When times get tough and businesses need to readjust, it pays to be quick and smart out west. Diesel News talks to Kwik Logistics owner Craig Smith-Gander about his growing diverse business in the west.
Every road transport business is different and most operators come up with different solutions to similar problems. Sometimes it is easier for someone who has come from outside the industry to come up with innovative solutions, because those who have been embedded in the industry all of their working lives may not be able to see the wood for the trees.
Kwik Logistics is a company which has grown consistently over the years. It has been developed by Craig Smith-Gander who comes from a varied background and not one steeped in the traditions of the trucking industry. He is a pragmatic man who seeks practical solutions to specific problems and then goes with it. His life experience started with 10 years as an officer in the infantry before moving into a a major construction business for a period, and then working in banking and finance.
When Craig was looking for a new challenge he came across a small crane hire business and this was the base from which the Kwik Logistics organisation has grown. In 2004, Craig bought into a business called Kwik Transport and Crane hire. It was a relatively small business but the books looked good and Craig decide to give it a go.
“I had spent a decade working in banking and finance and felt that I had run my race there, and was ready for something new,“ says Craig. “I was looking for something industrial and if you think back to that time in Western Australia, you could see the two things that were coming: the LNG and iron ore expansion.
“I had in mind a business which had exposure to transport in the north west. So therefore, I bought a local crane and transport company. We built that business up over 10 years and got it to a solid position in the local economy. We managed to ride out the boom years quite well and as the boom wore off, I became aware of Jonesway, a company which was in significant difficulty. It was overcapitalised and the workflow had dried up.
“We managed to buy the assets of the business and help them to avoid some issues. Unfortunately, the workflow we thought was there was not. As a result, we have collapsed the business down and it is no longer the size it was in the past. We have developed it in the past few years to meet the demand.”
WA has been through a significant recession in the past few years meaning businesses like Craig’s handling crane hire and transporting heavy movable buildings Transport has seen reduced activity. Now the business is beginning to expand again. The former Jonesway business had been almost exclusively based on modular building transportation. Kwik Logistics has retained all of the trailers used for that kind of work but the business has got rid of most of its prime movers.
“We have moved from a hire purchase financed vehicles business to a leasing model because you have a better handle on what are the overall costs of your vehicle,” says Craig. “Because we have got to the point where we have a good relationship with the Penske Truck Leasing business we know we can get the right vehicles when we need them.
“Last year we had a very big project in South Australia, transporting buildings being built by our customer here in Perth to a mine site in SA. There were a significant number of moves over a significant amount of time. We did use some subcontractors but we mainly increased our capability by using rental trucks to meet the demand.”
The business owns around 30 large house floats which are the most important part of the business’ equipment. Kwik specialises in moving buildings with concrete-based floors, which are particularly heavy and need specialist equipment. Because the buildings are so heavy, they need to be jacked into position, which is a highly prized skill, but one which was at the core of the Jonesway business before Kwik Logistics came along.