Freight forwarders Johnson Partners are targeting more big business after marking their tenth anniversary with a mammoth international project that spanned three continents.
The Middlesbrough-based business began life in 2004 with a team of two, and now has eight employees to oversee road, sea and airfreight services to a growing client list.
A decade on, the firm is celebrating the completion of its biggest assignment to date – sending two generators worth £2.5m each weighing 60 tonnes, to China.
The firm was contracted by heavy equipment dealer Finning to handle and ship the generators, a project which involved it bringing in specialist containers from Europe and engines sourced in the US for final assembly in the West Midlands, before sending them to China via Felixstowe.
Managing director Bernie Johnson said: “This was the second shipment we have undertaken for the client on this scale and our selection is testament to the reputation that we have built up over the last ten years for coordinating projects and handling heavy, complex loads.”
Johnson Partners has assembled an impressive portfolio of industrial clients including MPI Offshore, LB Foster, Hird Rail and Darchem Engineering for whom they handle high value and sometimes awkward cargo.
Recent high profile contracts include the build of two MPI vessels in China, a hydro power station in Madagascar, rail shipments from the USA to Australia and the firm also has a long-standing relationship with world-renowned Middlesbrough born artist Mackenzie Thorpe for shipments around the world.
The firm saw tough times in the recession but the MPI project, completed in 2010, help them weather the stormy waters and they remain a key client.
Looking to the future, Mr Johnson is handing over the day-to-day running of operations to his son Paul, who was recruited into the family business in its second year of operations.
Together, they have grown the business by 50% over the last three years, establishing an international network of agents and providing a door to door service globally, and expect turnover to top £2m this financial year.
Bernie Johnson said: “Like a lot of businesses, we were hit quite hard by the most recent recession, but it did allow us to focus on what we do best – moving out of gauge cargo.
“Working with project managers we ensure that shipping is in their plans at the earliest opportunity and this avoids any unnecessary disruption or additional costs later down the line.”
The biggest change in Johnson Partners’ business is the value of projects, with the firm establishing a reputation as a high value project forwarder and engineering partner.
The value of the cargo for the recent shipment for Finnings was around £2.5m and, while the freight costs are confidential, orders can bring in sales of tens of thousands of pounds.
Developing such expertise change means the business have been able to double its gross margins, and since 2011 more than 100 new customers have been brought on board.
Director Paul Johnson said: “We know our market better than ever and are committed to providing something different over our larger competitors. By looking after all their shipping and forwarding requirements, we allow clients to focus on their core business.
“UK exports and manufacturing output are both predicted to continue to grow and with our reputation established oversees we’re well placed to grow big business.”