off-road tyre distributor and retreader. The company is a strategic partner of both Bridgestone – the FOCUS on Excellence Award winner for best supplier of tyres – and its subsidiary Firestone, and fits only the strongest and most durable tyres.

Sales, service and parts to the fore
The trophy for Vehicle Distributor with the Best Sales Support went to Hino SA, which beat off stiff competition from Isuzu Truck SA, MAN Truck & Bus SA, Nissan Diesel SA and Volvo Southern Africa.

When the founder of Toyota South Africa, Dr Albert Wessels, decided in 1972 to increase his company‘s range of trucks beyond the Toyota Dyna and DA, he started importing Hino trucks from Japan. Since then, the perception and reputation of Hino as a quality truck manufacturer and stand-alone brand has grown significantly, not only here in South Africa, but also in many other parts of the world. “This award is really for our dealers who have delivered a superior service throughout the year. We are very thankful for their support and their trust in our brand,” said Kruger, who was delighted with another Hino win.

Hino also won the award for Vehicle Distributor with the Best Service Support, beating Freightliner, Isuzu Truck SA, Mitsubishi Fuso and Nissan Diesel SA in the process.

Moving on to the important area of parts support, the extremely important award for Vehicle Distributor with the Best Parts Support went to MAN Truck & Bus SA.

MAN strives to provide customers with any requested parts as quickly and efficiently as possible, regardless of whether they have to be imported or sourced locally. In order to ensure that parts are readily available, MAN has a large parts warehouse situated on 7 785 square metres in Isando. It has a stockholding of R188 million and supplies 33 000 line items to a countrywide dealer network in South Africa, as well as dealers in 11 neighbouring African countries. The parts operation forms an important part of MAN’s total customer support philosophy and an emergency service ensures that parts can be delivered anywhere in South Africa within 24 hours.

“Parts support is a critical aspect of after-sales service, and one we focus a lot of attention on,” stated Wayne Powdrell, management board member: after sales, MAN Truck & Bus. “It’s essential for us to support our customers in this area to ensure minimal downtime, and we are proud of the recognition we have received in this area. Thanks must also go to our loyal customers though for always supporting our brand, as well as the respective internal and external MAN parts support team.”

MAN beat its fellow finalists, Hino SA, Isuzu Truck SA, Mercedes-Benz SA and Mitsubishi Fuso.

SA’s top transport operators
The penultimate award, that of Best Coach and/or Bus Operator, was won by Greyhound. This award is particularly pertinent to commuters, in that it signifies that the winning company is doing an exceptionally good job of transporting passengers around the country in complete safety. The other finalists – Mega Bus and Coach, Putco, Hylton Ross and Springbok Atlas – should also be saluted for doing an excellent job in this regard.

However, the ultimate winner, Greyhound, is clearly doing an exceptional job. In fact, Greyhound now carries more than 400 000 passengers annually over 11 million km in safety and comfort.

The final award of the evening – and the ultimate accolade within the transport industry – was that of Best Transport Operator. It went to Imperial Logistics, which triumphed against Hestony, Super Group and Unitrans. This was the first win for Imperial Logistics; Unitrans has won the award for the past three years.

“This award is recognition of all the road transport operators that have kept the economy going during these troubled times,” said Abrie de Swart, marketing director, Imperial Logistics, upon acceptance of the award. “Our industry is currently under attack, and so it’s even more important to give credit to all the operators who have kept products on the shelves.”

Imperial Logistics is the leading logistics and supply chain management company in Southern Africa with an international footprint in Europe. The company is 100% owned by Imperial Holdings and the Southern Africa division is home to more than 70 operating companies, categorised into four key divisions, namely Transport and Warehousing, Consumer Products, Specialised Freight and Integration Services.

It’s been an excellent year for Imperial Logistics – the company has won a number of significant awards and must surely have a bulging trophy cabinet. And there is absolutely no doubt that Imperial Logistics is a highly worthy recipient of the Best Transport Operator title: the company truly epitomises the term, “excellence”.

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