Recently we met with Terry Charlton, owner of Charlton Recycled Autoparts Ltd, based in Cambridgeshire. With over 40 years in the industry he has experienced many changes and is still not frightened to make them as he adapts to an ever changing market.
Over the years and even until quite recently Terry has always invested heavily in his yard. In the mid 2000’s he made a very conscious effort to create a service in his local area for customers to dispose of their ELVs. Balers were purchased and so was other equipment including a material handler which helped to turn Charlton Recycled Autoparts into a successful and profitable business.
Coming more up to date, last year Terry and his son, Simon, had the opportunity to sell their Pick-a-Part operation based in South London to Recycling Lives. A time he felt was right, plus it gave the opportunity for his son, who by then was heavily involved in the operation, to continue running that particular site and gain the experience to work within a national company. Something Terry said he found invaluable and provided plenty of knowledge in understanding how different sized companies operate.
After the take over by Recycling Lives, Terry was able to focus on his site back in Cambridgeshire. Further investment was made with the instalment of a weighbridge, a fresh concrete floor, further depollution bays and more Recovery trucks. The focus was on volume and getting maximum salvage value out of each vehicle, the use of a Powerhand vehicle dismantler helped to add this value – a piece of equipment Terry stated increased the worth from each vehicle by around 25% because of the option to strip looms and separate the vehicle more efficiently.
However, as much as volume was key, efficiency in the operation was paramount. Terry set about designing a micro processing plant. Which, as the name suggests, was about creating maximum profit out of minimum space. A set up Terry was keen to describe as having only room to store 12 vehicles and with an intake of between 10 and 20 vehicles a day processing had to be quick, effective and proficient. Terry’s focus for creating such a set up was the awareness of how land value is forever increasing. He very much continues to believe that micro processing will be seen more and more in the industry particularly in new established yards.
However, just as Charlton Recycled Autoparts was making a success out of its re-imaging, it was announced in August 2018 that Metal & Waste Recycling Ltd were going to dispose of their Hitchin Shredder (based in Hertfordshire in the next county 20 miles away and which coincided with the completed renovations at Charlton Recycling). With his years of experience, Terry realised if a larger organisation was to buy it, business was sure to decrease for them. This is when Recycling Lives played another part in Terry’s recent history as they have purchased the Hitchin site a short while later.
Terry’s hunch was correct and, although he continued with the microprocessing, he realised there would be a decline in production and profit. When discussing this chapter, Terry was sincere in acknowledging there are a lot more factors to running a successful yard than the amount of vehicles being processed and the price of scrap. Geographical and social implications have to be taken into account. As his yard is situated in a more rural part of the country transport costs have to be taken into consideration. Also, if competitors arrive in such an area, the availability of products can be saturated and greatly reduced. The social aspect is that Cambridgeshire is also modestly affluent and thus its residents may not be exposed to eventual ELVs. Also being a university city, many of its residents do not own vehicles and choose to cycle, an activity encouraged by the local council. Again, such factors reduce the availability of ELVs in the local market.
With Terry reaching a capacity of 300 cars a week, his years of experience told him that the current market locally and nationally was not going to suit the present business model. As he said: “There are not enough cars to go round for the capacity of yards out there handling ELVs. Too many businesses chasing too few cars.”
But, as you can imagine, this is not the end of Charlton’s recyclers. Terry told us the pressures of dealing with end of life vehicles is constant, from maintenance of equipment, advertising for vehicles to dealing with staff; an intense management overall. So for Terry it was quite a relief to put an end to this chapter. He said it is important to know when to make a break and realise when to rethink and diversify. There are many different business models to consider when recycling vehicles and each of them have their merits and challenges.
Terry has always enjoyed dismantling and selling parts, and now prefers to concentrate on 4x4s. A cross section including Land Rover, pick-up trucks and an old favourite of Terry’s, the Jeep. Focus will be mainly on newer models.
He is currently submitting a plan for a 20,000 square foot parts warehouse, the site is one and a quarter acres, so half the site will consist of the warehouse. Yard space is not important but parts space is. By pulling out of the ELV side of the business it will change their cash flow to allow them to develop 4×4 dismantling.
The aim is to process 200-300 vehicles a year which is achievable due to specialising in a variety of 4x4s not only this but, because of limiting the types of models coming in, a better knowledge is gained in order to understand their customers requirements.
Terry said: “I’m personally quite excited and optimistic about this, often in anything you need a revolution and so a change of direction is good and I can now focus my time just on 4×4 parts and not have the distraction of ELVs.”
With such experience, it shows that we all need to be prepared to adjust and move with the times. Terry’s enthusiasm for the industry is just as infectious now as it ever was. He is heavily involved with the ARA and also the IRT, attending events and visiting friends around the world involved with the recycling of vehicles. To still be involved in this industry after all of these years only proves that his knowledge and insight helps to diversify and develop. He is happy to change his spots but he still the same sharp and aware cat underneath
If you would like to find out more about Charlton Recycled Autoparts Ltd, visit their website at www.charltonautoparts.co.uk