Finemore rescues business through better asset use

Transport icon Ron Finemore has turned around the fortunes of Lewington's Transport, saying the key is safety, productivity and utilisation

By Tamara Whitsed

Ron Finemore says a devotion to safety, productivity and asset utilisation is behind his successful comeback to transport, rescuing the bankrupt Wodonga-based Lewington’s Transport business.

Finemore sold his iconic transport business to Toll in 2001, reluctantly supporting the $120 million sale in the best short-term interest of his shareholders.

In accordance with his employment contract with Finemore Holdings, Finemore agreed not to work in the transport industry for two years after the sale to Toll.

But in 2004, in partnership with venture capital firm CVC Group, he returned to trucking through the purchase of Lewington’s, which was in receivership. Today the company trades as Ron Finemore Transport (RFT).

In an interview with ATN, Finemore explains the systematic transformation of the company into what he says is a "viable and ongoing business".

"A key factor is we’ve got a good team of people, and the majority of these people have worked with me before coming on board," Finemore says.

RFT’s Managing Director Laurie Brothers has worked with Finemore for 27 years and agrees that the strength of Finemore’s team has contributed to the company’s success.

The team has succeeded in improving the company’s performance each year since 2004, taking it "from red to black – from significantly underperforming to performing at acceptable levels in terms of profit, quality and safety," Brothers says.

Finemore says the essential first step in transforming the business was establishing systems to identify where the business was making a profit and where it was making a loss. "If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it," he says.

"I introduced in the first 12 months a profit-by-vehicle report. And I go through that each week and put a red line through the ones making a loss and green through the ones making a profit.

"Over time the report has changed from mostly red to mostly green. It’s been a process of fixing each one as we go through, and that’s been an ongoing process which never stops."

Lewington’s Transport had 153 trucks when purchased by RFT, and another 45 trucks came with the purchase of Orange-based Smiths Transport in 2005, taking the total to 198 vehicles. Through better utilisation of its trucks, RFT has increased its freight movements while reducing the fleet to 125 prime movers.

"Asset utilisation is not only in the number of loads you can do but the weight you carry," Brothers says. "It’s utilising equipment as best we can with competent and experienced drivers."

Read the full story on Ron Finemore’s transport comeback and his strategy for turning around a bankrupt business in the October edition of ATN magazine, out next week.

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