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Martin Port Interview - King Of The Castle

16 January, 2011

Masternaut has gone from start-up to the biggest telematics firm in Europe in eight years. UK MD Martin Port explains how, to Steve Moody, editor of Fleet World.

Martin Port is very much king of his castle. Not only because he has built up Masternaut Three X from start-up to part of Europe's largest tracking business in eight years, but because he actually has a castle too.
Well, a priory to be exact, but it is an imposingly stony edifice nonetheless and as you sweep up the drive it certainly creates an impression of solidity that few in the tracking industry have managed to project over the past few years.

Behind the listed building, ultra-modern glass and wood offices create the main working environment for the 150 employees working in this idyllic location in a village just outside Leeds. But there is substance behind the surroundings: late last year Masternaut Three X was acquired by Masternaut International, a subsidiary of Hub Telecom owned by Europe's second largest airport group, Aeroports de Paris, in the process creating Europe's largest fully integrated telematics, mobile resource and fleet management solutions organisation.
The group now turns over in excess of £2.2 billion each year. Hub Telecom has over 40 years' experience in the telecommunications sector.
Back in 2002, Martin Port started out with the UK rights to Masternaut while in France a business contact started up the European arm. The two firms grew until the point where they have now converged again, with the UK side the biggest operator of telematics.

Along the way, Masternaut Three X has made a number of acquisitions of its own. In 2008 the firm acquired internet service provider Fibre City and Microsoft Gold Partner ICM Business Solutions, as well as owning a minority stake in Masternaut Australia and also in Sanef Tolling in the UK, which was set up in 2008 to conduct road user charging trials for the Department for Transport. In those eight years, Port has proved that tracking companies can be successful, high-value businesses, with Masternaut Three X now turning over around £20 million a year and strong profits off the back of that. 'We currently have around 65,000 vehicles being tracked in the UK, but our plan is that by 2015 that number will have 150,000 units,' he says, without any hint of arrogance.
Clients include United Biscuits, which managed to cut out three million unnecessary road miles using Masternaut's system, Harrods, Nestle, Indesit, DHL, PH5, Travis Perkins and Dragon's Den winners Igloo Thermologistics.
In fact, in the priory's reception there are hundreds of small vans on a wall, each displaying a customer's logo. It seems that although you might not realise it, Masternaut's black boxes are all around you.

So what underpins this success?
Understanding the returns telematics can achieve, Port says.
'The thing with tracking is that it is not about the black box as such - it is about the return on investment. If you invest a certain amount, what will you save by doing that? In that sense, the box only facilitates the saving. Some tracking firms have got too obsessed with what the technology can do, and not what it allows the business to do.
'So when we go into a firm, we act as a consultant. That means looking at the way they work, their processes and fleet, and then seeing how they can make efficiencies in all sorts of areas such as job booking, time, fuel, distances travelled and so on. 'The technology helps the company to achieve those, but it is not about selling little black boxes - it is about so much more than that. For example, we offer customer relationship management software that allows businesses to book jobs, track cars and contact clients. And this is where our telematics is going, integrating deeply into the way businesses work:

Where to next?
Although Port believe that by 2015 the company will be going live with 30,000 units annually, Masternaut Three X will have to buy too if it wants to expand beyond the areas it currently operates in.
'We are always on the look-out for more acquisitions, especially in the software arena. 'But we develop our own technologies here and in France, rather than buy in tracking technology as many do. That's why we've been able to be so strong while others have struggled: Port believes there are so many areas that telematics can help businesses, once they really drill down into what they do. As an example, he cites the building trade, where so much time is wasted going to and from suppliers to get parts and equipment. Being properly managed and using telematics would enables such firms to understand exactly how much time, and fuel is being wasted doing this. Port reckons that using telematics could make the frustrating 'got to nip out for a part, love, be back in a couple of hours' line a thing of the past by integrating supplier and customer more closely.

But while revolutionising the way many industries operate is one for the future, saving fuel by routing the closest vehicle and weeding out problem drivers is still at the heart of the proposition.
Port says that Masternaut Three X's web·based vehicle tracking service tracks more than 100 million fleet miles each month, resulting in major fuel savings for customers of about £4 million each month and around 750,000 gallons of fuel, or an average saving of about 10% on fuel use per vehicle. He says: 'This is clear proof that vehicle tracking is an essential aid to reducing unnecessary fuel use and costs. Through better route planning, improving driving behaviour and removing waste, the Masternaut service is slashing the cost of transport for our customers by more than £4 million a month. Few other technologies could claim to have such a positive impact. In addition, the decrease in fleet carbon footprints is good for society in general:
With so many telematics firms either finding it hard to get beyond selling the technology to making it genuinely useful to business operations,or struggling with funding, it's refreshing to see a company leading the way and succeeding.


Masternaut Three X, Priory Park, Great North Road, Aberford, Leeds, LS25 3DF
Telephone: 08444 150 150
Fax: 0113 281 4009
e-mail: info@masternaut.co.uk


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