How Twill is helping one UK SME take its 150-year legacy around the world

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One of those countries is the UK, where we have supported 150-year-old manufacturing company, Isaac H. Grainger & Son Ltd. in importing and exporting their products around the world. We spoke to Jan Peacock, the company’s International Sales Manager, and a frequent user of Twill about their business, the impact of COVID-19 and their experience using Twill.

Executive Summary

Can you tell us a bit about your business?

“Isaac Grainger is a 150-year-old manufacturing company based outside Birmingham in the UK. We manufacture metal products for Raised Access Flooring, which is probably the type of floor you’re standing on in your office so that you can plug your computers into the floor or install air conditioning rather than cables coming down the wall.

“We manufacture this product in the UK and in India, and it’s used around Europe. Recently, we’ve been expanding in Spain where I’m now based and we’re setting up a factory.”

COVID-19 is, of course, the big source of disruption around the world right now – how has it impacted you?

“Interestingly enough, we experienced a slowdown in November 2019 long before we had even heard of COVID-19. This accelerated in December and January across the industry. When COVID-19 came onto our radar, we were already very slow in production and it didn’t have a big immediate impact, except for a complete shutdown for two weeks. Customers are generally quite hesitant to place orders at the moment as they don’t know when construction sites will reopen. We’re operating at 50% capacity now and we expect business to pick up towards the end of the summer.

What are your biggest pain points when it comes to transport and logistics?

“To manufacture the full flooring system, we need to ship products from the UK into Spain as well as products from India to the UK and Spain. That’s where seamless, door-to-door shipping becomes very important.

“We’re not a huge customer that ships thousands of containers and has a fixed contract. We order containers as we need them, and the biggest issue for us has been reliability in the time of delivery (ETA) as we operate with a door-to-door policy. This means that if a customer wants a container, we need to tell them the cost of the product, the transportation cost and the arrival date. The biggest problem has been to get a price as this could take as long as two weeks via an agent or freight forwarder. The delivery was also very hard to track and manage when it wasn’t on a vessel. Twill solved these problems.

How critical are these transportation issues in running a smooth operation?

“For our import business in the UK, they are critical. Critical in the sense that we are known as a manufacturer that can produce products with fairly short notice. The customers don’t care if we manufacture in the UK or in India, they just want their product on time. Credibility and the ability to differentiate ourselves from other UK suppliers is very important. This depends on us delivering on time to the construction site, where they rely on us to do the final logistics as they don’t have any storage capacity for our product.

How far can platforms such as Twill take you in overcoming these challenges?

“The platform is very useful, but in the end, it’s the work behind the scenes that really matters. If I log onto Twill today I should be able to, let’s say, ship a container ten days from now, from India, to our factory outside Madrid, Spain, by checking the available ships and the price.

“If our factory manager in India says we’re able to ship a bit earlier, I can do this via the platform rather than having to call someone and wait for confirmation. This flexibility is very important to us because we save time and hassle. Shipping should be like Amazon, that’s the standard these days. Twill knows who you are, you make your booking, get confirmation and my guys in India can log in and talk to their Twill contact locally – it’s a smooth system.

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