Interview: Paul Floyd, Managing Director, Famco
In the fast- moving world of logistics today, material handling has come to be about much more than simply stowing a box away in a warehouse. The last decade has seen the industry evolve dramatically to provide the most intricate and tailored warehousing solutions, as demanded by its customers’ own rapid growth and development.
One of those companies pushing the boundaries of material handling just that little bit further is FAMCO (Al-Futtaim Auto and Machinery Company). Based in the thriving metropolis of the logistics world that is the UAE, the company’s timing in developing the ambitious expansion plans for its material handling operations has been perfect.
Under the supportive umbrella of regional business powerhouse Al Futtaim group, FAMCO has enjoyed growth across all its five divisions – ranging from the distribution of heavy commercial vehicles to industrial power solutions. The company’s growing storage and handling division has also come a long way from its humble beginnings as ‘Spacesavers’, FAMCO’s original shelving and storage supply service. Today, the division has developed and transformed into a strategic provider of premium warehousing products and services aimed at making material handling a smooth and efficiently-driven operation.
“Our business now houses a complete range of products aimed at the warehousing and logistics sector,” says Paul Floyd, managing director of FAMCO. “We ensure smooth transition throughout the entire operation from the first point of contact, when a delivery vehicle arrives at a distribution centre, to the next point, where the goods are received and taken into the warehouse and stored, then, finally picked, packed and delivered to the customer.”
Floyd acknowledges that much of FAMCO’s success across its divisions can be attributed to the high quality brands the company takes on as its principals.
Having established a footprint in the region’s heavy commercial vehicle market with leading brand Volvo, the real breakthrough in the material handling sector came with the company’s burgeoning relationship with German forklift manufacturer Linde.
Having already created an industry buzz for its high-specification forklifts for the material handling industry, FAMCO was quick to recognise the potential in the demand for such a quality brand in the UAE and has been reaping the rewards ever since. The ethos and philosophy of Linde as a manufacturer provided a seamless fit with the reputation for quality and customer service that FAMCO knew would be critical to its own success in the sector. “As a premium brand in the industry, Linde is associated with the very best quality of material handling equipment,” says Floyd. “This fitted perfectly as we share a common core philosophy which revolves around offering premium quality products and the very best product support.”
Last year FAMCO launched the Linde E 25 forklift, deemed to be one of the most innovative forklifts on the market today, and Floyd has been overwhelmed by its popularity in the region. “In the market for electric counterbalance trucks, Linde has done extremely well with this product,” he says enthusiastically. “One of the key selling points with this machine is that you can select from 18 different models to tailor it to your individual need – rather than having just one standard product.”
The forklift comes with an impressive list of features, including a traction-control system, dual drive motor system and the Linde pilot system. As an extra bonus, the Linde combi-axle allows the turning area of the machine to be very small, giving it the same turning radius of a three-wheel unit, whilst providing the stability of a four-wheel unit. “With its low energy and operating costs, the forklift can provide significant cost-savings for our customers,” says Floyd. “It is important to us that the customer enjoys the lowest cost of ownership throughout the operational life of the machine.”
With the breakthrough popularity of the Linde products, FAMCO began adding other high quality brands to its growing material handling portfolio. The company’s distribution list has grown to include clients such as industrial storage and shelving systems manufacturer Dexion, European industrial doors specialist Nassau, Netherlands-based docking solutions provider Stertil, and UK-based industrial door systems leader Hart.
FAMCO’s most recent partnership has been with German in-vehicle storage equipment supplier Bott, which provides static and mobile storage and benching solutions for all sorts of workplaces, a service that Floyd believes will be hugely popular in the region. “All facilities require some kind of maintenance and all customers have some kind of workshop,” he points out. “This concept, and in particular that of the mobile service van, is something that we have been developing very successfully in the UAE using Bott systems.”
With such a wide range of partnerships with different suppliers and manufacturers, Floyd maintains that distributing first-class equipment such as these brands will help to raise the performance and safety standards of the logistics equipment industry in the region. By carefully picking and choosing only those products that are of the same high quality, FAMCO also benefits from the strength of the coalition branding.
Across its other divisions, the company has similarly taken on only those brands renowned for the quality of their products and commitment to customer service –whether they be Volvo trucks, Ingersoll Rand industrial tools or Himoinsa generators. “In terms of the way we run the dealership, our practices are fast developing into being among the best”, says Floyd.
“We strive to do things right and offer really good service levels, and we endeavour to meet the needs and wants of customers all the time. When your customers recognise that, and when your principals recognise that, it gives a tremendous sense of satisfaction and spurs you on to do more and more.”
At the moment, the division’s customer base is diverse, comprising basically of what Floyd describes as “any company with any type of material handling or warehousing distribution functionality”. Not surprisingly, the biggest demand comes from 3PL providers who rely on their distribution centre as being the main service offering to clients. However, FMCG and retail and even pharmaceutical businesses, where high volumes and large storage capabilities necessitate the need for highly efficient solutions, have been featuring prominently on the company’s list of clientele.
“We have a very large design capability here in FAMCO and offer as much advice as we can to ensure that the customer ends up with the right solution for what they are trying to do,” says Floyd. “This means spending a lot of time working with customers to understand their requirements right from the start.”
According to Floyd, it is this diverse customer-focused approach to storage and handling solutions that has enabled the division to continue growing in an industry that is traditionally highly- affected by influxes in financial conditions.
When much of the material handling industry was in economic turmoil during the recession in 2009, FAMCO Storage and Handling experienced a record year of growth. “This certainly was interesting,” says Floyd with a discreet smile. “There is a project aspect to some of the work that we do with our customers, such as the consultancy and the design process, so you often end up with a pipeline of jobs that can be carried forward.”
Having a wider customer market also meant the company ensured that it could compensate for the economic downturns which impacted certain industries more heavily. “In economic recession, some industries struggle, whilst others can do quite well,” explains Floyd. “The fact that we are quite diverse helps to spread this risk.”
Although capital purchases fell, for instance, the over-use of existing units in operation to compensate resulted in a rise in the demand for spare parts. FAMCO’s offer of financing solutions and rental and leasing options were another welcome service for recession-weary customers.
Having this flexibility to adapt to the needs of the customer has allowed FAMCO’s material handling offering in the UAE grow from strength to strength. And, as the reputation for quality spreads, the company has been “aggressively” targeting regional expansion. “We believe we do a few things right here in the UAE and hope to replicate that in other markets – but in a controlled way and working with the right partners,” says Floyd. “The relationships we have with the principals we work with today are very strong. We believe that we can reproduce some of these best practices and standards in the neighbouring regions.” FAMCO already has bases in Qatar and Oman – with Saudi Arabia as the latest addition to its growing network.
So if the managing director was presented with the proverbial crystal ball, where would he like to see FAMCO’s storage handling division in ten years’ time? Floyd laughs at the potential enormity of the question. “We want to be seen as a leader in the industry which means we always need to innovate and raise the bar in terms of service offering. Understanding and working closely with customers, applying new technologies for them and maximising up-time and efficiency in their operations is critical.
“At the end of the day, if FAMCO’s added value results in the lowest costs of ownership across the life-cycle of customers’ equipment, then this is the true value for money proposition that we want to put into the market.”