As Allied Express celebrates its 40th year of operation, Logistics & Materials Handling caught up with Michelle McDowell, Managing Director to find out more about the organisations history as well as its future.
Allied Express is the largest independently-owned courier, express freight and specialised logistics company in Australia. Boasting a client portfolio of some of the biggest names in retail, manufacturing and technology including LG, Temple and Webster, New Aim, Nissan and FOXTEL, Allied Express has just celebrated its 40th year of operation.
With a commitment to finding the solution for each and every customer, regardless of whether it’s a multi-national or a small business, Allied Express has always been at the forefront of innovation in the industry. This commitment to innovate has been a part of the business since day one, Michelle McDowell, Managing Director at Allied Express says.
“My father started the business in 1978 and back then it started as a courier business. Our main business was delivering documents. However, soon after fax machines negated the need for a lot of these kinds of documents to be delivered by hand and we had to change the core of our business,” Michelle says.
It was after this that Allied Express moved into the movement of goods, a smart move according to Michelle. “Logistics will always be here. It gets disrupted often, and we have to execute things in different ways but products and materials are always going to be required to be moved from A to B,” she says.
Michelle has been working at Allied Express for 27 years, and has seen some major changes in the industry. “Our customer has changed but along with that so have our business practices. We used to have drivers on two-way radios writing down jobs but now we have very sophisticated systems to do all of this communication electronically,” she says.
Driver for change
A lot of the major innovations and evolution in the logistics space has been driven by the home delivery aspect of logistics, Michelle says. “How do you get a customer to stay at home and make that delivery first time?” Michelle asks.
For Michelle, it’s about communication with the customer. It’s also not a one size fits all approach. “Our customers are different. How we deliver for Foxtel is different to how we deliver for Temple and Webster but we build a delivery strategy that works for them,” she says.
Michelle recognises that the logistics provider is now part of the buying experience and with that comes a requirement to work closely with any client to create a good experience for the end consumer – one that mirrors the standard of customer service the retailer offers.
To give national coverage to its customers, Allied Express has a depot in every capital city as well as agency networks in more regional areas. The key to a successful delivery experience is setting realistic expectations, says Michelle. “With the surge in online shopping, regional Australia now has access to products and services they never had before. There is a very real challenge in serving regional Australia, but I think you need to set the expectations and ensure that you have regular communication with these customers so they are not disappointed or out of the loop,” Michelle says.
Michelle considers the idea of free delivery unachievable and says that she usually advises her customers against it. “At the end of the day it costs to take product from A to B, so you’re paying for it somewhere,” she says.
For Michelle, it’s more important to offer options and to explain to the customer what those options entail. “Our whole business philosophy is about showing the different service and elements we can offer, and then building the right one for our customer – it’s the same with home delivery. You can choose what you want. If you want it Saturday afternoon then it costs this amount, if you want someone to come and install the item, then it costs this much extra and so on,” she says.
This way organisations can cost their services appropriately and maintain a good service instead of striving to offer free delivery at any cost and consequently losing customers as a result of poor service, Michelle says.
Something that permeates through the organisation, is long-standing relationships. This is found both in Allied Express’ customers and also its employees.
“We’re the longest supplier relationship that LG has anywhere in the world in any category,” Michelle says with pride. “A business like that goes to tender every couple of years so we’re pretty proud of that.”
Michelle attributes much of this kind of loyalty to the way that Allied Express does business. “We put a model in place that’s best for our customer, and we would never replicate that for their competitor, so we make sure we have diverse customers. But one area that this has really been able to help our customers is that they can learn from each other. We can cross use ideas to help all of our businesses offer the best delivery service,” she says.
This loyalty is also found in the employees at Allied Express. “We have people still working here who were driving for us 40 years ago,” Michelle says.
Logistic is a rough and tumble industry, Michelle says, but one that can offer a great career. At Allied Express, there is a strong company culture and many of the successes of the clients are communicated to all the drivers and workers who make that happen.
“If one of our clients is doing well as a result of improved logistics and speed to market, we let our drivers know that they are part of that success,” Michelle says.
Throughout the 40th anniversary year, Allied Express will be sharing many anecdotes and stories of employees and clients throughout the businesses history.