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Rising from the ashes –

A Lae truck parts supplier has risen from the ashes to be back in business within days of a blaze destroying the company’s warehouse.

Transparts International, a supplier of essential truck parts to the PNG resources industry, shifted the business to managing director Justin Connolly’s home as staff worked to ensure customers’ orders were met.

The company had just celebrated 10 years at the corner of Milforhaven Road and Malaita Street when a fire started at a wholesale food supplier next door at about 3pm on February 1.

Later that night, the blaze spread to Transpart’s premises, with the two-storey building and stock worth millions of kina destroyed by midnight.

Determined to keep the business going, employees began working from Connolly’s home in Lae before relocating to new premises just a few weeks later.

“Once the fire took hold, we had no chance of putting it out,” Connolly told PNG Report.

“We’d been there for 10 years. We would have had about 1200 square metres – it was a fair bit of space.

“By about midnight, the warehouse was gone. We couldn’t salvage anything out of there.”

The next day Connolly was in contact with a real estate agent and the management team was viewing potential new company premises.

A decision was quickly made and contracts signed that allowed the firm to begin setting up in new premises at the corner of Abel Tasman Street and Malaita Street.

“This was just an open shed with no offices,” he added.

“We knocked this up in four to five weeks and were operating from my house in the meantime.

“We were also air freighting a lot of stock, a cost which was absorbed by us to keep the continuity going for our customers.

“We were fortunate that we have satellite stores which are based within transport companies. So we were able to draw stock down from them.

“Whatever we didn’t have we were flying in.”

While the management team quickly took charge of finding a suitable building, Connolly praised the team effort that enabled Transparts to maintain a high level of service to customers.

“The team effort by all the staff was really, really good, although we did have to let some people go, which was sad,” he added.
“As the business builds back up again, we’ll be looking for more people – but it has to be the right people.

“We’ll be here for another 12 months or so until our new custom-designed premises are built and ready to lease nearby.

“People have been really understanding about the situation and word of mouth around Lae has helped ensure locally based customers know where we are.

“Our email addresses and contact numbers haven’t changed.

“Yes, we are open. Yes, we have got stock coming in. We’re still going and we are gaining momentum. And we’ll probably end up being bigger, better and faster.

“We had to target and prioritise which were our key elements, which were based around the transport industry.

“Then we go into other things such as safety and consumables. The major things were the parts for the prime movers, the tankers, the trailers and engine parts, which is the core element of what we do.

“We’re still waiting for the insurance money so all of this has been self-financed but that’s just a normal process for insurers. Once those funds come back in, we’ll be able to expand further.

“From the time of the fire, effectively within three months we’ve had about 20 containers of stock coming in. It didn’t stop us in our tracks.

“We had a problem but we sat down and worked out how to get the stock here.

“And once we got that momentum going again it became easier.”

Months after the blaze, Transparts now employs 48 people. And while the new premises is thriving, satellite stores remain a key component of the business.

Connolly also paid tribute to the level of support provided to the company by customers.

“It’s been overwhelming,” he said.

“Customers have given us a lot of support. I don’t think anyone could have believed that we moved as quickly as we have.

“That’s the message that we’re trying to get out – we’re still exactly the same Transparts and we’ll keep on going.

“Obviously there are different tiers of customers but we deal with pretty much all of the majors and they have been really helpful.”

While customers have been supportive, Connolly said Transparts’ suppliers had been “outstanding”, which allowed the company to keep the continuity and momentum going.

“It’s been a balancing act to try and do that and a lot of money has been spent just getting the new premises up and running and getting the business going again,” he added.

“The absolute goal is to improve on the business we had before.

“I’ve built Transparts from the beginning by myself.

“Over the next 12 months we will run as fast and as hard as we possibly can. But it’s not just about making money for the company – it’s a two-way street and we want to give it back.

“It’s a win-win situation.”