Posted on Wednesday 25 January 2017 by Ulster Business
You would be hard pushed to find a better advocate for the logistics sector than Val Smith.
Her enthusiasm for the industry in which she has built a very successful career is second-to-none and it is one in which she is hugely knowledgeable.
“It is the most exciting industry to work in,” she told Ulster Business.
“If you want something outside the nine-to-five then there are so many opportunities in logistics.
“If you have good organisation skills, a bucket load of common sense and a willingness to learn, then you’ll get the best training and career prospects available.”
Val should know, having worked her way up through the industry to become boss of Bond Delivery.
After a stint at Ulster Bank after leaving school, Val came to her vocation in the distribution depot of Rank Hovis on the Ravenhill Road – one of the first firms in Northern Ireland to have equal pay for both men and women – where she rose up through the ranks to run the depot.
From there it was on to Bond Delivery, the then Imperial Tobacco-owned company she would go on to head, initially to run the company’s administration from the Castlereagh headquarters before it moved to Boucher Road.
The sale of the business by the tobacco giant saw a brief period of ownership by Rockwood Holdings before it was bought by the current owner McBurney Transport, a move which propagated significant growth.
“We started building the company from there and were able to offer full service collection from anywhere in the UK to Northern Ireland,” Val said.
Contracts with the likes of Shop Electric, as well as with ESB and Gallahers in the Republic on the back of its tobacco delivery experience, followed necessitating a new warehouse in Nutts Corner.
A contract with a major clothing retailer soon saw that site expanded with a second warehouse and, despite losing Shop Electric to its receivership, that focus on diversification into retail and ambient food saw Bond Delivery go from strength-to-strength.
That business continues apace at present with the addition of a sports retailer, a parcel company the ability to deliver right across the island of Ireland.
Its pick-and-pack operation at Nutts Corner means if you order a certain brand of clothing before midnight and Bond Delivery will have it with you the next day through a fleet of seven vans which run from 2am to deliver to customers and to stores.
The business now employs 200 people and looks set to continue on an upward trajectory.
“We excel in the niche market place where we’re offering added value,” Val said.
“We’re always asking what more we can do for our clients and have built up new strands of business by doing just that.”
While forging ahead, Val acknowledges the industry here has challenges, particularly when it comes to recruitment.
“We have a major driver shortage in Northern Ireland. The anti-social hours make it difficult to attract young people into the sector but it provides such great opportunities and we need to shout about that.
“These are highly-trained people armed with a host of knowledge and we need to shine a light on them.”
Val has certainly been doing her bit for the industry, having been the first female chair of the UK-wide body The Road Haulage Association and remains passionate about getting more women into the sector.
If any incentive were needed, just ask Val if she enjoys her job.
“I love it. I’m never bored as there’s always something happening.
“It is the most exciting industry to work in.”
With that, Val’s off to make sure your Christmas deliveries are on time.
She, like the industry, never stops.