20 incredible years: the evolution of ETC


When Evolution Time Critical – or as it was originally known, Evolution Logistics – was founded, the world was yet to hear of Facebook or use an iPhone. It would be hard to convey the passing of time and the significance of the business’s experience more clearly. Now, in 2021, we are celebrating our 20th anniversary. Two incredible decades of achievement in the most demanding facet of the logistics sector.

The beginning

In 2001, the world of logistics was relatively stale. Innovations were few and far between and it was yet to experience the unbridled wave of innovation spurred on by the internet. It was at this time that Evolution was launched and quickly secured its first contract – Land Rover.

Founding partner Brad Brennan received a 5pm call from an old contact at the world-renowned vehicle manufacturer. They urgently needed parts from the Czech Republic to launch production of the new Range Rover: “I don’t suppose you can do it?” We took a chance, committed to the challenge and delivered on time. This relationship grew rapidly, reaching multiple jobs daily – the foundation of a long-standing partnership that exists to this day.

As word-of-mouth about this last-minute capability spread, the demand for these services grew quickly. Within two years, the company was reinvented as Evolution Time Critical to support increasingly lean automotive supply chains. With global ambitions and the desire to maximise the benefit we could provide, we introduced a 3-shift, 24/7 operations. Soon, even this was not enough, with 2003 seeing the introduction of a fourth shift for weekend operations.

Clearly, there was demand within the UK for time-critical logistics, but what about Europe? And the rest of the world?

Expansion and new challenges

In 2005, we had developed our European client base to the point where it was necessary to invest in a presence in mainland Europe. To fulfil continental requirements – Germany and Eastern Europe, in particular – we opened ETC Deutschland. Operating from Düsseldorf airport, our new office was also staffed 24/7, 365 days a year.

This was a fortuitous move, with the world’s vehicle manufacturing supply chain growing more globalised with each passing year. This was the basis of our expansion into consulting. As part of this new offering, we developed Contingency Planning reports for customers engaging with new suppliers and new locations around the world. The purpose? These would allow us to rapidly implement dependable logistics solutions if the supply chain were to break down for whatever reason.

This proactive approach to developing logistics solutions was ground-breaking. Instead of reacting to an unknown situation and scrambling to develop solutions, we had a preconceived plan. This approach made ETC an invaluable support during crises, strengthening our relationships with customers, actively working with them to counter all of the ‘what-if’ scenarios.

Unpredictability the only certainty

Whether natural or man-made, all kinds of events have caused our customers trouble over the past 20 years. Whether it was bad weather sweeping across Europe in 2007-8 or the global financial crisis (GFC) of 2007-9, we were depended upon to deliver emergency logistics solutions in all manner of difficult and unstable circumstances. While many businesses suffered terribly during the GFC, prudent financial management ensured ETC’s survival and we emerged from that period stronger than ever before.

The natural disasters, however, continued to disrupt supply chains. The 2010 snow disruptions, breath-taking Icelandic volcano eruption, 2011 Japanese tsunami and hurricane Harvey in 2017 saw us implementing solutions for a host of clients – maintaining production and factory uptime wherever possible.

Industrial action and Europe-wide austerity strikes also featured heavily in this decade. These disruptions varied in severity, but all required agile and reliable solutions to be implemented at very short notice.

A new chapter and commoditisation

While challenges continued to disrupt customers, Evolution was growing too. This success didn’t go unnoticed, either. In 2016, ETC was acquired by its current parent company, Metro Supply Chain Group. Within a year, a new USA office had been opened in Atlanta, Georgia.

We noticed other trends too. While emergency logistics originally started at the plant level with material planning teams, over the years this has evolved dramatically. When corporate purchasing departments identified the necessity of the service and the need for consistency and volume pricing, they went out of their way to identify and select dependable partners.

Now, much of the business is tendered and won on platforms. Whilst bringing scale and efficiency to multi-tendering, the balance of risk vis-à-vis reliability of solution can be overlooked in a drive to get the best cost, limiting the creativity between logistics partners and suppliers.    

Unprecedented times and looking forward

The past 18 months have seen some of the most unpredictable and devastating moments for the global supply chain. Brexit in Europe, a blocked Suez Canal and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout all of this, we have worked tirelessly with our customers to rapidly resolve issues – it seems some things never change!

Looking to the future, we are preparing for the incredible insight and benefits provided by Big Data, the Internet of Things, and the rise of Artificial Intelligence. Equally, our customers face the unfortunate reality that climate change will result in increasingly unpredictable weather and natural disasters. One thing is for certain, though, we will stand ready to provide our customers with clever solutions at a moment’s notice. Here’s to the next 20 years of challenges!

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