CV Show

David Brown Managing Director – United Pallet Network

David Brown Managing Director – United Pallet Network

“At UPN, we have a genuine friendly big family feel right across our business. It’s a very special thing.”

United Pallet Network (UPN) has been making great strides over recent years. As the only privately-owned business focussed totally on Pallet Networking, the company is now firmly established as a leading player in this fast growing and unique logistics sector. 

Truck and Track sat down recently with David Brown UPN Managing Director to find out more about him, how he came into Pallet Networking, how he sees UPN and how he envisages the development of the sector in 2023 and beyond.

So David, firstly it would be nice to find out a bit about you. Are you a family man? What are your interests?

“I’m very much a family man. Shelley and I have been together for over 30 years, have three kids - well, not so much kids now - and one grandchild.

“I’m a big animal lover. In fact, you could say that I have my own zoo with horses, dogs, cats and goats. Yes - you could say I’m a spare time Farmer Giles. My other big passion is Liverpool FC, come on the Reds! 

“I’m originally from Ely in Cambridgeshire and I moved around a bit as a youngster because my Dad was in the RAF, but then I spent most of my youth in Northamptonshire.”

And how did you get into logistics? Was it a career plan? 

“Not really! My career journey started like most people in logistics - I fell into it. Again, like most entrants into logistics, I was given an opportunity to grow and take responsibility early in my career.

“I’m a big believer in fate. My career started when I signed up with a temp staff agency and, along with another guy, joined
De Longhi – the household appliance company. Our first job was to handball 6,000 deep fat fryers off a container. Exciting stuff but it kept me fit! Fate then came in. They needed to lose one temp, potentially me. The agency asked the other guy first. He couldn’t do it but I could, and my career began!”

How did it go at De Longhi? Were you successful?

“I eventually took a permanent role at
De Longhi and, after a couple of years in the warehouse, moved to an office position in admin support. I was then promoted to become responsible for management of the De Longhi Irish subsidiary and, at 21, took over the role of Warehouse and Distribution Manager, before becoming the overall Logistics Manager for the company. So yes, you could say that De Longhi gave me a real opportunity to develop as a Logistics professional.”

And how did your move into Pallet Networking with UPN come about?

“That’s where fate came in again. I met UPN Founder and Chairman - Martyn Chapman. Martyn was a Panic Link Franchisee, and he was actually working for me, handling De Longhi parcel shipments. Through our mutual love of Liverpool FC, we established a solid working relationship over many years.

“After 17 years at De Longhi, a company and role I really loved, opportunity knocked. I was offered a big promotion, but it did mean I needed to relocate and re-establish myself but it didn’t feel right.

“By that time, Martyn had founded and was expanding his highly successful new pallet network at a rate of knots. It was an expansion I was close to through my connections with Martyn. UPN was going well.

“I used Martyn as a sounding board for this career-defining quandary, and Martyn surprised me with his inputs. “Have you ever thought of working for me?”, was Martyn’s response. “I need a good Commercial/Operations Director and I think you’re just the man”. Fast forward 17 years, and I’m now UPN Managing Director having been in the position since 2015.”

What’s different in the Pallet Network Sector now? How has it changed over that time?

“I’ve seen many sector changes over the years: the improvement in the credibility of pallet networks as a logistics option, the improved systemisation within networks, mergers and acquisitions, new technology, the impressive growth in volumes within the sector and the growth of the B2C market.

“Its definitely a much more professional and mature sector now with an established reputation for service quality and reliability at the forefront of which is UPN.

“Cutting edge IT systems are making a great difference for UPN members and we are growing strongly and steadily as a network. Indeed, in the 17 years I have been here, we have grown 800%. Our membership now includes over 90 high quality hauliers across the UK.

“The UPN journey through the millennium has seen many changes as the network established its position in the sector with a series of firsts. The first extended pallet range including the unique “Micro Pallet”, the first bespoke signature capture system, the first live signature capture app, the introduction of cutting edge “SmartHUB IT Systems” and, this year, the launch of SmartSCORE - its new customer experience feedback platform.”

So David, what makes you tick? And why do you see UPN as different from other networks?

“Loyalty is a big thing for me - both personally and professionally. As I said, I’ve been with Shelley for over 30 years, and I’ve worked in just two companies, for 17 years each. I’m extremely passionate about UPN, our staff, our members and the industry. It was said somewhere that “If you find a job you love, you never have to “work” another day”, I love working at UPN, and I love everything about our industry.

“I’m very much a people person and I love working with our members. They are my kind of people. Hard working business owners, driven individuals who really care about their staff, their businesses and their families. It’s a fantastic sector to be involved in, building REAL relationships with REAL people and developing great personal friendships in the process.

“I like to think my personality is channelled through UPN. We are a people business with very loyal staff across all areas, many of whom have been with UPN since the very early days. We are truly member focussed and very big on “Team UPN”, all of us working together as a network and helping each other on a daily basis.”

Can you give an example of that togetherness in action?

“A wonderful example occurred very recently when UPN Member, HBC Logistics of Biggleswade were hit with a huge and totally unexpected problem. A new customer, a big one, had commissioned HBC Logistics to handle an extra movement from Italy. It was a big deal. The shipment was a brand new product that needed to be at a client in Swansea, a company developing a major new contract with a major supermarket chain.

“A dedicated vehicle handled the movement all the way to Swansea from Italy. Until, at Swansea Services, ten miles from the destination point. National Highways held the vehicle due to a mechanical defect. It wasn’t going anywhere. The shipment wasn’t moving. The contract and new client were in huge danger of being lost.

“HBC Logistics were in big trouble. We recommended they call Stephen Morgan, the Depot Principal of our Swansea-based UPN member AT Morgan and Son to see if he could help. I have to say, Stephen was absolutely awesome in his response. 

“Ben Weldon – a Director at HBC Logistics, caught him at around 6.00pm as he was having dinner. Stephen immediately jumped in his van and headed for Swansea Services to check out the situation. He then got in touch with the client to let them know the situation.

“The next morning, Stephen personally took a truck and forklift vehicle down to the services. He then switched the load to his vehicle and made the delivery the next morning. Stephen then sorted the mechanical problem out for the Italian Driver. Unbelievable! A fabulous example of going the extra mile!

“UPN are well positioned for smaller hauliers and quality new entrants to the sector because of our flexibility and hands on support. We are also great for the bigger players because our service offering is the best in the sector.

“UPN people are different and we provide real support. To UPN, our members are much more than just a number. We are professional and expert but not soulless. We have a real personality as a group and care passionately about our members and users of our services.”

So, to the future David, how do you see it?

“Well, its looking like the pace of change and innovation is accelerating with the evolution of new automation initiatives and the growing influence of Artificial Intelligence. Indeed, UPN already has members introducing electric powered vehicle fleets. Watch this space for further developments here.”

And how do you see UPN moving forward?

“We are always striving to lead the sector. It’s definitely NOT all about the bottom line. It’s about development through solid partnerships and strong stable growth for all of us. We’re a people business, driven by people.”

What keeps you energised and motivated?

“As I said earlier, I love my job, love the staff, love the members and love the challenges that are thrown up. Life is never boring - I learn and grow from the many challenges that come my way. As MD there are so many areas I get involved in. Indeed, I’m so passionate I even went back to school recently to promote the logistics industry at a careers session at a local Lichfield Secondary School.

“I love seeing our “home grown timber” progress within UPN. In the same way I did, I like to see our staff given the opportunity to progress upwards within the company. It’s great to see people get the same opportunities I had. I always look to promote from within if I can.

“I’m highly supportive of all our members and all our staff indeed sometimes possibly too loyal. But that’s what I feel is different about UPN. We have a genuine friendly big family feel right across our business. It’s a very special thing.”