Allied Seafreight: allied victory


Allied Seafreight Logistics turned 25 earlier this year. In its quarter of a century existence, it has become a trusted family-owned business, known for quality service

Allied Seafreight: allied victory
Janice O'Connor

 

For Janice O’Connor, this year is somewhat big.

Not only did her company turn 25 in April but she too has reached a milestone – her 50th birthday.

Seated at the Dohertys Road office in Laverton North, west of Melbourne, it’s a busy Thursday afternoon with trucks whizzing past and containers being unloaded.

A leader with a warm and welcoming personality, it’s easy to see why O’Connor is widely liked.

The mother of three joined her father’s business upon establishment in 1994. Bill O’Connor was working for a Swedish freight forwarder before starting Allied Seafreight Logistics. He had migrated with the family 14 years earlier from Ireland, where he had spent some 20 years in the transport industry.

When the Swedes decided to downsize all overseas operations and concentrate on the home market, Bill set up his own business with their assistance, O’Connor explains.

"They gave us a year to transition the business from being an international business back to family operation," O’Connor says.

"The company wanted to be a one-stop shop – that was the buzz word at the time.

"He worked for them and had set up the Victorian operation and then Europe went into recession and they decided to retrieve all the business back into Europe and have the opportunity of buyout so Dad put his hand up," she adds.

"He was in his mid to late 40s and said if he doesn’t do it now he never will and they took it on board."

ESTABLISHED SKILLS

Bill had worked for a large family company in Ireland called Eurohaul before coming to Australia. When the unemployment figure started rising, he realised it was time to move on and give his family a stable future.

Janice was 25 when she joined the family business – learning everything from the ground up; operations, sales, warehousing.

However, there was never an expectation for her to join the business, she explains.

"I think because I’ve grown up around transport it was always something that interested me," O’Connor says.

"I did my transport experience at a freight forwarder, I used to do the data entry for drivers and I did a lot of work for dad at home.

"It was an offer that was put forward to me at the time and I wanted to do it.

"As a business, it’s changed now. I’ve had three children throughout the time and I’ve always been very lucky because they’ve come to work with me from the time they were born," she adds.

"When you’re in a family business it’s different – you don’t get the same maternity leave but it’s been a passion and it’s grown over the years."

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The business entered a transition when Bill experienced health issues a decade ago.

He had a quadruple bypass heart surgery and two years later was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer.

"He’s 72 now and is enjoying life to his fullest but over that time I’ve taken more over the business," O’Connor says.

Now as general manager, she has kept the operations true to family’s values.

"That’s the culture we’d like to keep because that sets us apart with regards to our competitors," she adds.

OPERATIONS

Allied Seafreight provides a wide range of wharf cartage options for importers, exporters, freight forwarders and custom brokers.

Able to transport directly between the wharf and customers’ premises, it also carries freight to its warehouses for cross-docking or storage.

It operates two depots with a combined 15,000 square metre warehousing and 7,000 square metre hardstand space, servicing the greater Melbourne area as well as Geelong.

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The business has a large and extensive subcontractor fleet and is able to provide equipment such as standard trailers, drop trailers, sideloaders, flatbeds, tautliners and other retractable skels to super B-doubles.

With reefer container points on site, it can also manage refrigerated deliveries and move over-dimensional freight.

Each of its site includes large container handling forklifts and reach-stacker forklifts, with premises protected by 24/7 security and surveillance.

The company changed its focus to 3PL services a decade ago, O’Connor says.

"We were always in it but I think we grew with customers organically," she says.

"That’s now become a focus of ours and I think it adds value and service and there’s a lot more money in it now than direct transport."

"3PL has allowed us to add those services to our current customers and to be able to extend what we can do for them," she adds.

"It’s also created more of a partnership with them and the fact that we can basically help them grow."

Allied Seafreight has serviced numerous of customers for more than 15 years and has shifted its focus on quality accreditation thanks to one of its clients.

"One of the biggest things my father always believed in was quality accreditation," O’Connor says.

"The expectation changes and I think there are a lot of people that want you to have that – although they’ll come to you because of it but won’t necessarily pay more for it. But they see it as a bigger advantage because they know you have those systems in place."

While the subcontractor model has always worked for the company, O’Connor says she’s open to changes due to the demand for new vehicles.

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"The ageing equipment is becoming a huge issue; that’s the biggest problem with my fleet," she says.

"Whether or not these guys are prepared to go out and invest in new fleet is becoming an issue so I think the subcontractor model will become a bigger issue as time goes on as the demand and push for newer vehicles on the road increases.

"This will push towards whether we make a decision to buy our own vehicles.

"It’s always a possibility but whether it’s a necessity is something different; we’ve deliberately chosen not to do that because the subcontractor model has always worked better for us but if we can see things changing over the next five years then it will be something that we will be prepared to do."

CHAIN OF RESPONSIBILITY

While she welcomes the new Heavy Vehicle National Law, O’Connor says not many understand the cost of compliance.

"I still think that it’s more of a tick and flick, to be perfectly honest; everyone’s trying to close off their own responsibility rather than actually realise what comes with that," she says.

"I think it’s everyone trying to say we’ve done this so it’s no longer our responsibility – it’s still that push back to the lowest denominator, which is always a transport company, unfortunately.


Read another 'Allied' profile: Allied Express


"I welcome the changes in regards to improved safety and it actually makes everyone technically responsible in the chain but I just don’t think people understand the cost of compliance.

"It’s a matter of trying to defend yourself all the time and it’s trying to protect yourself from it but you can’t because if someone else has packed that and you pick it up, you’re taking their word for it and that it’s been packed to Australian standards so you take that on good faith and you leave the wharf," she adds.

"Without having to open it up and check on it at the terminal, you’ve got no way of protecting yourself from it so you have to take that in line that everyone’s followed and been compliant."

GROWTH

Allied Seafreight handles up to 6,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) a week.

It is the service that sets Allied Seafreight apart from competitors, O’Connor explains.

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"It’s trying to keep up with technology and making sure that you have what clients are requesting with regards to their systems. Tracking portals and being able to log on so they can see where their jobs are up to.

"Pricing is still one of the biggest keys – to a certain extent sometimes you go let’s just stay our size and ride it out for a bit rather than go out and try and compete at that market.

"So you just basically retain your work at your service; I won’t and haven’t chased some work because of that – we’re better off sometimes walking away from it."

Having grown by 20 per cent each year over the last three years, O’Connor has recognised the need for better technology, investing $70,000 annually in Freight Tracker’s transport management software.

"We were with CargoWise for a long time but have recently changed to Freight Tracker who are an Australian company and very reactive – they started off with just a transport model and we’ve worked with them and built a warehousing model," O’Connor says.

"It’s a system that took a while but I’m happy with the system and they’re great to work with.

"We’re now able to offer solutions that we’ve always wanted to and tried unsuccessfully with our previous supplier.

"We’re able to do things like sign-on glass on our drivers’ mobiles; it means that we can go to our clients confidently and say you are going to get this information and you’ll get it on time."

VISION

O’Connor wants the company to continue growing, saying 3PL services are likely to increase as transport becomes more stagnated due to traffic and rising costs.

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"I think we can already see the trend of larger companies setting up a second depot in Dandenong," she says.

"I also think technology will continue to play a part, I think people want more interfacing with their own systems and they’d want to remove the cost of admin out of their business.

"I’d also like to see that there will be family businesses kept but I’m not sure – a lot of them are being swallowed up at the moment unless there’s that second or third generation taking over, which is a shame."

As for her lessons that she’s picked up from her parents, O’Connor reflects on work ethic and passion, saying the two go hand in hand.

"My dad has got such a strong work ethic – just the fact that he’s always supported and encouraged me to do that, I’ve always had the knowledge that I was capable," she says.

Just because she’s worked for her family doesn’t mean Bill has made it any easier for her, O’Connor adds.

"I think I’ve proven it with my work but I don’t think we’ve ever listened to comments from the outside because people will think what they want to think and they will say what they want to say but it’s the proof in the longevity of the business and that would mean that we’re still here and we’re still successful and we’ve got some long-term partnerships. So I’ve never really been bothered by that or worried about that stigma.

"I think it was more the case in the earlier days, now I don’t need to prove anything to anybody except my family and to my employees; I actually speak to them every day to make sure the business is successful because it’s their livelihood as well, I’m responsible for them every day."

The family has a strict rule of not talking business outside work, allowing them to switch off.

Her greatest challenge however is juggling work and motherhood but now that her oldest is 17 years old and the twins are 12, it’s becoming easier, she adds.

"I’m all about raising independent children and seeing that it’s OK to have a mum who works full time," O’Connor says.

"They also need to pull their weight and know that I might not always be there but I might be in other ways. I was never at the school but I was on the school board."

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APPROACH

Quality matters in every aspect of Allied Seafreight’s management and customer service; the company first achieved the ISO accreditation in 1997 and has maintained it ever since.

It offers an effective food safety management system that controls food safety hazards, as well as also being organic and fair trade certified, and dairy accredited.

Being safe is Allied Seafreight’s number one priority; it maintains and promotes safe operations and ensures systems, procedures and processes as well as training are in place.

"This means that we are fit for work, that we identify hazards and put controls in place, that we use safe working practices, that we report incidents and near misses and that we learn from our experiences and continually improve out practices," O’Connor says.

"Our commitment to safety is formally held to account by our management systems and external auditing."

 

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