Question: How did you get into the temperature-controlled distribution sector and what is your role within ACS&T Logistics?
First of all, I would like to thank Martyn and the team at TCS&D for inviting me to this discussion. Whilst ACS&T may not be the tallest peak in the extensive mountain range of 3PL providers, we believe we have a different customer-orientated proposition, and as we are in our centenary year, then it proves we are around for the long haul!
My tenure as Managing Director at ACS&T is less than one year. However, I joined at an exciting time as we embark on our five-year strategy built around growth and customer need, all delivered by our excellent team of people who have an enviable track record of getting it right the first time.
However, my whole career (now more than thirty years!) has been within Logistics and can be split into three phases. Most people have spent at least some of their career within 3PL as it provides an excellent grounding in best practice, innovation and different customer styles and procedures. And over twenty years, I gained from just that, progressing from graduate trainee through to Business Unit Director. The apparent limitation of 3PL is its niche in warehousing and transport, and I wanted to have greater involvement both upstream into procurement, and downstream into the end-user, so it was time to move onto phase two that covered the next ten years. That phase embraced convenience retail, and whilst we all say we work in the most challenging sector, managing multi-temperature small order multi-drop to more than 4,000 delivery points all independently owned, is a great test of commercial and operational skills as convenience retailers have some of the highest service expectation within the industry!
All of that experience has come together at ACS&T as we accentuate our real point of difference within the cold store and logistics sector.
Question: Can you firstly tell us what temperature controlled vehicles that ACS&T Logistics operates?
Our daily operation consists of a complex mix of time-critical factory clearance, full load movement around the UK, and a high quality national less than full load consolidation service that enables small orders to be delivered cost-effectively and reliably. These services focus on the frozen food markets, but we also operate an ambient curtain side fleet and operate chill as required.
Our tractor units are predominantly Scania and Volvo, supported by 26 pallet single temperature box trailers, 30 pallet temperature-control box trailers, 26 pallet temperature-control trailers with automated loading systems, and ambient curtain side trailers. This fleet mix gives us considerable flexibility to optimise load fill and eliminate inefficient journeys.
Question: What has been the most important technical development in your temperature controlled bodies and refrigeration systems in recent years and how has it impacted on your operations within ACS&T Logistics?
I think the best is about to come! Not surprisingly, in recent years, ACS&T has taken advantage of the significant improvement in fridge technology covering weight, operating cost and noise. Whilst everyone will have a view on the forthcoming ban on red diesel in trailer refrigeration (TRU’s), it is now forcing step-change innovation both in mechanical fridges but also in 100% electric TRU’s to give more flexible alternatives to the earlier hydrogen and nitrogen alternatives. Our challenge as operators is that with a short implementation lead time (bearing in mind the lifecycle of a trailer and TRU), we all face a cost penalty from April 2022, and for ACS&T that runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds until the trailer lifecycle completes.
Question: Are you using telematics across your fleet currently? If so, what advantages do you see this gives your clients?
Telematics is an essential feature in every transport operation, and there are options to suit almost every type of operation regardless of size. Here at ACS&T, we are currently reviewing options for our next generation telematics as the benefits of an integrated solution that delivers on driver performance, temperature monitoring, and customer information suites are vital to daily operation and customer compliance and data needs. To date, we have been using Seven Telematics for all of the live temperature tracking and GPRS activity, linked to the Scania and Volvo telematics for encouraging improved driver performance. The latest systems offer fantastic and valuable functionality at very competitive pricing.
Question: Customer needs are constantly changing, so what are you finding is now the biggest request from your customers?
The pandemic has created a different operating environment for most companies, and the stand-out words are flexibility and responsiveness. For all the right reasons, customers chase very competitive pricing. More recently, low pricing is not always so valuable if it comes at the expense of poor service and end-user dissatisfaction. That is why we have maintained and improved our customer communication and service criteria in recent times, as our customers need to react to changing sales opportunities – and need a reliable partner who can also do exactly that.
Of equal importance, our customers increasingly resonate with our environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) agenda. Our high ethical standards and commitment to doing the right thing for our customers and our colleagues make an objective point of difference in our approach and ethos.
Question: What environmental measures does ACS&T Logistics incorporate to ensure best practice?
Camellia Plc owns ACS&T, and our parent company works in partnership with The Carbon Trust for a Fleet Audit Assessment and an Energy Audit of our cold stores. Both audits are incredibly detailed and use a data-rich approach to comparing energy usage in our operations against industry best practice on critical criteria to assess overall management standard for warehousing and transport.
Therefore, not only can we explain our performance and our policies with clarity to our customers and our colleagues, but we have objective self-improvement programmes that have a clear investment and return measurement based upon the outputs of these audits. This objective approach enables us to demonstrate substance and action in an arena typified by talk and intent.
Question: Could you tell us a little more about your temperature controlled storage solutions please?
Our cold store warehouses are conveniently located to provide national coverage and are based at Grimsby, Wolverhampton and Tewkesbury. Together, they provide frozen storage for around 70,000 pallets and can be configured for various activities and incorporate different pallet configurations. Whilst operating at three locations, we have thirteen buildings and up to twenty-eight chambers. This system gives us considerable flexibility to operate very different customer specifications at the exact location and offer complete segregation for products such as organics, etc. Each site can also provide a suite of added-value services, and with our own transport fleet, we can offer a complete integrated solution from manufacture through to customer delivery.
Question: Now that the UK has left the European Union and Brexit has finally happened, have you noticed any changes with your business?
With all the focus on the pandemic, it is easy to forget that the impacts of Brexit culminated only a few months ago. As a UK business, we work with our customers on importing and exporting products to and from our cold storage warehouses. We have worked to support them in the additional administration and processes resulting from Brexit. However, we have not been directly impacted outside of the anticipated stock builds in the preceding period. Brexit demonstrated strength and resilience within the temperature-controlled storage and distribution sector, with supply and availability protected despite substantial uncertainty in both process and regulation.
Question: Lastly, would you like to share any news about your company that you feel would benefit the TCS&D readers?
The cold storage market continues to consolidate at a pace, and manufacturers, foodservice operators, and retailers are left with few choices between the rigidity and inflexibility of large automated stores and the lack of national coverage and transport solutions available from smaller single sites operators. Our fantastic team here at ACS&T have immense knowledge, experience, and capability to produce bespoke storage and logistics solutions that work for all customer sizes in a high-quality environment. We are committed to providing services with pace, agility, flexibility, and innovation each day and year-round. If you are looking for a solution to a storage or distribution challenge, then do try out our service at [email protected].