McCulla (Ireland) Ltd

Name: Ashley McCulla

Title: Chairman

Company: McCulla (Ireland) Ltd

McCulla (Ireland) Ltd logo
Ashley McCulla, Chairman, McCulla (Ireland) Ltd
  • Question: How did you get into the temperature-controlled distribution sector and what is your role within McCulla Ireland.  
  • Answer:  My father started McCulla Ireland in 1969 so we are now a second-generation family-owned business.  I worked my way through every position in the company including labourer, forklift driver, mechanic, truck driver, manager, salesman, eventually becoming MD when my sister and I jointly took over the business.  Today my role is Chairman.
  • Question:  Could you tell the readers of TCS&D, what services McCulla Ireland offer please?
  • Answer:  We have diversified over the years from the original core business of standard refrigerated haulage into a fully integrated cold supply chain, including cold storage and bespoke logistics solutions for customers of all sizes.  Services include product collection, storage, picking-to-order and delivery by the box, pallet, or full load to anywhere in the UK, Ireland and the rest of continental Europe.  We have specialist warehousing facilities, including blast-freezing and up-tempering equipment which are key to providing our ‘just-in-time’ service. In response to Brexit we’ve recently introduced a new customs department, for both existing transport and storage customers and anyone else needing assistance with moving goods across the Irish Sea.
  • Question:  Can you tell us what temperature controlled vehicles McCulla Ireland operate?
  • Answer:  We currently operate around 100 trucks and 180 trailers, plus some rigids and vans.  Most notably, last year, we took delivery of 10 Iveco S-Way NP trucks, which are now running on biomethane gas that we produce ourselves. 
  • 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 McCulla Ireland?
  • Answer: We are always looking for the next innovation and have been early adopters of many new truck and trailer features, whether that’s from the manufacturer or from other suppliers in the commercial vehicle market.  We use technology for just about everything that we do across our business from fleet management, transport management, vehicle tracking/telematics, live vehicle CCTV, warehouse/stock management as well as solar battery charging. All systems provide full traceability and peace-of-mind across the supply chain.  If I had to choose one, I’d say our Bluetree temperature monitoring system – it was one of the first but also one of the best pieces of technology that we have invested in. 
  • Question: Are you using telematics across your fleet currently? If so, what advantages do you see this gives your clients?
  • Answer:  We have always believed in using technology to make our fleet as efficient, safe and secure as possible and we are proactive in pushing each system to its best potential.  We’ve been using Bluetree telematics on our trucks and trailers for many years to monitor temperatures and driver behaviour, and we integrate it with other systems to give us an even better understanding of our operation.   Our driver training and compliance teams can use telematics data in conjunction with our CameraMatics CCTV system, for example, to improve driver behaviour and performance and to investigate road traffic incidents or claims. 
  • Question: Customer needs are constantly changing, so what are you finding is now the biggest request from your customers?
  • Answer:  We have a broad range of customers from independent restaurants and retailers to major retail and hospitality chains and international manufacturers, so our main focus is on offering flexibility.  Each customer has its own unique business model so we aim to provide entirely bespoke solutions.  More and more we are finding that clients want one solution provider, so we are always looking for ways to add value with the services that we offer.  The most recent example of this was the introduction of an in-house customs department.
  • Question: What environmental measures does McCulla Ireland incorporate to ensure best practice?
  • Answer:   We now have our own energy division, called Alternity Biogas Energy,which produces all of our own energy.  We have been using the AD plant to produce our electricity since 2017, making our cold stores carbon-neutral, and last year we completed a major upgrade to be able to convert food waste into biomethane for use as fuel in our new gas-powered trucks. We currently operate ten Iveco S-Way NP trucks but it is our aim to phase out diesel in favour of gas within five years to further reduce our emissions and eradicate our reliance on fossil fuels entirely.  We are the only transport operator in Northern Ireland able to offer customers 93% reduction in their CO2 emissions using this sustainable transport model.
  • Question: Now that the UK has left the European Union and Brexit has finally happened, have you noticed any changes with your business?
  • Answer: As a business we were opposed to exiting the EU.  We had established a very slick, just-in-time groupage supply chain over decades, which Brexit destroyed.  Looking back, it could have been a disaster but because of our resilience and adaptability, we were able to make a bad situation good.  We had a very strained few months but we are now out the other side and have re-established ourselves as a one-stop-shop for goods moving from GB to the Island of Ireland.  The opening of our customs clearance division was a direct response to Brexit and has been key to our recovery.
  • Question:  The last 18 months has thrown us all a curve ball, how has business been for you since the pandemic started?
  • Answer:  During the various lockdowns and restrictions we lost a significant amount of our food services work but our supermarket work doubled, so financially we rode the storm well but emotionally it was extremely challenging. It was probably the most stressful time of my whole career.  On the positive side, we used the time to invest so we are now leaner, with better equipment and with better trained staff.
  • Question: If you could give one piece of advice to a newcomer to our industry, what would it be? 
  • Answer:  Do the thing right.  I would recommend joining an industry federation, attend the courses and really understand the cost of running a business.  If you can understand the cost to run a vehicle compliantly, you can develop a sustainable haulage company because you can price your services accordingly and make a profit.
  • Question: Lastly, would you like to share any news about your company that you feel would benefit the TCS&D readers?
  • Answer:  Our latest big news is the launch of our circular economy project which is a closed loop from food waste to fertiliser.  As well as generating electricity for our cold stores and bio-fuel for our new trucks from food waste, our AD plant’s biofertiliser by-product is also being used on farms, therefore also playing a part in growing the food that we store and transport.  Biomethane produces somewhere in the region of 93% less CO2 than diesel trucks so the environmental benefits are clear.  We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved – it has been a long time in planning!  Decarbonisation is the biggest challenge facing the transport sector and by having proven the concept for this renewable fuel type, I hope we can inspire other food manufacturers and supermarkets to join in on our success.

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