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Prime Mover Magazine

Visa Global Logistics’ unique business model

Visa Global Logistics’ unique business model

Australia’s Visa Global Logistics has gained global renown for following a unique business model that is based on finding new and innovative solutions to transport containerised freight.

When Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously claimed that the difference between leaders and followers lay in the ability to innovate, he certainly didn’t have the logistics industry in mind. But in the booming containerised transport market, it is now more appropriate than ever before.

Following Job’s innovation mantra since 1982, Visa Global Logistics has established itself as one of Australia’s leading international freight forwarding businesses – firmly believing that leadership in the growing wharf market must stem from innovation and a healthy distrust in the status quo.

“Innovation is at the forefront of what we do, and that’s how we set ourselves apart as a business,” explains Scott Walker, Visa Global Logistics’ National Transport Manager – adding the urge to find new and inventive solutions to issues most don’t even see permeates every aspect of the business, from freight forwarding and storage through to fleet management.

A case in point is Visa’s one-of-a-kind truck and trailer fleet, which can boast some 20 unique pieces of transport equipment that were designed and developed with the help of the company’s local supplier network to ensure it has an edge over the competition.

One head-turning innovation that recently joined the list is a new trailer concept that Scott labelled a ‘Stag Pump Up’ – a reverse B-double where the 40-foot container is located at the front. “As opposed to a classic B-double, it rides low at the back to carry a 20’ container at a higher mass,” Scott explains. “The initial design was only for wharf work, but it worked so well that we are now designing a dock-deliverable version too.”

Scott says the dock-deliverable version has brought a new design challenge to the Stag, as the back of the wharf version needed to be able to be changed from its low travel height to a level platform at a dock, but with the help of a loyal team of suppliers, he is confident the conversion will work. “We need to use a mega pump up suspension in order to alter the trailer height, which is why we worked with SAF-Holland Australia to help us make it happen,” Scott reveals – noting that, like all innovations, there have been minor teething issues. “We’re still in the concept stage, but so far, so good.”

Although Scott says the majority of Visa’s transport work is in containerised freight, the fleet is surprisingly diverse, with the Stag Pump Up unit working alongside everything from eight tonne rigid trucks through to quad-axle Super B-double combinations. “The Stag certainly isn’t the only unique piece of equipment in the fleet,” he reveals. “For example, we’re also currently working on a couple of quad retractable trailers that can carry a 20 or 40-foot container. As far as we know, we’re the only ones to have anything like it.”

On the truck front, most of the Visa fleet is made up of Mercedes-Benz’ flagship Actros model, with Scott claiming the German-made trucks fit well with the company’s innovation-driven business mode. Across Australia’s wharves, where the majority of the Visa fleet is based, around 100 high cab sleeper Actros are currently in use, most of them 2660 models in a 6x4 layout with a turbocharged 15.9-litre V8 engine producing 600hp and 2,065 lb/ft of torque. There’s also a selection of 2655 models delivering 550hp and 1,920 lb/ft of torque, as well as a number of 2648 6x4s, he says.

According to Scott, having such a comprehensive company-owned fleet is unusual for a freight forwarding business, but Visa has road transport at the heart of the business. “Owning our own fleet means we can choose the vehicles with the most up-to-date safety technology, which is extremely important to us and therefore something we look at very closely,” Scott says – adding that the European prime movers are under a Platinum Safeguard maintenance contract with Mercedes-Benz.

The maintenance contract covers the vehicles for their entire seven-year life, which is the maximum age the prime movers in the Visa fleet will reach. “As soon as the trucks turn seven, we turn them over for a premium price, which we believe is warranted considering how well Mercedes-Benz looks after them,” Scott says.

Joining the Actros-strong fleet this year, Scott says Visa also introduced seven MAN TGS prime movers on a trial basis. “First of all, we were intrigued by the fuel economy of the TGS, but we’re also waiting for the next Actros generation to be released at the end of this year,” he reveals. “We needed more prime movers to handle the growing business, but we didn’t want to go with the last generation, so MAN filled the gap.”

Scott says he already had a chance to test the next gen Actros, which has been available in Europe for quite some time now, and coming away ‘very impressed’ with the features, especially its ability to work with the Visa OneTrack system. “Being able to link in with our software takes us to the next level of keeping systems in house,” he says. “It’s rewarding to have our OneTrack innovation supported on an OEM level, as it helps us continue developing the system and integrating tracking further across the chain.

“As a global freight forwarding company, we have the opportunity to invest in the best equipment for our transport company. The types of work we do means that we have to take care of our customers the whole way through the chain, so if there’s a way to look after them on the road transport end, we’ll do it. We’re not talking local delivery work, we’re talking huge international deals that make it possible to invest and make sure our global customer base is satisfied.”

The investment in fleet equipment isn’t just for the customers’ benefit, though, as Scott says the prime movers are also fitted with a host of comfort features to give his drivers a more pleasant working environment. “With the next Actros generation we will be looking to have the cabs fitted with things like massage chairs for the drivers because, at the end of the day, we want our team to be happy and healthy,” he says. “Trucking is an industry that has a reputation for being unhealthy, so we are always working to introduce ways to change that outlook.”

In line with that philosophy, Visa has also put a so-called ‘Learn at Lunch’ initiative into place where it holds lunch-time seminars on a variety of topics – both company specific and for personal growth. “We have had personal trainers and investment specialists come in for sessions to support personal growth,” Scott explains. “From an internal perspective, our business is unique in its composition. We have teams in customs, warehousing, transport, accounts, sales and forwarding who might not know much about each other’s work, so we might have a lunch on the intricacies of one sector and thereby try to cross-educate on the various aspects of the business.”

With innovation playing such a prominent role in the make-up of the Visa fleet, Scott says it’s only logical for the same philosophy to flow through to telematics and admin, too. As such, Visa keeps as much of the overall freight forwarding task in house, tracking it all with OneTrack, a proprietary tracking system specially developed for the Australian company. “OneTrack is our own real-time tracking platform. Most people subcontract that sort of thing out, and they lose control. We do things a little differently. The more we know about the transit of an order, the more information we can give to our customers. It’s pretty powerful stuff,” Scott says.

The powerful purchase order management system can follow a package through the whole supply chain anywhere in the world, with live feedback on customer dashboards possible within seconds. “It follows everything from sailing schedules and customs clearance, right down to stock keeping and proof of delivery with live positioning of the fleet,” he explains, adding that transparency and hard data are key to lasting success in today’s business environment.

“We have grown by investing in technology, automation and the design of specialised equipment,” he says. “In doing so, Visa has become the third largest container handling company in Australia over the last five years. But it’s not just us, of course. We rely on the help of loyal partners that are prepared to put in time and effort to help us innovate. Together, we can make a real difference.”

The story has appeared in the July edition of Prime Mover. To get your copy, click here.

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