Company profile

Established in 1953, Howard Tenens has been hailed as one of the biggest and most successful privately managed logistics companies currently operating.  Their strong company values of commitment to excellence in customer service, knowledge and expertise have seen them lead the market by consistently delivering and evolving their service principles.

A stalwart – to say the least – of freight forwarding, Howard Tenens has consistently been a commanding presence in the industry.  Their focus on controlled growth, their people, experience, skills, cultural offerings and leading-edge technology truly separates them from anyone else in their field.  FORWARDER was lucky enough to have an extended chat with Karl Hodgkinson, Group Commercial Director, on several key issues effecting the freight forwarding world.  From 3PL markets to trade wars and even some predictions, Howard Tenens gave us some insightful information about the current climate of the industry.

With your knowledge of the current 3PL climate, how do you see this affecting freight forwarders over the next 12–24 months?

I’d say the competition remains as fierce as ever, but it’s those companies who are really willing to invest who will prevail. Our customer base, organic growth and future pipeline is significant, however the customer’s needs are forever changing and growing, therefore I’d suggest all freight forwarders need to remain as flexible as possible. Furthermore, as we all know, Brexit is providing a level of uncertainty so ensuring you’re informed (as much as physically possible at this point!) is important and also that you have a plan and have conducted a number of ‘what if’ scenarios to aid your customers’ decisions. 

What services do Howard Tenens currently offer and how do you separate yourself from anyone else in the market?

At Tenens we provide the full end-to-end supply chain solution, all the way from customs clearance at the quay to the end-customer delivery. To date our strengths lie within our property portfolio, our people and more recently our system developments and offering. We started to differentiate ourselves by not only storing and handling our customers’ products but recognising other areas which potentially detracted from their core business focus and affected the supply chain. Whether it be value-added services such as re-labelling and kitting or offering to house and run a customer service centre on site on their behalf. We find the more you can understand and help your customers get back to what is important, the more you really start to build a partnership with them. 

Do you still see issues with finding new or young talent in the 3PL market, and will this perhaps lead to a lack of collaboration?

Sometimes. I don’t think it’s due to a lack of collaboration but maybe a lack of knowledge of the sector as a whole. I’d suggest rather than looking at the evident entry points such as colleges and universities we should be looking at how we’re advertising our own sectors, our companies as potential places to work and what logistics actually means and the doors it can potentially unlock for a career.
One area Howard Tenens, like the majority of 3PLs, struggles with is driver recruitment, so we’ve actively started looking at our existing workforce for training and development opportunities, site swaps, apprentice schemes and refer-a-friend schemes to encourage interest – which has had some traction but this is only the beginning. 

Inefficiency and capacity problems have dogged the warehousing and storage sectors for quite some time now.
Do you see this changing at any stage?

The opportunity to precure/develop commercial properties is shrinking across the UK as there’s only a certain amount of space available for commercial development. As well as being a 3PL we are also a property company with over 4,000,000ft2 of freehold warehousing space. Since 2016 Tenens has invested over £40m in our properties and new facilities, such as our Manchester and Chepstow sites. Furthermore, when we’re looking at sites for further development or land to build on we then look for maximum efficiency from them, whether that be dock-levellers, 14m eaves or the fit outs with specialist VNA racking – efficiency is key. I’d suggest this will only become more and prevalent as the property market continues to shrink. 

How do you see technology changing supply chain, warehousing and freight forwarding in general?

Technology will determine who will and who won’t be operating in two years’ time, five years’ time and 10 years’ time. Whether it be track and trace, sign on glass, apps, portals, customer notifications, integration, mechanisation, automation – developments in technology will drive the supply chain solutions of the future. Traits we have seen in B2C requirements are now more apparent in B2B markets, including logistics. For example, just as you expect a text to tell you when your Amazon parcel has arrived at your door, why shouldn’t you get text or email alerts indicating the various milestones of your entire supply chain process to include receipted, picked, re-worked, despatched, en-route, or indeed delivered? As we move toward automation within warehousing, thus removing human error, increasing throughput and in turn site efficiency. Long gone are the days of paper-picks. Furthermore, Tenens have recently launched our App, HT Live, which was developed to create ultimate transparency for our customers – the app is integrated with live information collated from WMS, TMS, In-Cab, En-Route, and POD data meaning you can now track all stages of the supply chain at the click of the button. 

How do you see visibility changing across the supply chain in the next five years?

This links into the stage-two development of HT Live for me. At the moment we can report from the quay to the end delivery. However, we’d like to get to a point of integration with manufacturers and shippers alike to be able to track customer products through any means of multimodal distribution prior to receipt at a Howard Tenens distribution centre. I believe this will become reality within the next two years, let alone five, so I’m excited to see what further developments are in store. 

Do you think that consumer demand is going to continue to put pressure on the supply chain – and therefore on freight forwarders?

Yes! As I said, customer demand is already requiring faster supply-chains – with e-commerce and same-day deliveries via, for example, Amazon Prime, people are wanting their goods sooner and sooner and we’ve all got to keep up or at least provide viable, cost-effective solutions. I believe drop points and collections, lockers etc. are models which will continue to grow rapidly in the coming year. 

With Trump announcing up to 25% tax increases on raw materials and with Brexit around the corner, do you think we are
on the cusp of a new, volatile market?

With such tax changes and Brexit upon us, any trade deal delay could clearly have consequences for investment in trade itself, future rights of EU citizens and infrastructure, which will impact our workforces and customer’s supply chains alike. Whether it be outstripping labour provisions, additional unquantifiable customs declarations or legislation battles it is all too easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the potential risks associated with Brexit without considering the opportunities which lay ahead as a direct result of leaving the EU (such as increased freight forwarding opportunities, increased UK manufacturing and smaller, more numerous feeder vessels and airfreight). Whilst these points form part of many UK 3PLs’ market intelligence and strategy, areas of both risk and opportunity can be nothing more than speculative at this moment in time. A further period of monitoring the situation and continuing to explore and exploit all opportunities is key to ensuring UK logistics companies prosper – prior to, during and post-Brexit. 

How have Howard Tenens consistently dealt with the issues that have faced many freight forwarders over the years?

Charles Darwin provided us with one of our favourite concepts: it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change. I think it’s been our flexibility and agility in times of pressure which have seen us through. Whether that be during the recession, contract wins, and contract losses, or through the ever-growing environmental pressures this sector faces, changing and adapting is key. Furthermore, we have been very fortunate to work with a number of customers who we have now cemented partnerships which are the backbone of our business model. 

Do you think the competitive nature of the industry is a necessarily a good thing?

Competition always has positives and negatives.
Personally, I think competition is a good thing as it drives service excellence and collaborative efficiency gains for our customers continuous improvement initiatives. However, like anyone I think competition which is based on price and price alone is negative and ultimately only damages the industry and our customers’ businesses when operations fail due to price constraints or unsustainable solutions. 

What does the rest of the year – and farther into the future – hold for Howard Tenens? 

The past 12 months has proven to be the most successful year in the history of Howard Tenens.  A new, commercially ambitious strategy was formed to deliver key objectives, the fruition of which is now being realised; significant investment in our IT systems and further property development; continued training and development of our teams. 2018 will see a number of customer implementations, coupled with further systems development, further growth internationally, as well as some award wins, hopefully. We’re fortunate enough to have been short listed in the European Automotive Logistics, UKWA and Motor Transport Awards. Our long-term future being focused on continued growth and investment to support both our existing and future customers.