Fri, 27/03/2015 - 12:00
Current Issue 58
A Global Standard for Excellence
Brink's Africa is following the successful international model of one of the world’s leading logistics companies through its commitment to customer satisfaction and reliable services
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Tom Cullum
Brink's is replicating its globally successful business model in Africa as it strives to compound a recent Group restructuring in every operating region.
The company’s international expansion began, in earnest, in 1991 and reached South African shores in 1996. Nearly a decade on, and Brink's’ influence on the continent now comprises offices in Botswana, Namibia and Kenya also; forming an extensive platform from which to build the notoriety that Brink's Global Services (BGS) now enjoys.
“The international line of business has grown steadily since its inception. In recent years the focus has moved to understanding and working within BGS customers’ value chain to drive sustainable growth and maintain our strong and trusted global position,” explains the company’s Operations and Security Director, Richard Lewis.
However, while established as a huge worldwide organisation, Brink's’ operations in Africa resembles that of an SME business model with the ability to make entrepreneurial, flexible and quick decisions to best suit customer needs.
All of this ensures that the business is able to deliver on a promise and ethos that has been synonymous with the Brink's Group ever since its inception in Chicago in 1859.
“The wider Brink's Group allows us to almost work like an SME in Africa, being quite small and flexible which is important in an industry where things can change very quickly,” Lewis states. “This is one of our main messages synonymous with the Brink's name. When the company first started, it was called ‘Money and Valuables, Safety and Dispatch’.
“Today it’s about end-to-end secured logistics worldwide, driven by people and information technology. What we need to do is differentiate ourselves in terms of what we can offer our customers.”
Working alongside customers across finance, retail, mining, jewellery, pharmaceutical, security and many more sectors; Brink's’ core services range far beyond its primary international secure logistics offering. Vaulting, customs clearance and brokerage, inventory management, trade show services, walk-in service centres, Free Trade Zones and bonded warehousing to cash management, CIT, ATM, card payments, and cash processing all complement the wider Brink's portfolio.
As a consequence, a similarly diverse range of solutions is required in order to meet the needs of all; a balancing act with creating as standardised a system as possible to maintain core efficiencies.
“As we are involved in secure logistics, this takes many forms; road, sea and air – using not only commercial airlines but also chartered aircraft and helicopters – where we use carefully selected and vetted partners,” Lewis notes.
This range becomes even more significant and necessary given the length of transportation often undertaken as part of its logistics services and its overall role as a global Group.
Lewis adds: “We are an international logistics company so it’s not just about us moving valuables within South Africa but moving them internationally within our regions in Africa as well as outside of the continent. It is a huge worldwide network that we move things within.
“We have seen so many different influencing factors that have changed market needs and requirements. These range from the emergence of the BRIC countries; huge geo-political changes and the associated risk impacts and need for a trusted partner; environmental challenges; accessibility to new cultures, markets, technologies; and the ease of global movements for both products and people.
“These have all been key contributors to how we approach markets and the services needed to support them.”
Maintaining these high levels of customer support and collaboration brings into play the company’s approach to capital investments also, with Brink's putting the protection, skills provision and support to clients at the forefront of consideration.
To achieve this goal, as well as bringing the very best and quickest services, it is also of paramount importance that the business identifies optimum business partners to adopt the Brink's way of operating.
“As part of our approach to provide solutions, given our reach and network, to put down operations and assets all over Africa would just accelerate cost for the customer, so we work with carefully selected partners,” Lewis confirms. “All of these are vetted to Brink's’ risk standard, and are regularly audited, coached and directed.
“In terms of time, we look to minimise this through best and most cost effective route selection given that many commodities can change in value overnight and cannot afford to be sitting idle, potentially adding to the customer cost.
“We live in a fast paced society that demands instant response and service delivery, and that is our target coupled with service satisfaction.”
Arguably Brink's’ most telling differentiator when dealing with such valuable goods though is its promise to take liability throughout its service provision.
Lewis continues: “If the customer deems that the shipment is valuable, so do we, and we will take full liability for every shipment we handle.
“If we’re transporting goods for a client across any country in the world, we take liability for that and that’s what stands us apart from a lot of other competitors.”
Global standard for excellence
The philosophy to maintain this close relationship with customers and business partners ensure that Brink's is not only ready to support their needs, but is also able to collaboratively anticipate and forecast future industry trends and cultural nuances.
The importance is then placed on engraining this entrepreneurial spirit throughout the Brink's workforce which Lewis attributes as being the company’s core asset: “Our people are the key to everything we do. We operate strong staff engagement throughout the organisation with a key focus on learning and development needs, succession planning, and our ability to leverage and move key knowledge workers within our operations around the world.
“Due to the nature of our business we have robust global screening programmes to ensure that, most importantly, our people are safe and protected to enable them to focus on looking after our customers’ valuable assets which they entrust to us.”
The sense of purpose, accountability and determination subsequently instilled into the Group has laid the foundations for the next stage of Brink's’ international expansion and especially its ongoing prominence within Africa.
“Our goal is to set the global standard for excellence in secure logistics and value chain risk management, through our commitment to innovation, quality, and investment in people,” Lewis concludes.
“The recent global restructuring led by our Chairman & CEO, Tom Schievelbein, will ensure that the future of Brink's, and our ability to share best practices to provide agile solutions to our customers, will be realised.”