Proudly South African
Paccon Logistics is a multi-disciplinary freight management company operating from Durban in South Africa.
Writer Rebecca Wigmore
Project manager Stuart Shirra
It's an exciting time to work at Paccon Logistics. In 2013 the founding directors of this South African freight company - Andrew Wallace and Steve Gillespie - successfully purchased the minority interest that was formerly held by Paccon Logistics Australia. This means that the company is now, in its founders' own words, "100 percent proudly South African".
It is by no means the new kid on the block, however. Paccon Logistics, which prides itself on its local knowledge and on-the-ground experience, was established in the early 2000s and next year will celebrate ten years in business. This near-decade of experience means that Paccon has built a rock-solid reputation, with a noted specialty in heavy industrial and project logistics. To this end, the firm doesn't own its own fleet but instead manage and outsource to much-trusted third party sub contractors from cargo surveyors to abnormal transport operators and border agents.
Paccon's core activities centre on heavy industry sectors in South Africa and its neighbouring countries Botswana, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Going it alone
It seems appropriate that 2014 will herald a new era of independence for Paccon, as the company was built in the spirit of entrepreneurship and regional know-how.
However it wasn't always so easy as Andrew Wallace explains: "After around 20 years of working for corporates I became disenchanted with office politics and decided to open my own business. Having spent a large amount of that time involved in cross-border trade and industrial project logistics, I decided that it was an area where a small hands-on operator could thrive. The first couple of years were difficult but we have seen consistent growth."
Paccon's clients are many and varied and the company has been involved in "virtually all capex projects in South Africa's ports for about seven years," handling all manner of equipment "from forklifts to postpanamax gantry cranes, and shipping equipment for mining and process plants in sub-Saharan countries." It has also freighted construction materials and power generation/ transmission plant equipment, both hydroelectric and thermal.
This is by no means the limit of what Paccon can handle however and Wallace reveals further ambitions. "General engineering and fabrication is also a sector we are growing into," he says. "[Although we provide] an inherent understanding of machinery and all things mechanical, the real difference is our extremely hands-on approach and passion for what we do. Another important factor is that although each member of staff has a specific role to play, everything is a team effort and so hierarchical structures don't really play a part. [If the job requires me] to go down to the port, working cargo to assist my operations team, then that is where you'll find me. It may be clichéd but we really do treat our clients' cargo as if it were our own and when we say we are on duty 24/7 we really mean it. We have built up an enviable reputation with both clients and service providers and do everything in our power to protect that."
There is a certain steely sense of pride in the way that Wallace and his team approach and solve logistical problems. "There are many challenges we face every day - such is the nature of our industry - but what sets a company apart is how they deal with each and every challenge," he explains. Bureaucracy is a commonly cited bugbear, particularly as the public sector "often does not have the same aims as the private sector."
That said 2013 has been a banner year for Paccon with the company gaining new clients both locally and internationally.
In addition, the company has recently joined the international project logistics network GPLN and, after its first conference, established firm relationships with a number of companies that need like-minded agents in Southern Africa.
Despite this sense of rapid expansion, the Paccon team is relatively small, comprising 15 employees. When asked about his compact workforce, Wallace had this to say: "A big question in our industry at the moment is the shortage of suitably qualified staff, especially in niche sectors such as ours. As a small company, we are not as affected by this problem. Fortunately most of our staff have been with us for a few years and so have grown into their roles as every day is a learning opportunity. From a training perspective we obviously have on-the-job practical learning and my managers and I can be found at our staff's desks discussing the details of a shipment on a regular basis. All this is supported by formal learning through a variety of courses offered by industry service providers which staff attend on a rotational basis and are paid for by the company. This is not limited to junior staff - in fact, myself and two colleagues attended a heavy lift course last year. Apart from the training side, we also try to create and maintain a working environment where everyone enjoys coming to work and feels that their contribution is an important part of our success."
He also noted that 2014 would likely herald some new hires and the possible opening of new offices. What is certain however is that 2014 will be a year of deserved celebration, with the 10th anniversary of the firm providing "a good excuse to host a party and invite as many of our clients and service providers as possible."
In the eyes of Wallace's co-founder, Steve Gillespie, Paccon Logistics' newly acquired independence from Australian investors marks a turning point in the business's history: "With the consolidation of our shareholding now firmly South African, we are free to pursue our strategies for the benefit of current and future shareholders as well as our loyal staff and clients," he concludes.
To learn more visit www.pacconlogistics.co.za.