Question: How did you get into the temperature-controlled distribution sector and what is your role within Chiltern Distribution?
Answer: I began working within the temperature-controlled distribution sector back in 1997. This wasn’t my chosen career path, however a job became available working for Dockspeed International in Lympne, Kent as a Night Shift Clerk.
I soon developed the bug for Logistics and Transport. I enjoyed the challenges and knowing that every day would be different.
Dockspeed International was brought out by Norfolkline and I was fortunate to be able to relocate and work out of the office in Valencia. Later, I relocated to Whittlesey in 2002.
This is where I was first introduced to Chiltern Cold Storage Group. In 2006 I was given an opportunity to join the Chiltern team. At the time of joining Chiltern, they did not operate an HGV fleet, so it was the perfect opportunity to use and develop my skills.
Since then, I have continued to develop and grow my skills resulting in the management buy out of Chiltern Distribution Ltd in 2021 for which I am now Owner and Managing Director.
Question: Can you firstly tell us what temperature-controlled vehicles that Chiltern Distribution operates?
Answer: We operate a modern fleet of 60 temperature-controlled vehicles which range from vans for panic work and those hard-to-reach delivery points which can carry 3 pallets to a combined weight of 950KG, 26 Tonne Rigids and Single/Dual temperature-controlled trailers. We operate a varied manufacturer fleet including Scania, Volvo, Mercedes, DAF, MAN and Iveco and our trailers are SOR or Gray & Adams. We operate a fleet replacement policy to ensure our fleet is up to date with both safety and emission standards.
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 Chiltern Distribution?
Answer: There has been vast developments within the industry with all the technology that is now available, not only do we have complete visibility of where the trailer is, but also have visibility of the live trailer temperatures and 2-way commands to remotely make changes to the refrigeration unit if required. This is a game changer for us as it allows us to closely ensure we are maintaining the cold chain throughout its journey and monitor the health of the refrigeration unit.
Question: Are you using telematics across your fleet currently? If so, what advantages do you see this gives your clients?
Answer: We have a significant amount of technology installed across the fleet to ensure visibility, efficiency and safety. We can connect with our customer’s systems so they can see live position of their load and also the temperature of the vehicle. Furthermore our transport management system is linked in with our telematics which provides ETA’s to our transport team and also our customers taking live traffic into consideration.
As part of our specification when purchasing a new vehicle/trailer it is essential that it comes with the technology to ensure we are getting the best and more out of every piece of equipment. We use the vehicle driver behaviour scores to monitor driving training, compliance and also fuel consumption. Our Transport team monitor this and drivers also have access to the information so they can see which areas require improvement.
All of our vehicles have full CCTV, which is accessible remotely to download at all times. We use this to help manage accidents and to give us and our clients visibility of issues that we may come across whilst delivering on their behalf.
Question: Customer needs are constantly changing, so what are you finding is now the biggest request from your customers?
Answer: Our clients generally require us to take ownership of their supply chain requirements and want the comfort of knowing that we can take control of the whole process, allowing them to focus on their core operations. This requirement is something that we are seeing more and more as our clients move towards a more outsourced service requirement to align their costs with their commercial outcomes.
Clients are more and more focussed on sustainability throughout their supply chain, demanding innovative solutions to support their own targets whilst we manage operational costs in line with expectations.
Question: What environmental measures does Chiltern Distribution incorporate to ensure best practice?
Answer: As a business, ESG and sustainability is at the forefront of what we do. We acknowledge that our sector significantly contributes to carbon emissions, and we therefore take every step we can to ensure that we mitigate this impact wherever possible. This includes a range of measures, starting with the equipment we use. We have engaged in a strict renewal policy with regards to our tractor units and trailers, ensuring that our fleet is high quality and exceeding standards regarding safety and emissions. Our transport team are tasked with the responsibility of effectively planning all transport routes, maximising capacity to ensure that our vehicles can be driven in an energy efficient manner. We are also currently investing in our site to bring all aspects of our business into one location and upgrading equipment to bring down our carbon footprint over the coming years. We are continuously working with suppliers and local authorities to work on new innovations to set the industry standard in sustainable business.
Question: The last 36 months has thrown us all a curve ball, how has business been for Chiltern Distribution since the pandemic started?
Answer: The pandemic was an eye opener for everyone, and we were not immune to this. Initially, it was a shock to the system, and we had to take drastic measures to ensure that Chiltern Distribution Ltd was in a strong position to work through the uncertainty. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were in an unusual position to be able to stop, take stock and think about the business in a way that we had not been able to previously. It allowed us to reconsider our client base and our core values, as well and working through what the future should be for Chiltern Distribution Ltd. During this time, and after discussions with our founder, I decided to deliver an MBO (management buyout) and take the reins of the business as we moved into the next chapter of our growth journey. The pandemic taught me that if you operate a well-structured, diversified business, you would be well placed to capitalise on opportunities. The pandemic bought about a lot of change, but it also bought with it huge opportunities for growth and allowed us to strengthen our relationships with our clients. Coming out of the pandemic, we have a much stronger business which has resulted in strong trading performance over the last 24 months.
Question: If you could give one piece of advice to a newcomer to our industry, what would it be?
Answer: The temperature-controlled distribution sector is one that requires a lot of different skills, equipment, and experience. From my experience, success in this sector is driven by having a strong network and harnessing this to work in collaboration with other experts in our field. By way of an example, our business offers a bespoke and tailored solution to its clients, however sometimes our clients need something that is not within our sweet spot, therefore being able to draw in the services of our partners within the sector allows us to deliver the right service to our clients at the most appropriate price. Another key area of consideration is that of regulation and legislation. Every year the level of scrutiny and regulation that governs our sector continues to increase and is now at a level that requires careful consideration across every aspect of our operations. As such, for someone coming into the industry, it is key that they forge strong relationships and join a federation within the industry.
Question: Lastly, would you like to share any news about your company that you feel would benefit the TCS&D readers?
Answer: Chiltern Distribution Ltd offers reliable and efficient UK & European transport and distribution services from our head office in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire. We also operate a chilled warehouse for your storage and cross docking requirements.
Our bespoke temperature-controlled transport services cover all groupage, full load, traction only and pharmaceutical requirements. We have in-depth knowledge of the complexity and procedures surrounding the distribution of pharmaceutical, medical and healthcare industry consignments.