In 2016, Pall-Ex celebrated its exciting and impressive 20th anniversary. At the same time, Essex-based Pall-Ex member Westrope Bros also celebrated a significant anniversary – its 70th year in business!
Here depot principal Adrian Wilson reflects on the company’s success and time within the Pall-Ex network.
Westrope Bros was established a remarkable 70 years ago. Can you give us a brief history of the company?
In 1935, John Westrope, a local baker, and his two sons began transporting building materials for the construction of the Stradishall aerodrome, which was used as a base for Wellington bombers during World War II.
The company that we know today was officially founded in 1946 by John’s sons Gerald and Phillip Westrope a little while after World War II, in which Gerald served, had ended. The company continued to slowly grow and expand, and the business became Limited in 1954. Nine years later, Westrope Bros had expanded to the point where it had outgrown its base in Haverhill Suffolk, and moved its premises to its present site in New England, Essex. For many years, the company also had a depot based in Arbroath, Scotland, which serviced the oil industry.
Over the years Westrope Bros has hauled everything imaginable across the UK and Europe, and is now owned by Gerald’s daughter Stella Westrope-Smith.
70 is a pretty big birthday! How did you celebrate your 70 years in the business?
We like to keep things fairly simple and humble, so for our 70th anniversary we invested in an anniversary livery for a couple of our vehicles and purchased some commemorative merchandise which we gave out during the course of the year.
What are the main advantages of Pall-Ex membership?
For us, our Pall-Ex membership has brought a tremendous amount of advantages to our business. It’s enabled us to offer a complete range of services to our customers, as well as the flexibility to mix and match with our general fleet. Before we joined Pall-Ex, it would have been impossible for us to collect a pallet at 4pm and have it delivered by 10am the next morning; we generally would have needed at least three-to-five days to deliver a pallet.
Does Pall-Ex work represent a small, or a large proportion of your business?
"...Pall-Ex is at the forefront of our business and is central for us to meet our customers’ requirement and our ability to attract new contracts. More than half of our business is now with Pall-Ex with full night and regular day trunks."
At the start of our membership, Pall-Ex was a minor part of our business where we would just essentially dump pallets that nobody else wanted. We would barely fill up the bottom deck of the trunk trailer.
Now, Pall-Ex is at the forefront of our business and is central for us to meet our customers’ requirement and our ability to attract new contracts. More than half of our business is now with Pall-Ex with full night and regular day trunks.
What have been the major difficulties and challenges you guys have overcome over the years?
Meeting the challenges of an ever-changing marketplace is a constant battle. Over our 70 years in business, there aren’t many things that we haven’t moved; from sculptures for public display to large fuel tanks that require police escorts, and bulk grain to chemical tankers.
In the Cambridge area, a lot of the manufacturing companies have disappeared, replaced with scientific and technology businesses that don’t require our services. A big challenge for us is ensuring that we do everything we can to retain the customers that we do have and seeking out new opportunities in our local area wherever possible. Pall-Ex membership plays a big part in our success with this through its ability to allow us to offer an instant service and trial to any potential customer.
What would you say to a young person starting out in logistics today?
Experience is King in logistics. Every day different situations and problems arise, and it’s important to learn from them and take heed of how issues were solved and situations were handled. Store the lessons you learn in your memory bank because you never know when the same circumstances may arise and you’ll be able to react quickly and efficiently; which will not only save you both time and probably money, but also impress your boss.
Another thing to remember is to never assume that something is going to get done. If you need something doing, it’s your responsibility to make sure that it gets done – and remember, the customer is always right… until you get off of the phone, at least!
What do you miss about the old days?
I miss the cooperation and trust between companies and the camaraderie. I remember that in the old days if you broke down you could just call the local garage or nearby haulier up the road and they would come out to you, even on cold and wet winter nights, without a second thought, fix your problem for you at a reasonable rate and trust that you would pay the invoice once you got it. Now, it’s all done through dealers who charge the Earth and won’t release the vehicle until you’ve paid.
Do you have any favourite memories or achievements from your time in business?
We’ve made some pretty exciting deliveries in our time! We delivered the 2012 Olympics countdown clock to Trafalgar Square, and before the 1998 football World Cup in France, we delivered all of the advertising boards to the relevant stadiums for display.
Our depot also had its fifteen minutes of fame on BBC television series Lovejoy, being used a location for one of the shows’ episodes.