Not unlike its counterparts, under the logistics umbrella, Aitken Spence Containers, began as a division of Aitken Spence Shipping and was based in Vauxhall Street. Spearheaded at the time by the inimitable Mr. Suriyakumar, who personally visited the port to work on the containers until the historic night in 1979 the Ports Authority made a sudden decision to move all containers out of the area, for want of space. Given just two or three days to make the move, the outfit cleared and re-located to a company-owned land in Mattakuliya, from whence it continued to function as a division of Aitken Spence Shipping. In 1981, it was incorporated as Ace Containers.
In 1989, security restrictions in the Mattakuliya area forced another move. This time, to the eventual 20 acre land in Mabole. This shift proved to be an unexpected gold nugget, for in expanding the initial 12 acres, Ace Containers found a spring board for diversification. The experience in filling and developing the land led to the purchase of the adjacent seventy perches, which were then re-sold for housing development.
The company, which processes a container every two minutes, was the first container depot in Sri Lanka has been the largest transport operator for the last 5 years, with at least 100 trucks on the road at a given moment. It currently has the biggest bulk liquid transportation service in the country. In addition, they have pioneered services such as multi-country consolidation, third party logistics and transportation and installation of over-dimensional cargo.
Competitors, including the likes of John Keells and Hayleys, have come and gone. Yet, Aitken Spence Containers has endured. The company, which began as a container depot operation and later grew into a diversified company, credits its success to several factors which includes the ability to diversify at the right time. The fact that when the company started, capital investment was much less and that they now have the resources to service customers with little to no down-time, is a result of the dedication and teamwork of the staff.
Sources from within, give credit to all the dedicated staff, for they all play an important role. Employees are empowered and encouraged to discuss issues openly, via regular meetings and unit outings. An open-door environment is cultivated: fostering the feeling that work is less like an office and more like a second home. Indeed, the building exudes an air of confidence on entrance. For, far from the confused bustling about seen in other companies of this nature, staff are seen working quietly. Conversations observed are not carried out in hushed, hurried tones but, in poised, secure voices. This reflects in the company’s success, for it has grown over 100% in the last five years and is one of the most asset-rich companies in the group.
It is the teamwork seen here that convinces the observer, that the company’s plans for eventual regional expansion will meet with nothing less than resounding success.
Ace Magazine – Issue 7 – Vol 1