Talk to Craig and Kelli Marriott and you find there is absolutely no possibility of taking a break over the Christmas period. The couple run Eventrans, a family business that has become one of the largest carriers for Coles Liquor – and the festive season is without doubt the busiest time of the year, a period when all hands are on deck to keep supplies moving to retail outlets.
As the company name Eventrans suggests, it started life as a carrier for the entertainment industry, and while today that sector of its business activities accounts for just 15 percent of operations, it remains a vital service with a list of loyal customers.
It is a relatively young company, commencing in 1998 when Craig, an electrician in entertainment at the time, was driving a hire truck transporting lighting equipment around the live show and stage production circuit. He could see an opportunity to become the primary transporter of that equipment and seized it with both hands.
“It seemed logical to me to buy a truck and look after the transport of equipment. I was being paid to drive to venues in a rental truck and thought why not buy my own and be a carrier in my own right,” Craig smiles.
“That first truck, a Mitsubishi FK417, was nothing special but it did the job admirably and served me well. It was the beginning of a business that grew due to one factor: concentrating on the customer and providing service, service, service. That is what we strive to deliver every day in our operations.”
And service it is, the Mitsubishi rigid was fitted with a tailgate loader making loading and unloading faster and more efficient. Success from that truck has seen every rigid in the fleet fitted with the equipment and this had enormous appeal when he first quoted on cartage for the liquor industry in 2000.
Traditionally loading and unloading of liquor has been done by hand but Craig and Kelli Marriott set about changing that and won the distribution for Coles Liquor, to its chain of Liquourland bottle shops and other outlets. At that time the major retailer had only 18 sites in South East Queensland but that has expanded to more than 180 through acquisitions and establishing further liquor outlets – and Eventrans has expanded with it.
“We were given the opportunity to quote on the business of carrying for Coles Liquor and we put together a business plan that showed we could make time savings. Tailgate loaders were a part of that plan and today every rigid in the truck fleet is well equipped to deliver the best in service,” Craig says.
“As the business grew we looked at a number of ways to undertake our activities with increased efficiency and left no stone unturned. It has always been the aim to provide the best, no matter what we do. We developed our own transport management system and that has provided both us and our customers with a very handy tool that delivers concise and constant reports on our performance,” Craig points out.
Eventrans provides a complete pick and pack service, with raw data received from breweries and built into pallets for delivery. Orders are picked in the warehouse and assembled for consignment.
“Nothing goes out the door until a manifest is raised and we have complete tracking of all consignments at our fingertips. When the manifest is raised, information is immediately compiled and an invoice created, so we have eliminated manual invoice processing with everything done electronically.
“We have also introduced Navman wireless GPS tracking into every truck and this allows us to not only know where each vehicle is, it is also a fleet management tool that monitors things such as idle time, so it gives us a complete report on truck movement and activities and has assisted us to greatly increase truck efficiency,” Kelli reveals.
Efficiency is, as in any company, an important facet of operations and when you consider Eventrans handles 1800 pallets of beer alone every day during the peak holiday season, the logistics of the warehousing and distribution business is a huge undertaking with 16 rigids, 11 prime movers and 25 trailers plus a team of selected subcontractors.
Eventrans recently took delivery of four Vawdrey trailers to be used in a continual shuttle operation from brewery to company depot, with quick-hitching seeing loads moved across driver shifts and keeping beer on the go in order to meet high demand.
Looking after scheduling and fleet movements are two highly experienced people who were once behind the wheel of company trucks. Operations Manager Rick Strauss, who was one of the very first people to join the company, knows every facet of the business. Fleet Controller Des Docherty, named Australian Trucking Association National Professional Driver of the Year in 2007, now sits in front of two screens and oversees all truck movements, the transport management system allowing him complete control of vehicles and freight.
So dependable has the company been in the delivery and distribution role, it was recently asked to quote on work in North Queensland for Coles. With the same principles applied to operations, it was successful with its bid and now looks after those duties. Liquor is railed to Townsville and then Eventrans takes over, delivering peak efficiency.
“It all comes back to KPIs. We can tell anyone a time on pallets from gate to gate and we work diligently to always improve our performance. The work in North Queensland is no different, it has to be done with the highest levels of service possible and our customer completely satisfied,” Craig tells.
Eventrans also handles deliveries to Coles Express service station outlets, again utilising systems providing rapid and professional service in a time sensitive role.
Company headquarters for the last five years is Pinkenba in Brisbane where 6000 square metres of warehouse space and 8000 square metres of hardstand is a hive of activity. On an average day inbound freight amounts to around 500 tonnes from breweries with outbound consignments of around 1000 pallets and Eventrans continues to improve its efficiencies.
“We hold regular meetings to see how we can do things better for our customers,” Craig says. “We take a lot of pride in building strong relationships with clients and understanding their requirements.
“As I said our reports are available to them on a daily basis so they can see our performance and we have worked hard to save time and lower costs. Currently we have honed our efficiencies to 1.9 minutes per pallet space in goods handling and that has contributed greatly to our 99.7 percent on-time delivery record.”
There are around 50 people working for the company and while some companies find it difficult to attract drivers, Eventrans seems to be an employer of choice with applications flooding in on a daily basis.
“We recently were seeking casual employees and placed an advertisement in the press on a weekend, resulting in 60 applications being received on the Monday and if a permanent position becomes available it is usual to receive more than 100 enquiries.
“The one area where we do have a problem though is for workshop people. With resurgence in mining, finding qualified people for the workshop is very difficult. We do all of our regular maintenance in-house with larger jobs outsourced to truck dealers and we would eventually like to have all of this work done here, but finding the right staff is a problem,” Kellie points out.
The truck fleet is less than five years old and every vehicle is tailored to the application. With the work mainly local and shorthaul there is always the problem of complying with weight regulations and this has resulted in the company now investing in twin steer trucks.
“In our type of work it is easy to take pallets off the rear of the truck which leads to complications with weight over the front axle, so it has meant a change in our strategy and considerable extra investment in twin steer trucks. We would normally turn trucks over at five years but when it came to 8x4s we went to Scania and I anticipate we will keep those trucks longer to gain a better return on investment,” says Craig.
“Obviously efficiency is the key and all equipment plays a major part in that. We constantly monitor our truck and trailer fleet to ensure we gain the best from them, particularly in terms of reliability so as not to let our customers down.”
With the concentration heavily on liquor transport, what about cartage for events which sparked the beginning of the company?
“Event transport is something we continue for some very loyal customers but we do not become involved in larger tours of acts requiring a large number of trucks,” Craig grins.
“Eventrans does a lot of transport for corporate events, this has been very successful for us and we are able to transport delicate goods in a well controlled environment. We like to do events that only involve two or three trucks and be on-hand at all times to ensure things run smoothly and professionally.
“The one thing about our company is that whatever we do, it is based on performance, it is not all about cost and that makes us different.”
Craig is on the board of Variety Queensland and is a keen Bash enthusiast. This is one activity where he allows himself time away from the business – well almost. While he is never far away from the business on Bash events, you will often find an Eventrans rigid used to transport supplies and used as a stage for fundraising activities.
“I enjoy Variety and the work it does and like to think I can contribute to charity in some way.”
Eventrans is continually building on its success, but that doesn’t mean it was not affected during the recent global financial crisis, and both Craig and Kelli admit it delivered some blows to the business.
“Most companies were affected in 2009 but we have found this year, 2010, to be tough for us. It has been a matter of tightening our belts while maintaining customer service, but the systems we have in place have been very beneficial to us in a business sense. Things are looking better and we are moving forward from here with further plans for the future,” the couple say.