Sadleirs Logistics harnesses cloud power

By: Ruza Zivkusic-Aftasi

Australia’s second-oldest trucking and logistics operator is constantly evolving to keep up with technology

Sadleirs Logistics harnesses cloud power
Sadleirs Logistics CEO Ian Kent


One challenge facing family-owned businesses is a lack of awareness of the impact of technology on their business.

With eastern expansion in mind, the Western Australian firm knew it had to make drastic changes if it was to double in size and meet customer’s needs.

Two years into his job, CEO Ian Kent has been busy revamping the company’s information technology operations, an ambitious 12-month undertaking that is due to be completed in May.

With a vision of doubling the size of the company within the next three years, Kent says Sadleirs is due for an "awakening".

His job is to unlock the potential of the operation, to bolster Sadleirs’ bottom line and help position the firm to be a transport leader on the east coast.

Implementing a fully-integrated end-to-end Oracle Cloud solutions first, using Australia and New Zealand Oracle partner firm PrimeQ to apply the change, Sadleirs wants to better streamline and enhance customer experience, automate processes and "extract an increased level of business intelligence that will help deliver on customer’s expectations".

PrimeQ is implementing the Oracle Cloud solution incorporating Oracle Customer Experience (CX), Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Oracle Warehouse Management (WMS), Oracle Transportation Management (OTM) and Oracle Cloud Business Intelligence.

"This system will launch us into a new phase, we’ve already won a lot of work on our current system so as we roll this system out it will give us greater capacity to do more for our customers than we ever have before," Kent says.

Sharpened focus

Bringing extensive experience from logistics groups Mitchell Corp, Toll Group and Linfox to the new role, Kent has been appointed to improve Lionel Samson Sadleirs Group’s customer portal.

With over 2,700 customers on its books, Sadleirs is a privately-owned family business, tracing its origins back to 1829.

Sadleirs has expanded its infrastructure and services to become a trusted logistics and packaging provider to leading companies, including German supermarket chain Aldi, providing freight pick-up and container haulage from Fremantle Port to Aldi’s distribution centre at Jandakot.

The purchase of Sadleirs-Nexus transport division by the Toll Group in 2016 has seen Sadleirs undergo a major business transformation which has led to the decision to upgrade IT services.

"We had to sell the division as it was not profitable, which for a family business was torturous –  our biggest assets but we had to survive so to do this we had to make some tough decisions and it sadly meant that we had to let some people go," Kent says.

"Our staff level now is at 343 so we’re a reasonable sized organisation and our job is to grow and give our people real jobs, good full-time employment into the future."

Sadleirs’ revenue dropped by 20 per cent between 2014 and 2016 as the WA’s economy went through a structural adjustment.

"The WA economy slowed quickly as the economy moved from construction to operational production," Kent says.

"As we came off the back of that big boom that had been going for 12 years, we had to become very efficient at what we did very quickly. We sat down with our teams across the country and worked out ways to be more efficient at what we did every day," he adds.

"Our biggest  cost is labour, so just getting a better management of the way we used our people and what time of the day we used them was a key focus.

"That has assisted us greatly in terms of us moving into the new system and our capacity to be able to get greater degree of business execution as a result of what the system can do for us."

The digital game changer

PrimeQ CEO Andrew McAdams says Sadleirs is the first transportation company in Australia to implement a fully integrated end-to-end Oracle Cloud solution.

"I call these legacy projects – a project that will make a foundation for them for a very long time," Andrews says.

"They were at a point where they depended on older style systems for a fair while. The world has changed and optimisation is one of the key for them.

"Being a transport company they move stuff from one warehouse to another and some stuff we’re doing is allowing that routing very quickly and fast. It smooths that routing process rather than making it more complicated."

Customers will have better visibility of their freight at any time of the day – a system that currently is paper based, Kent says.

"As we grow  we’ve got two issues; the day to day system means we’re not as efficient as we could be and it makes it difficult to measure the key aspects of our business," he says.

"The data is not in real time, it’s relative to when it makes its way into the current system.

"Sadleirs is a dynamic business so we need to know what’s happening today and how do we maximise the operations and the current resources we have to meet the customers need.

"What we’ve been doing over the last few years is moving to the customer’s side of desk and sitting with them and seeing what’s happening in their world. It’s critical that we have a more advanced IT system to meet their needs in terms of tracking freight and being more flexible and nimble than we currently are."

Double digits

Sadleirs expects its revenue to double due to the integrated capacity coming from the business improvements from the new IT system.

"There would be some capital but in terms of our infrastructure we can get a lot more volume through our existing facility without a massive investment in capital compared to what we would have to do if we remained on the current system," Kent says.

"A lot of our customers are happy to give us more work if we can have a better system, more and more are saying they’d like us to do more freight for them and in recent times a lot of the bigger customers have been pushing us to do something with the systems."

A decision long in the making, Sadleirs at first was "apprehensive" of change, Kent says.

"It’s a big step and a significant issue for a company our size to embark on.

"We’ve spent some time doing all the research required to ensure it’s the right step and we’ve gone through a very detailed process.

"The key facets to that were competitiveness, making sure our customers have the best service possible and ability to grow."

What Kent is most looking forward to is utilising the business intelligence tool, which will help gain a comprehensive view of the business.

"It will interrogate data on a real time basis and give us meaningful, operational information day to day," he says.

"At the moment we use a rear vision mirror. This will give our customers a way improved service than we can offer which will mean they’ll give us more of their work and that’s a significant issue. It will also assist in retention of customers."

With Pacific National as its rail partner, the system will allow the two companies to integrate their systems which will lead to greater visibility of freight.

The company has survived on old-school methods thanks to its "impeccable" staff, who have welcomed IT changes.

"Our people are clever at what they do but this tool will improve their ability to execute at the highest level.

"Our team is looking forward to the new system, there is no resistance.

"They will know days in advance what freight is coming and this will take a lot of the stress out of what they currently do.

"When you create that stress you create an environment of people working under pressure which will impact on safety.

"We’ll have a lot more control and a lot more transparency to execute the task every day."

Best kept secret

The change of leadership followed the awarding of two big contracts, by Chevron and Aldi to Sadleirs.

Having launched a full review of internal systems and processes, Kent is looking for growth areas, saying he wants the company to double in size over the next three years.

"There are two ways we can do that; by winning work from other competitors or new customers and growth in customers which we didn’t have before, like ALDI," he adds.

"We’ve grown with them as a supplier because they’re growing and as they’re growing we’re growing with them.

"My view is that Sadleirs is one of the best kept secrets around, particularly on the east coast.

"Our volume has increased significantly in the last year – and that growth is accelerating.

Change of vision

Kent is the second non-family CEO within the company – a strategy the family is taking to corporatise the business.

More than half of Sadleirs’ board is made up by family members, with the family still making a huge influence on the business, Kent says.

"Their view is that we need to get the best people into the leadership group  and on the board level to make sure the business has the best outcome possible for the family," he says.

Having worked in a number of family businesses during his career, a company’s greatest asset is people, he has learnt.

"Too often it is ignored or not treated with the seriousness it should," Kent says.

"Having an engaged workforce is a critical ingredient to any organisation. All of us within the leadership team move within the organisation; we meet with our people regularly and we’re out there talking to them and meeting with the customers. We’re in the operations everyday understanding what the challenges are and listening to them.

"As a result of that you create a greater understanding of what the challenges are of the business."

The management also conducts a staff survey each year about the business – another way the board had decided to upgrade its IT systems due to employee’s feedback.

"When I first started it was very clear that our systems and processes needed a major overhaul," Kent says.

"Employees were frustrated by the systems available to them to do their job everyday."


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