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Welsh wizards waiting for the upswing

21st August 1982, Page 37
21st August 1982
Page 37
Page 38
Page 39
Page 37, 21st August 1982 — Welsh wizards waiting for the upswing
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Williams Brothers of North Wales is a general haulage company with an impressive range of interests and a correspondingly varied transport fleet. Mike Rutherford has been to talk to its md.

fILLIAMS Bros (Wales) Ltd is a ransport Development Group 3mpany and has been since J66. Yet it does not exploit this ict (many people — even cusmers — probably do not even -low) even though it appreates the benefits that it entails. I asked the firm's managing irector David Williams (no relaon) what he sees as the advaniges of being part of the TDG. "Availability of capital and rofessional advice," he replied. What about autonomy?

"Each company in the group is ift absolutely to its own deices. There's a great incentive. very company is in charge of its wn destiny."

There is he says a small cornany mentality in, what is after II, a large group. There is no ay-to-day interference from DG and the instructions from bove appear to be simple and )gical. Bosses like David are told: "This is your company, run it the way you want. The advice is there if you need it."

As long as the company's performance is satisfactory, there is the freedom to use the group's services and advice as regularly or as infrequently as required. Independence, then, with the option of expert advice on legal, insurance or property matters.

On a more personal level, David says that the group is good for individuals; if they have the ability, they can go far in the organisation. He joined Williams Bros back in 1968, left in 1973 for a fellow group company, and returned as md last year when the three Williams brothers retired.

The company's activities are extremely varied, and include general haulage, tipping, livestock transportation, and warehousing. Alongside these wellestablished operations, the company has recently launched a new venture, Town and Country Express, and this month embarked on another, Deeside Truck Services.

Town and Country Express is a smalls and parcels distribution service. Set up a year and a half ago, this division of Williams Bros now has 18 vehicles.

This type of service is very specialised and needs the professional touch, says David. As a result, Town and Country is essentially run by a couple of experts. Jim Lightfoot, ex-managing-director of William Cooper and Sons, is now Town and Country's general manager.

A more unusual departure for Williams Bros is the division it launched earlier this month. Based at Williams's Mold premises, Deeside Truck Services is a DAF service dealership selling DAF spares over the counter, and servicing and repairing vehicles.

"It's a good looking site with plenty of room. We didn't want to waste it," says David.

The four-acre site which Deeside Truck Services operates from also doubles as the main tenance area for Williams's own vehicles. David Williams justifies the launch of the venture convincingly: "There is nobody with a decent service dealership in the area and the company's premises are on the gateway to North Wales with almost every OAF that comes over from Ireland passing Williams Bros premises."

DAF approves of the new Deeside service dealership, for it means that the area's main dealer — in this case North West Truck Engineering Co of Northwich, Cheshire — has the benefit of an additional workshop in its territory carrying out warranty work and servicing. This improves its level of support to customers, and at the same time increases sales potential — buyers of new vehicles may be swayed into buying DAFs if they have a local service/parts operation as a back up to the main dealership.

Obviously, there are benefits for Williams Bros too. The company already runs a predominantly DAF fleet and keeps a large stock of DAF spares. With Deeside Truck Services it will now have even greater stocks — for sale and for its own use. Deeside will even be able to "handle" vehicle sales at Mold (though there will be no direct transactions), says OAF.

One of the greatest beneficiaries of this will be DAF owners, who can phone Deeside Truck Services for an urgent part, which can go out in a Town and Country Express vehicle the following morning and in some cases be with the customer literally hours after he places his order.

Regular customers may not even be charged for the delivery, says David Williams — especially if they are within the area covered by the Town and Country vehicles.

David is confident that Deeside Truck Services and the North West Truck Engineering Co will develop a harmonious relationship, and points to the fact that the latter has appointed the former and has placed it u der contract.

Williams Bros runs a variety vehicles. The 18 vehicles spo ing the striking Town and Cou try livery are all Bedford 126( There are 20 DAF rigid eigl wheel tippers, 35 DAF 2300 tre live units, and a further five 28 tractors. There are also 30 Sc nias, including ten '81s and se era1111s or 112s.

David avoids talking abo preferences, though his feelin about DAF are obvious.

"It depends on the applicatii but in the main we prefer DA! In general they're competitive priced and relatively cheap run."

He is inclined to replace makes of vehicle after five yea' but judges each on its merits. after five years, a vehicle is si running well and is not costinc great deal to maintain, it will I kept in the fleet. If you are goil to be effective you cannot sti too rigidly to policies, explai David.

"It's best to be flexible," I advises.

Williams Bros' 180-stror trailer fleet is as varied as ti company's operations ar vehicles. Apart from the tippe and tipping trailers there are 1■ flats (including 12 extendab 50-60ft trombone trailers), ph 18 Tautliners.

The company repaints and r furbishes its own trailers ar with a mix of York, Crane Fru hauf and Tasker in the fleet it hi no real commitment or prefe ence towards a specific man' facturer.

The general haulage activitio operate from Mold and to lesser extent, Denbigh (whei about 25 vehicles are basec Vehicles travel daily to Londoi Glasgow, the Midlands, Soul Wales, Newcastle, and Eastel id Western England. Each year e vehicles cover around five illion miles, carrying one mil)n tons of goods.

The company's tippers yerate a 24-hour, seven-dayeek service carrying loads like ytash, limestone, coal, iron ore, am, armoured and bedding one, plus any kind of scrap.

Tippers (and some other ihicles in the fleet) are radiomtrolled.

The 38acre tipping site which owns at Wrexham complients the tipping sector of the Jsiness. And despite the curint lull in the building and conruction industry, Williams Bros 3pers do not appear to be idle. Williams is proud of the repution of its livestock division. he 40-foot, hydraulically 3erated, four-deck specialist oilers are capable of transyrting up to 500 sheep. It also ]s a six-wheel drawbar unit. hich it uses on long-distance ork. Increasing legislation and le heightening of general hyiene awareness mean that andards have to be high.

Williams Bros considers its arehousing facilities as "some f the best" in the North-west. here is 64,000 square feet of mrehousing space at Mold, 30,000 square feet at Hawarden nd 106,000 square feet at Chasr. Each site is conveniently ituated for access to lotorways and main trunk Dads. External storage space, leal for containers or timber, is lso available.

While David Williams' cornany is clearly keeping its head bove the water during these reession-hit days, its level of [rofit is not all that it would like. However, David appreciates at he has to be content to do ttle more than break even - especially as the company is working with "grim" rates that are probably outdated by about 18 months.

But there is genuine optimism for the future. The company has invested a massive £400,000 on new vehicles this year and is striving to be better equipped than its rivals when there is a real economic turnaround, whenever that may be.

David is not prepared to predict.

Williams Bros has its hardcore of customers, including such giants as Kimberly Clark, Pedigree Pet Foods and Cadbury Schweppes, and although David Williams is far from complacent, he reckons that no single customer could seriously hurt the company if it took its business elsewhere.

"We've an awful lot of customers which is why we're so strong. No one customer could do us any real harm. Bowaters, Firestone, and Courtaulds have all gone within the last few years — we were working for all of them."

It is not surprising to learn that Williams Bros, based in North Wales, is a large carrier of coal — the largest in the area, in fact. Encouraging news for operators is that there is a trend towards the use of more coal in industry, says David.

Having earlier that day passed the sign for Shotton Steel Works, six miles away from Williams' premises, I asked David how much steel is carried for the British Steel Corporation.

"We never carry for BSC and we don't even go into Shotton, though we will quote for a job," he said.

Shotton and BSC have provided little work for Williams Bros. But I got the feeling that the price for such work is not right for Williams though it is an area of potential which David is seriously considering.

He estimates, that what his company needs most is a general upturn in trade. A five per cent increase would provide great spin-off benefits for cus

tomers like his. New businesses are being attracted to the Clwyd region and, as he says, a new local factory may well require the services of an established haulage company. Enter Williams Bros.

A further reduction of interest rates will also help, he says. If they remain high, shareholders might be tempted to leave their capital safely invested with a bank or building society rather than risk it in a company operating in a shaky economic climate. The lower the rates the more likely shareholders will be to invest in industry.

David Williams aims to be involved with every problem that crops up at his company. A feel for what is going on is vitally important to him, as are suggestions and ideas from those he works with. Staff motivation is also very important to him.

There are about 40 monthly paid staff at Williams Bros, 25 fitters, 15 warehousemen and 120 drivers. David has a genuine high regard for his drivers, who are "willing, automatically keen, and have the right attitudes.

"A driver is utterly his own boss. Our men are the tops."

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