Starting his career as a lorry driver, Cris Stephenson has worked within the logistics industry for more than 30 years. Part of the senior management team at palletised freight network Pall-Ex for the past three years, he was recently appointed UK managing director. Here we speak to Cris about his experience within logistics, and how he will go about tackling his new role.

Cris-StephensonWarehouse & Logistics News – How has your previous experience set you up for the new job?

Without a shadow of doubt my past experience will have a huge influence on how I will look to take Pall-Ex forward as a business.

It has always been my ambition to make it right to the top of the industry. My father was a successful businessman who always identified and made the most of opportunities. He owned five farms, three factories and a fleet of 40 vehicles, and I inherited my drive and ambition from him. My family supported me through my education and I left the University of Durham with the qualifications I would need further down the line, starting my career at the bottom and working up from the ground up.

In addition to my professional background, I have a wealth of life experience that I can draw upon. As a former bike racer, my success and even my life depended upon my team working well to maintain a safe, fast and reliable machine. I know the importance of surrounding myself with talented individuals that I trust. Creating, managing and maintaining a team that can deliver truly exceptional results will be a key goal for me.

Leading a company such as Pall-Ex is a huge job. My experience of working in a wide range of positions sets me in good stead, as I know both the business and industry inside out. I’ve learned from all of my mistakes and successes, and am well aware that experience, willingness to learn, ability to recover, and openness to change are vital aspects of successful leadership.

I will draw upon every lesson to benefit Pall-Ex.

WLN – What does Pall-Ex bring to the logistics sector?

Our proactivity and willingness to work with, and improve, the business operations of our members, customers and end-customers is a strong feature of Pall-Ex’s service. The very highest service levels are at the core of all Pall-Ex network developments and initiatives, both here in the UK and abroad.

We are constantly developing innovative and personalised tools, services and solutions which will benefit the network’s members and customers. A good example of this is our integrated consignment tracking system. We now operate a full, real-time proof of delivery network, with the highest levels of compliance throughout our UK and European networks, which is enhanced by a suite of free track-and-trace products.

The team at Pall-Ex is made up of some incredibly talented individuals, all thought leaders in both their specialist field and the logistics sector as a whole. Hilary Devey’s story is well documented and her tenacity and determination have resulted in her status as a spokesperson for both Pall-Ex and the logistics sector as a whole. This has benefited everyone by helping to bring industry-specific issues and campaigns into the public eye.

WLN – How important is the UK network to the overall Pall-Ex strategy? Especially given the expansion into Europe?

Our growing European network has the capacity to fulfil all of our members’ domestic and international distribution requirements. This gives our members the scope to do business wherever they choose, and in turn, improve their service offering to their customers.

Our international connections enable members here in the UK to sell a complete transport solution into Europe and beyond. This also works well in the opposite direction, as the UK has always been a popular destination for importing goods. Due to increasing volumes generated by our European partners, we continue to gain volumes for distribution throughout the UK.

WLN – Any updates on Pall-Ex membership?

We are constantly strengthening our membership base and structure in order to deliver the best service possible. We recently welcomed Rugby-based Exact Logistics, which has taken control of the CV postcode. Heathfield-based Independent Logistics Solutions now covers TN and Trucklink.EU has also come on board to take control of the NN postcode.

WLN – How has the industry changed since you were a driver?

The boom in e-commerce has transformed the retail supply chain. Consumers want their deliveries to be made at more precise and predictable times. Because customers now constitute a part of the supply chain, logistics operations have evolved as freight consignments become increasingly fragmented. The trend of consolidation is reversing.

The increased use of technology and IT to manage palletised freight distribution services has made it possible to keep large, complicated networks moving. Automated systems, tracking services and fully computerised freight management make it possible for networks to cater for a wide range of customers, including the growing e-commerce market.

WLN – How do you plan to take advantage of the upturn in the economy?

With business confidence continuing to improve, there is a feeling amongst company owners that now might be the time to release budget for expansion. The logistics industry is always an area that benefits as a knock on effect from any increased activity in other markets. Pall-Ex is poised and ready to take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way.

WLN – Where do you see Pall-Ex in five years’ time?

Five years is a long time in business. We have a number of plans and initiatives in the pipeline but, essentially, we will continue to drive the business forward. Within the service industry, to stand still is to fail. In order to keep ahead of our competition, we will ensure that Pall-Ex is at the forefront of technology and strategic thinking within the logistics sector.

The development of our network and services has always at the heart of everything that we do. I am in the early days of my appointment, but at this stage I am happy to state that we have a number of exciting and innovative projects that are primed for imminent introduction.

I am committed to firmly establishing Pall-Ex as the UK’s best known and most respected pallet network. To achieve this, we need to be the first choice for members by providing even more in terms of our membership offering. This includes offering the most complete membership package in terms of IT, service, innovation, quality and support.

With dedication, pride, focus, and cooperation, we will genuinely become the UK’s number one network.

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