Last year saw Martin Williams (Hull) Ltd celebrating its 25th anniversary and since its creation in 1990 it has become one of the UK’s leading commercial vehicle bodybuilders, truck mounted crane supplier/installers and accident repair centres. This reputation has been built on the company’s commitment to quality customer service through continual investment and the strong family values that permeate throughout the business.
“We remain very much a family company run by my father Martin Williams, who is Managing Director, my brother Chris Williams and myself,” explains Nick Williams, Director. “We started out predominately in commercial vehicle accident repairs and developed into vehicle body building and body manufacturing around 12 years ago. This also includes crane equipment of various different descriptions for all sorts of applications in the construction industry.”
Situated on a seven-acre site just outside Hull in East Yorkshire, Martin Williams’ workshop is over 65,000 sq ft with 100-plus staff supporting its operations. In addition to its impressive facilities and workforce, another key weapon in the company’s armoury has been the close working relationships it has developed with its supplier base, most notably the recent arrangement it has secured with Effer, the Italian crane manufacturer.
“Effer approached us at the back of 2015 to ask us if we’d like to take over the arrangement they had in place with another company,” points out Nick. “In terms of what attracted them to us, the fact we’ve got nationwide service coverage and a wealth of experience with large crane equipment were major factors.”
With such a strong pedigree Martin Williams has been able to hit the ground running with the Effer arrangement. “It’s been very successful so far and we’ve already achieved some very good sales,” says Nick. “With Effer’s specialism in large cranes there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity there for us. Their engineering expertise is second to none and the materials they use are also first class. They use Weldox 1300, a very high grade steel, for many of their cranes. It is extremely difficult to fabricate but is lightweight and yet extremely strong.
“Another distinct advantage of the Effer arrangement is that they can provide several stability systems and larger lifting solutions that few other crane manufacturers can match. If the customer has a larger lift or an unusual configuration most of the other manufacturers shy away from it, whereas Effer will design a bespoke attachment to suit.”
Effer’s forward-thinking ethos dovetails perfectly with Martin Williams’ own approach as it receives a significant volume of enquiries for highly bespoke builds, particularly projects that many crane manufacturers simply cannot accommodate. “In contrast we’re able to go to Effer with every enquiry and between our respective design departments we can come up with a solution. They have an exceptional engineering and research and development department in Italy, which in turn has enabled them to open numerous doors for us.
“Effer is a fantastic brand with a portfolio of superb products, the benefits of which are clear, but there also challenges that we are working on to ensure that we fully maximise the opportunities they are presenting us with. These challenges are associated with building the aftersales network to support the clear potential within the marketplace. This is what we’re on with at the moment, as we strive to put the infrastructure in place to provide national coverage on a 24/7 basis. Historically the aftersales provision hasn’t been at the same quality as the products so we’re looking to continue improving in this area and developing it further.
“We are in the process of building up the aftersales network and we have engineers that have undertaken Effer training, which really underlines our commitment and the investment that we’re making. For instance, we’ve just invested £100,000 in our stock of Effer parts in order to help cut lead-times. Buying a crane obviously involves a large initial outlay and when you’re talking about the 100-tonne-plus category customers expect it to be kept running with the bare minimum of downtime, with any breakdowns being serviced straightaway.”
“It’s essential that we have in-depth product knowledge within the organisation, as well as a well-stocked portfolio of spares and parts,” says Jon Cooper, National Sales Manager. “Being able to fully support our customers’ crane needs throughout the country is imperative to our long-term success. When Nick and myself originally went to see Effer in Italy we were adamant that the technical support we received and our access to parts had to be right for us to be able to provide the high level of service that we are striving for. The UK is a very demanding market, much more so than in parts of mainland Europe, and this is why we have to be at the top of our game all of the time.”
Although there is still some work to do, it is apparent that the clear point of difference that stems from the Effer connection is allowing Martin Williams to capitalise on the growing opportunities within the marketplace that other operators aren’t able to fulfil.
“The main areas for potential growth for us are on the heavy lifting side, as well as general plant and equipment hire,” adds Jon. “Truck-mounted cranes rather than mobile cranes are carrying out more of the lifts because they are more cost effective as the initial capital outlay isn’t as high, plus they can be transported around more easily.”
With over two and a half decades’ experience under its belt, coupled with its strong internal infrastructure and its robust relationships with its supplier base, including Effer, Martin Williams is now looking to build on its already illustrious history moving forward.
“Our main aims for the rest of 2016 are to further strengthen our brand and to continue providing the necessary support framework our customers require,” concludes Nick. “There are quite a number of existing Effer customers out there and many businesses have bought their cranes from a couple of other suppliers previously, so it’s all about making sure the support network is in place for them. We’ll therefore be continuously building our infrastructure to underpin this.
“The over-riding objective, however, is to make Effer the Number One choice for heavy lifting cranes in the UK. Many manufacturers have fitting departments for the cranes but they have to then ship them off to a body builder to carry out the necessary body works and painting etc. In contrast we’re able to offer a complete one stop shop service where a chassis comes in, we fit the crane and the required body work, before carrying out the painting using our two spray booths, which are amongst the biggest in Europe.
“Basically it’s all about providing a service where the customer can come along and ask for ‘this, this, that and that’ and we’re be able to deliver each and every aspect for them. We’re also always looking to add further bolt-on services where we can, as we’re a very forward-thinking company. This is vital as the market changes on an almost weekly basis. If we’re not constantly moving forward, then we’re effectively going backwards. It’s all about continually improving our one-stop-shop offering and ensuring that we have cranes that are fully mounted and ready to just drive away.”
This is an approach that has obviously served Martin Williams well during the past 25 years or so. It is sure to continue doing so, particularly as the Effer relationship strengthens further over time.