Back in the 1970s, Abdool Tayob’s father launched an informal business providing logistics services to clients across South Africa. That humble outfit became a formal business in the 1980s and Abdool joined the company, now called Bakers S.A.
At various points, members of his family have been involved with the business, but they eventually decided to forge their own paths, leaving Abdool to steward his father’s legacy.
As Chief Executive of Bakers S.A. for the past 14 years, Abdool has sought to build on his father’s accomplishments, equipping the company with a strong culture to guide the ways its employees interact with clients and each other, and with concrete strategic goals for the team to pursue.
“At the moment, our main project is evolving from a medium company with around 600 trucks and 1,600 employees into a large company with 1,600 vehicles and 2,500 employees,” Abdool says.
“We’re also striving to double our turnover within the next three to five years and endeavour to establish a global presence in the Middle East.” Bakers S.A. specialises in transport, warehousing, distribution and dedicated contracts of fast-moving consumer goods and household appliances across South Africa and into neighbouring countries.
With its mature yet adaptable logistics network, the company can respond to variations in demand due to seasonal peaks without putting a strain on resources. Abdool takes pride in staffing the business with people who are well-trained and passionate about delivering exceptional service thus ensuring proper people in proper jobs, and he holds himself to the same standards.
“What sets us apart from our competitors is, of course, our team’s ability to offer customised solutions,” he says. “This is the flexibility that we offer to clients. The customer’s requirements can change for any number of reasons, like a change in season or weather.
Rather than being rigid in the way in which we provide our services, we do everything we can to meet the client’s needs. “Together the executive team, including myself, make ourselves available for discussions with clients in order to find solutions that optimise their value chain. We are always eager to assist clients with better planning by taking due consideration of their markets and derived demand.”
Back to basics
However, the sudden crisis brought about by COVID-19 introduced a significant obstacle to Abdool’s plans. “The pandemic hitting us was a double whammy because the economy in South Africa was already facing headwinds and now turbulent times as a result of this once in a century occurrence,” he explains.
Throughout the pandemic, and especially during South Africa’s strict lockdown period, demand for logistics services was severely suppressed. Abdool and his team had to put aside their visions for growth and simply try to weather the storm.
They learned a number of important lessons in the process. “We searched all avenues for ways to raise efficiency and optimisation.” he says.
“Remote work was one of the measures we found to have some value for us beyond the pandemic. We are now trying to integrate these lessons into our normal work routine to see how we can be leaner and more cost-effective to have an edge over the competition.”
COVID-19 has also served as an opportunity to recommit to some of the values that enabled Bakers S.A.’s success throughout the decades. “This is definitely a time for us to go back to some of the basics that the company was founded on by my dad, like customer centricity, which has been a focal point,” Abdool says.
In terms of units, we are a small company on the southern tip of Africa, especially compared to turnover figures of listed companies, but our partnerships make us a big player.
“It is now more important than ever to understand what keeps customers loyal. “Client retention is a key success factor. I think what we see in the South African industry as a whole is that this is your bestselling card in the sense that customers keep signing contracts over long periods of 15 and 20 years. That’s the best thing to have on your resume as a company, and it’s a key success factor for Bakers.”
In recent years, South Africa has seen a drop in the value of both local and foreign investments into research and technology. Faced with the same economic circumstances as other businesses in the country, Bakers S.A. has had to reduce its research and technology investments in order to survive in the past.
But Abdool is seeking to reverse that. “When it comes to logistics, needless to say, time is money,” he says. “It’s all about optimisation and utilisation of the assets, as well as customer service. We can utilise our assets more efficiently by collating substantial data and setting more appropriate KPIs that ensure we are always improving.”
Bakers S.A. has invested in integrated software platforms that provide customer-specific solutions. The company’s fleet is managed and monitored through enhanced telematics, which allows clients to track their products’ movements in real time, 24 hours a day.
I think these partnerships are our strong points … it’s a winning recipe.
The company then analyses these telematics reports in order to optimise performance and asset utilisation. Many of its vehicles have been fitted with onboard cameras that live stream to a closely monitored media centre, ensuring the safety of staff and customer consignments while in transit.
The company has also begun using planning and operational software that automatically plots the most time- and fuel-efficient routes for drivers. To optimise warehouse management, another software tool scans the barcodes of products and creates a serialised inventory management system, providing customers with bulk order status updates by load.
Bakers S.A. is ISO 9001 certified, which means it is regularly assessed by third-party auditors to identify if it meets the standards of quality management systems by satisfying customer requirements and enhancing their satisfaction.
The company strictly conforms to the Road Traffic Management System (RTMS), the objective of which is ensuring roads are safe – tantamount to saving lives, which is a major priority. Moreover, Abdool recently invested in a new Business Intelligence tool that merges data from all of Bakers S.A.’s various software tools into a single platform.
Bakers S.A. is widely regarded as an employee-orientated company, employing more than 1,600 individuals in 17 locations throughout South Africa and operating a fleet of more than 600 vehicles. The company attracts specialists of a high calibre with valuable experience, ensuring seamless end-to-end supply chain solutions.
“We are upskilling our people to better understand the current digital transformation. We are working smarter and harnessing AI to find creative solutions, which is definitely a success factor for us rather than doing extra manual work,” he says.
“We’re always looking to adopt new, worldclass technologies. Putting these systems in place can take a long time for other companies, so looking ahead and adopting new technologies early really sets us apart.”
Bakers S.A. has been fortunate to count among its partners and suppliers several blue-chip companies and powerhouse brands. Maintaining these relationships is crucial to the company’s ongoing success.
“Around 40% of my day-to-day work that I’ve not passed over to anybody else is spent maintaining partnerships with our top five to seven suppliers, including Mercedes-Benz,” Abdool says. He and his team pride themselves on relationships like this one, in which the company has come to resemble an extension of its suppliers’ business.
We can utilise our assets more efficiently by collating substantial data and setting appropriate KPIs that ensure we are always improving.
“I know, in terms of units, we are a small company on the southern tip of Africa, especially compared to turnover figures of listed companies, but our partnerships make us a big player,” Abdool says.
“For example, our truck supplier in Germany often goes out of its way to customise a truck for us. They look at our needs and help us find solutions. I think these partnerships are our strong points pushing Bakers forward. It’s a winning recipe.”
Abdool manages these relationships so carefully that partners and suppliers have begun to rely on expertise from Bakers S.A. for feedback on their products and services. For instance, if Michelin is looking to pilot a new type of tyre in South Africa, the company will have a chance to test it on various road conditions throughout the country.
“Our attention to detail has become an asset to the brands we work with,” he says. “We give them first-hand attention and loyalty, and we get loyalty in return.”
In 2019, Bakers S.A. concluded a historic deal with Daimler Trucks & Buses Southern Africa to acquire 77 Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks, all of which are Euro V emission standard. Euro V reduces harmful nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions by up to 90% compared to Euro II engines, which are the norm on South African trucks.
They also emit less CO2 than the average truck used throughout the country. “Investing in green solutions does more than just improve our image,” Abdool says. “It also has tangible economic and environmental benefits, which are important to us.”
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