Over the last 64 years, Arbor Forest Products (AFP) has grown to become one of the largest independent timber importing businesses in the UK.
The firm’s roots reach all the way back to 1951, when JB Stringer set up a timber business at Hull Docks. The company moved to a new site in New Holland in the mid-1960s, and in 2008 changed its name to Arbor Forest Products.
Today, the company ships more than 225,000 square metres of timber each year to the building, construction and DIY trades from one of the largest privately owned dedicated timber terminals in the UK.
PBM speaks to Guy Best, Arbor Forest Products’ National Sales Manager.
Q How did you get into the industry and to your current position?
I started life as the fifth generation in the family coal business. As coal started to decline, the business diversified into building materials and home delivery, and I progressed into the fencing market, developing my knowledge of the industry.
I joined Arbor Forest Products two years ago, to look after the national accounts.
Q How do you feel the industry has changed in recent years?
For many years, the concept of a merchant was that they received bulk deliveries from supplier, and then broke bulk to the end user. This has changed over the years, due to many factors.
At AFP, our focus is on giving our customers what they want. Over the past five years, we have developed our ‘Warehouse on Wheels’ concept, which enables our customers to receive carcassing, CLS, MDF, decking, machined goods, and roofing battens all on one vehicle, with twice weekly deliveries.
This has helped our customers improve their stock holding and stock turn, while reducing vehicle movements and unloading time.
Q What are the current challenges facing your company?
Staying ahead of the game. We pride ourselves on three key areas: quality of product, quality of service, and quality of people. The challenge is to never forget this, and to seek to develop and improve in these areas on a daily basis.
An example of this would be our new Fibretrim MDF Moulding range, which was launched in 2014 with the most up-to-date manufacturing equipment in the UK. It is a product our customers love, and we are now investing in a second line to insure this quality and demand can grow into 2016 and beyond.
Q Which individual has influenced you most in your career?
Having worked in a family business, my father played a very important role in my early working life. He ensured that I started at the bottom and worked my way up, and this had to be done on merit!
He gave me two very important philosophies to take into life: “remember you are never the most important person”, and “always treat people as you would wish to be treated”. This advice has been invaluable to me.
Q What has been the highlight of your career to date?
To name one would be difficult. The industry is a wonderful place to work and I put this down to the people within it. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than building a partnership that delivers and works for both parties. It’s an industry that enables you to work and play hard!