The Kings Group are one of the top market leaders in the metropolitan transport and logistics market with offices across Australia in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth & Darwin as well as New Zealand in Auckland. Kings Transport & Logistics specialises in local metropolitan urgent on-demand couriers and taxi trucks, 3PL warehousing and distribution, permanent vehicle placement and company owned equipment solutions.
Kings was established with the ambition of providing the highest quality transport services. Service is paramount to their success, which has allowed them to become one of the fastest growing transport companies in Australia and New Zealand. “Our goal is to be the biggest and most successful metropolitan transport and logistics provider in Australia, Auckland and New Zealand,” said Kings Transport & Logistics' Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer Aaron Cole.
Among the most significant features of their business, Kings lists safety systems and processes, innovative technology and IT solutions, flexible partnership approach, blue chip experience, high level of senior management access and communication and structured account management.
Kings understands that every client has their own specific requirements and expectations when it comes to their transport and logistics. Kings’ commitment to excellence and their flexible partnership approach ensures that their clients can focus their attention on their own business needs rather than spending valuable time and resources on their transport. “We work very hard to build purpose-built solutions for our customers. One of our primary focuses is on reducing transport consumption, which delivers a reduction in the actual unit rate of the transport costs. You do have to address both, but companies have a deep desire to reduce their consumption. That is accomplished through purpose-built solutions, specific vehicle designs and looking for deficiencies within their businesses to see where the waste is. This represents some of the more significant elements that comprise our competitive advantage,” said Cole. All these elements of applying continuous improvement to the work they do for their clients naturally improves their own business as well.
“We're a very agile and flexible business, yet we've got the size and ability to inject capital into continuous improvement activities. That's a really important point for where our business sits and where we're positioning ourselves in the market. Particularly from a logistical-solution perspective there's a lot of work that needs to go into managing assets and designing vehicles to specific solutions. And there's a lot of capital that needs to go into this along with the IT and safety solutions of our various customers, continuously improving our internal systems for our offerings to our clients and harmonizing these elements along with the other programs that we have. A lot of the smaller players in the markets we play in don't have the ability to inject capital into certain tasks. The bigger players that can inject capital tend to be slow and cumbersome businesses. Therefore, we feel that we are positioned in a sweet spot where we can do both with the ability to be agile and inject capital,” said Cole.
Focus on Quality and Safety
The Company is proud to service a cross-range of industries, many of which are household brands. Kings is staffed with professional drivers, sales, administration, and operational personnel who are focused solely on meeting their clients’ requirements. Kings Group has a diverse fleet mix of over 1,500 subcontracted and company owned vehicles, ranging from motorbikes to prime movers, plus an array of specialised vehicles, including power tailgates, crane trucks and an array of specialist trailing equipment. Their drivers deliver anything from a small envelope to a semi trailer load of pallets or steel.
“Everything we're able to accomplish is underpinned by the talent and quality of the people we have in our organisation. We invest a lot of time into our people. This allows us to work on our competitive advantages in safety. We're really strong in that area and have a terrific safety record. Our premium focus and execution of safety also proves to be a competitive advantage in promoting greater confidence for companies in deciding to work with us. In addition, we have very strong industry leading initiatives for our learning and development processes,” said Cole.
“From our perspective, when you look at industry accreditation and quality systems, that's just part of business. I'd like to think that the customers we’re doing business with would have the basic expectation that we'd have those accreditation and quality systems in place. For us, we're looking at what else we can do in regards to specific solutions that we can provide in helping to reduce transport consumption and waste for businesses and do it safely,” said Cole.
“I challenge our safety and learning development area to assist the overall transport market, not just our own individual business. We look for ways to positively impact the entire industry. We want to share what we learn and develop because we want to make the whole industry safer. There's a real social responsibility here," said Cole.
Among Kings’ many significant points of difference that separate them from their competitors is their comprehensives dedication to safety education, especially as it relates to their drivers. In 2013, the Kings Group took the next step within its Learning & Development Team and commenced a project to convert many of the existing safety procedures (SOPs) into high quality video SOPs (VSOPs). Through the use of available technology and utilising a dedicated YouTube training channel, the Safety and Learning and Development Departments combined to produce role- and task-specific training on some of the key operations procedures. Since the Company’s introduction of VSOPs in 2013, these videos have continued to grow throughout the business. In addition, growing client collaboration also promotes increased effectiveness and reach.
“Our Video SOPs have been a really significant factor for both internal and external applications. People learn in various formats, and this allows them to learn through visual and audio aids, promoting a more comprehensive learning experience. Video SOP has been really strong, enabling us to improve the quality of service we can offer through driver training, safety protocols and specific operational requirements. And from a customer's perspective, we also put together customer-specific video SOPs. For example, if we've got a driver going to do a certain task, before they do that task, we can provide them with videos of route rides, including video of what's happening on and off site, which helps with implementation and transitioning,” said Cole.
Most Outstanding Contractor - Safety and Environment
Kings doesn’t just have the programs, they have the proof. They are the winners of the Most Outstanding Contractor to the steel industry for the '13/'14 year in the safety and environment category. "This comes back to our comprehensive safety systems, and the way the way that we audit our internal safety systems," said Cole. In addition, Kings also conducts auditing via external systems through the natural process that occurs when new and existing customers review the Company's systems, such as inquiries regarding driver induction, driver training and ongoing refresher training. Kings’ strength in that space continues to promote the Company’s growth in the steel and construction industry and beyond.
Cole went on to discuss a cornerstone of their safety program: "We've got 26 toolbox topics that we rotate weekly throughout the year. For example, our drivers within the steel industry will be toolboxed every week on a different topic," said Cole. The Company is careful to monitor this training, checking for opportunities to reinforce specific training topics as they relate to certain times of year and conditions that coincide. "As we head into the Christmas season, everyone's extra busy, and everyone's in a rush. So, we look at this particular time and see that it's especially important to remind our drivers to slow down, mind their safety protocols and apply due diligence to their safety and quality checklists," said Cole.
At all times, Kings applies the utmost responsibility towards their safety policy referred to as Deliver Zero. This policy enforces delivering zero injuries from both inside and outside perspectives regarding zero lost-time and zero medical injuries. "We have a zero tolerance for anything that jeopardizes the safety of our people and the public. So we strongly encourage the right safety behaviours in our business, and we reward those behaviours. We do everything we can to promote and encourage safety. And we want to attract people that have the same attitude toward safety and display the same behaviour," said Cole. From attracting top talent to improving efficiency, there is a wide range of benefits that naturally flow from maintaining such comprehensive safety measures, pervading throughout the business internally and even attracting new outside business.
"Everything about safety in our business gets driven from the top down. Our Group Safety Manager reports through to me, the Director of the business. This means our safety messages come from the top. I think that's a really important part of driving the right culture in a business. If you want to drive change or behaviors or improve aspects of a business, it's really got to come from the top down. These messages then carry a lot more weight. Our people really understand the priority and importance of these things in our business," said Cole.
Furthermore, these programs and processes also aided in Kings’ receipt of the commendation from the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council at the annual Awards for Excellence Dinner this past April for the ‘Return on Investment in Skills Award’.
“That was based on our driver induction program. Drivers have the ability to access materials via our Deliver Safe app that we created within our business. All our drivers and staff have access to our online materials and Deliver Safe app, which include driver induction information and video SOPs to make sure they're operating as they should be," said Cole. Much of the Company’s success with these programs is based on ensuring convenient, flexible and any-time access to helpful, multi-faceted information.
“When we talk about reduction of lost-time injuries, we need to prevent the accident from occurring in the first place. Much of that is achieved through our culture, increased awareness and encouragement and rewarding of safe behaviour. In addition, if we're undergoing a task that we perceive has inherent risk, we'll conduct a JSA [job safety analysis] prior to engagement of that task or contract. A lot of work goes into our processes before day one of the actual project even begins, significantly reducing the risk of injury," said Cole.
Custom IT Solutions
From an IT perspective, Kings have an in-house IT department with the ability to custom build highly effective solutions for their customers. “The systems that we put in place, they're not off the shelf. We listen to what the customer has to say. We've created our own IT platform; particularly in permanent vehicle arrangements where there's an EDI transfer between us and the customer. We take advantage of the opportunities to improve efficiency there,” said Cole.
“This includes bar-code scanning and taking photos of POD's at delivery points. We also send out proactive alerts to customers to let them know exactly when their deliveries are coming. The point is whatever parameters or rules the customers want, we can build it into a solution that we've got. We really try to assist not just the experience our customer has with us, but also the experience of our customers' customers. We feel that's a really important part of the chain. We really work on that aspect of customer service and supply chain delivery process,” said Cole.
“Oftentimes, we find that our customers want exactly what we offer from our ProTrack System. However, for example, with Sigma, a key customer of ours, we have a custom system built just for them, which is built off the back of our ProTrack system architecture, but with some significant modifications that truly suit their business,” said Cole.
“As another example, we have a very reliable geo-coder in our systems. So, when the driver crosses a certain boundary, for example, 5km out from the point of delivery, an automated SMS or e-mail is sent to the customer, indicating exactly when the customer can expect their delivery,” said Cole. This provides a number of benefits, including making sure the customer is there to process the delivery and ready for the fastest and most efficient delivery processing possible.
Kings can customise based on distance, time, ability to deliver photo PODs, etc., to match the specific needs and wants of their customers, which tends to vary significantly between clients of different industries. "We clearly communicate what we have to offer to our clients, describe our flexibility regarding those offers, and conduct needs analyses to determine their exact needs and wants, determining how we can work together to deliver those solutions," said Cole.
Furthermore, Kings looks for partners that match their own capacity to affect positive change with agility and strength. This made partnering with Leopard Systems and Fujitsu NZ a very natural choice. “We have great relationships with both of these partners who are leaders in their field. Both are large enough to support the Kings business and are agile enough to develop their systems to suit our changing needs,” said King’s General Manager of IT Andrew Baker. “Kings has always been ambitious when it comes to introducing new features and technology solutions – both Leopard and Fujitsu have helped us realise these ideas.”
Leopard Systems delivers driver-based mobility/PDT software which integrates with the Fujitsu-produced TMS that Kings also uses. Leopard has also developed specific systems for Kings, including dedicated client systems for customers such as Sigma Pharmaceuticals’ On-Track system. Kings has also made significant gains through the use of Leopard’s permanent vehicle management system called Net Track. “In the past 12 months, Leopard has developed according to our request to expand the mobility software to be compatible with iOS Apple and Android for smartphones and tablets, enabling much quicker technology compared to the PDT devices on the market,” said Baker. Partnering with Leopard has also granted Kings exceptional abilities such as: photo capture features, providing benefits such as delivery confirmation at work sites as well as increased confidence of recipient; and Geo-Fencing (through Google API license) with built in notifications to send customer updates at various stages of delivery.
Kings incorporates Fujitsu NZ’s TMS system called Despatch Master, which the Company employs for job bookings, job despatching and monitoring, customer-based website portal for job viewing, GPS, invoice management and more. “Fujitsu also provides us with the GPS mapping for operators to track drivers. The GPS information comes from the Leopard-based driver mobility software,” said Baker. Working closely with Kings to develop custom solutions, Fujitsu delivers a comprehensive host of modifications, which include: Web Track, enabling customers to enter their job number, date and city to track their job live, available as a mobile app, complete with strong privacy and security measures; and EDI integration where Kings’ systems receive job orders from their customers’ systems via FTP or Web Services.
Factors Contributing to Steady Growth
Among other solid factors, the acquisition success that Kings has enjoyed over the years continues to help promote the steady growth of the Company. In addition, Kings continues to not only win new business but also retain those clients. "In our business, our philosophy and our approach is that you don't win a contract until they ask you back. We don't consider ourselves successful until they roll the contract over with us," said Cole. Kings does everything within their power to go above and behind to exceed client expectations, deliver a robust continuous improvement program and deliver customised need-based solutions, preventing their customers from ever feeling the need to open back up to the market after their initial contract.
"We've a very strong focus on delivering absolutely everything we say we're going to deliver. We drive efficiency, improvements, consumption and cost reductions. And all of that is underpinned by the staff. We have many employees who've been with the company for a long time, bringing a great deal of experience to the table. Our staff genuinely care about their work, our company and our clients. They treat this business like it's their own," said Cole.
Furthermore, Kings develops and maintains strategic partnerships with companies to further strengthen, enhance and increase their client offerings. "We have very strong strategic partnerships in the steel and construction industries. We work with OneSteel, BlueScope, CSR, and concrete pre-cast businesses. We also have partnerships with Sigma, Schweppes and other FMCG and retail clients. We really want to grow our business along with the strategic companies we're involved with. On top of that, because we are a diversified business, we work to protect ourselves against risk from any one vertical market. Strategically, we look at our business like a stock share portfolio, balancing our business over a number of different areas, featuring partnerships with a number of businesses across different industries. We're very strong and stable because of this," said Cole.
"The ability for our business to win The Most Outstanding Contractor for Safety and Environment in the steel industry, as well as our recent achievement of The Most Outstanding Services Supplier for the Sigma Pharmaceuticals business, and our ability to confidently service both of these distinct areas with completely unique needs validates the strength of our business," said Cole.