This family-run firm based in Moreton Valence, Gloucestershire, has achieved the remarkable feat of growing turnover and doubling operating profit since the credit crunch struck in 2008, a performance described as "spectacular" by one judge. In an industry where a profit margin of 3% or 4% is not unusual, Downton’s 8.3% return on sales while maintaining strong revenue growth is impressive.
The company remains confident in the future too, and a spate of contract wins means turnover is predicted to rise from £78m this year to £100m by 2012. In 2011, all UK contracts that expired were renewed for between three and five years, and the company secured its largest ever contract win – an £18m a year deal with InBev.
This success has been achieved by sticking to the family values the directors passionately believe in: highly quality, professional service; never compromising on standards and values; employee and customer care. Judges were clearly impressed, describing Downton as a "highly professional, well managed company".
High standards of customer care are ensured by a dedicated team that ensures customers’ objectives are met and sustainable customer relationships are developed. The entry included impressive customer testimonials, typified by: "Downton is extremely proactive, constantly responding to commercial and environmental challenges"; and "Downton has grown with us and continued to surpass our expectations".
Downton also turned its head office from a cost centre into a profit generator by opening an Authorised Test Facility there to carry out annual tests on its own and third party vehicles.
Judges said Downton’s entry was "very strong indeed" and that it was using all available techniques to cut CO2 emissions. They also commented that it had an "outstanding" safety record, 80% better than the industry average.
Established in Market Rasen in 1967, Rase has developed a successful and profitable niche in the distribution of hazardous agrochemicals. Two of its original customers still trade with the company, and organic growth has seen the company expand steadily to a turnover of £6.6m, a 45-strong fleet and a staff of 100 in 2011.
The company attributes its success to close personal working relationships and strong customer care, generating high levels of loyalty among customers and staff.
A founder member of the Hazchem Network, and a Platinum member of Palletways, Rase says both networks have had a positive impact on the business, improving its range of services, profitability and carbon emissions.
All drivers are ADR trained and with a 100% Euro-5 fleet, Rase’s traffic planners have maximum flexibility when planning loads in the company’s key markets of chemicals, fertilisers, seed, machinery, plastics and polymers.
The company has invested heavily in an advanced warehouse and traffic management system, able to integrate tightly with customers’ inhouse IT. The Rase integration process has been cited by one key client as the benchmark for future projects, leading to the awarding of further business.
Customer testimonials were glowing, including this from a large chemicals manufacturer: "Rase give us excellent service and congtinue to meet out KPI targets month after month across all the businesses."
The company has developed its own load restraint system consisting of a set of inner net curtains that have now been fitted to all rigid trucks and semi-trailers.
Judges said Rase had delivered a good financial performance with a strong margin at the operating level. They also liked its very clear market position and strategic focus on hazardous goods, and were impressed by the powerful customer testimonials.
This long-established family firm, based in Bedford, has achieved steady growth in turnover and earnings, making a pre-tax profit of £284,000 on turnover of £7.6m in 2011.
Its high levels of service have meant excellent customer retention and acquisition, with competing brands in many industries looking to benefit from Miniclipper’s specialist knowledge and shared user logistics service. The company achieved a near-perfect on time in full delivery record and as a result customer retention in 2011 was nearly 95%.
This outstanding delivery record was cited by one major customer as just one reason for using the company its business: "These are some of the practical reasons Miniclipper were awarded the contract, but we also value the feeling they give us that we are part of the family and nothing is too much trouble."
The company now employs 90 people and runs 28 trucks and 19 trailers, and 60% of its business is palletised freight carried on its own vehicles and via pallet networks. Around 85% of freight handled are urgent next day deliveries, and to protect margins Miniclipper has focused on high value markets that value high service levels.
Recent key achievements include securing a sizeable business mortgage to purchase the former Gossard bra factory and convert it into a new head office and DC. This saved considerable costs compared with the previous leased DC and generated rental income from surplus office space.
The company has introduced a number of environmental initiatives, ranging from renewal of 60% of the fleet, installation of a driver bonus scheme to incentivise green band driving and upgrading lighting in warehouses.
Judges commented that the company had achieved strong growth in turnover and had returned to profit in 2011 after a loss in 2010. They remarked on the strong KPIs and the proactive approach to encouraging good driving habits.
Founded in 1921, Malcolm is today a multimodal logistics firm offering fully integrated road, rail and warehousing services across the UK and , increasingly, into Europe. Three of its 10 locations incorporate rail sidings.
In 2005, after 45 years in public ownership, the Malcolm family bought the company back, reinforcing the corporate culture that upholds its personal, hands-on approach to business. The group concentrates on organic growth with existing customers, believing in the "quality of its work, not the quantity".
This strategy saw pre-tax profits rise significantly in 2011 to £7.5m despite turnover falling back to £154m. The company is in the powerful position of being able to "analyse all new enquiries to ensure they fit with our existing infrastructure and business plan".
Rail freight plays a key role in this plan and it is concentrating on the development of rail connected warehouses.
The exceptional levels of customer service are typified by one incident in which an traffic operative left the office, loaded a vehicle and made a special delivery to a customer in response to an urgent request for essential equipment.
Another customer testimonial described the company has a "solid and reliable supplier and experts in their field".
Just one example of Malcolm’s commitment to safety was the introduction of "bump caps" for all operational staff to reduce the risk of head injuries.
Judges said Malcolm Group clearly had "highly professional management" and provided "excellent customer care" while the bump caps were an "excellent safety initiative".
McBurney Transport Group
McBurney has been built up over the last 47 years from a Northern Irish one-truck operation to a large business supplying the full range of services across the UK and Ireland that is expected to make £2.2m pre-tax profit on £93m turnover in 2011.
Still a family firm, MD Norman McBurney is still in hands-on control of the company, despite its growth in recent years.
The group now encompasses McBurney Transport, McBurney Refrigeration and Bondelivery, and operates 400 trucks and 1,000 trailers of which 600 are refrigerated. The fleet is fully owned by McBurney, which has invested almost £6m in new vehicles over the past 15 months.
The group has also invested heavily in its depot network, now operating out of seven prime locations including a 30,000 pallet-capacity cold store in Liverpool. It has developed a bespoke warehousing and distribution system that connects all parts of the business to customers.
The group works for a wide range of blue chip customers in food and drink, retail, construction, recycling and horticulture, and in 2011 it won all new business it tendered for and retained all major contract up for renewal.
McBurney picked up the 2011 Asda outstanding service award, and the supermarket praised its "excellent staff, focused on customer service, utilising an outstanding distribution network".
Judges were impressed by the strong testimonials from customers and its bank and its clear strategy to be a major player in the Irish Sea market. They also commented on the innovative warehousing and distribution system and its good profit margin in 2011.