The company has been in the UK market for many years supporting the operations of its parent Peugeot group and has been expanding its operations with third party customers so that its sales are now in the region of £200m.
Gefco was founded at the end of 1949 as “les Groupages Express de Franche Comté”, by Peugeot. Today, it has more than 8,800 employees worldwide and manages more than 50,000 shipments daily, using all modes of transport. It has become a logistics integrator with three key areas of specialisation: automotive preparation and distribution of vehicles; an integrated network for groupage and full/part-load road transport; and logistics of industrial flows. Sales last year topped £1.8 billion.
The company’s traditional strength has been its extensive European network and it has built up a portfolio of clients in the industries it already knew on the continent such as automotive and health and beauty. But the arrival of Phil Shankley as UK managing director in September 2002 has heralded a new focus on the domestic market. Shankley has a strong background in supply chain operations – he was operational manager at Whitbread and European logistics manager of Gallaher plc. From 1992 to 2002, he held a number of different positions within the Hays Group latterly as general manager of Hays Asset Control solutions.
Shankley is clear that right from the start his job has been to increase Gefco’s penetration of the UK market.
In particular Gefco is seeking to win new business in the UK domestic market – particularly with medium to large customers – particularly high tech manufacturers with integrated European operations who need European logistics connections. It already had two warehouses at Coventry originally serving the Ryton car plant. However, the range of customers has been widening making a new site essential to handle the growth.
Shankley says: “We believe that the additional storage, modern facilities and improved access to transport links will assist in the growth of our business as we continue to offer an ever improving efficiency in our supply chain process.”
The new warehouse is configured to accept both standard and Euro pallets or a combination of both. There is also a bulk storage area for 8,000 pallets/stillages. Gefco will also be able to offer a wide range of additional services including segregation, storage, picking, de-canting and sequencing. It will also be implementing an upgraded version of the “GEODE” system; a technology that will allow real time access to information.
Shankley points to Triumph motorcycles as an example of how Gefco has been growing alongside its customer. “Some years ago we started talking about European distribution and we have grown with in a number of countries including Spain, France, Germany and Italy. He points out that Triumph is now manufacturing in Thailand as well as the UK and the company is now talking about holding stock in eastern France as this will give better stock availability in Eastern Europe.
Cars are an important part of the business – it has major car distribution centres at Sheerness and Corby and recently added a site near Doncaster.
Its European network has been expanding over the past two years and now stretches right across Europe – from Madrid and Oporto in the west to Warsaw and Istanbul in the east.
The growth in external business means that the proportion of Gefco’s business with its parent PSA has been declining from 60 per cent to around 45 per cent.
Shankley has set tough targets for future growth and expects to open another facility like to new Coventry site in 2007.
Shankley points to its new contract with Tchibo as an example of how it is going about this expansion.
Tchibo is a German company which started life as a coffee importer. However, it has been diversifying to become a retailer of fast moving goods and has been experiencing rapid growth. Goods are brought in from Germany and the Dartford site is used for warehousing. Gefco handles all the day to day management of the operation.
Shankley describes it as a signal to the market that Gefco is prepared to go beyond its core activity and translate its automotive expertise into the retail sector.
Whitbread UK Brewing and Leisure Company, 13 years. Roles held in Operations Management, Industrial Relations and Strategic Planning
Logistics and Supply Chain Management Consultancy 2 years
Gallaher and Co (subsidiary thereof), 3 years as European Logistics Director
Hays Logistics 10 years as Contract Director and Divisional Managing Director with UK Key Accounts such as Tesco and Scottish Courage
GEFCO UK 3 years, Managing Director