Making the right moves
With snow and ice sweeping across the UK, getting from A to B can be something of a challenge. When it comes to transport and logistics, ensuring shops and supermarkets are kept topped up with product is a vital job — a view echoed by Gary King, Sainsbury’s logistics operations support manager.
He says: “Sainsbury’s delivers 1.2 billion cases to stores each year. Over Christmas alone, we sold 14 million pigs in blankets and 855,000 British turkeys, so an efficient and modern logistics system is crucial to our operation and the service for our customers.”
Costs, competition and regulatory burdens are all challenges for those in the sector to overcome and, in the current economic environment, cash flow and fuel duty remain two of the biggest issues, says Simon Chapman, chief economist with the Freight Transport Association (FTA). “The main issue is still one of the cost of fuel and level of duty, and that has been a problem for a long time.”
He says the high costs create a lot of pressure on companies which generally have to pay for fuel instantly, and then wait 90 days for their customers to settle their bill, creating huge cash flow challenges for logistics suppliers.
The increased cost and the economic outlook means the logistics sector is “bumping along the bottom”, according to Chapman, and his organisation is urging the UK government to take action by shaving 5p off the cost of fuel duty and help get the economy moving.
UK efficiency is also under threat from EU legislation, he claims. “There are issues around trailer height — most UK trailers are 4.2m to 4.5m, but there’s an EU proposal to reduce that to a maximum of 4m from 2014. “No-one has the extra height on their trailers for fun, and the proposal is a threat to UK competitivity and logistical efficiency.” He says the less space in the trailers, the likelihood more lorries would need to go on the road, to make up for it.
Meanwhile, the logistics sector is making good strides in reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, said the FTA. The industry’s Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme, which is backed by government, academics and the industry, has shown participants are on track to meet the self-imposed and collective voluntary GHG reduction targets.
The Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme is managed by the FTA and is the only sector-based initiative that records, reports and helps reduce ghg emissions from the logistics sector; it is free of charge and operators are encouraged to join. Its second annual report reveals that scheme participants achieved a collective reduction in carbon emissions intensity of 2.6% between 2009 and 2010, and are on course to meet the target of an 8% reduction in emissions intensity by 2015 (compared to 2010 levels).
Chapman added: “Cutting carbon and cutting costs can often go hand in hand. As well as demonstrating the industry’s commitment to reducing its emissions, the scheme acts as a catalyst for business improvement for the organisations that have joined.”
Of course, when it comes to transporting meat, the added challenge of delivering a perishable product and ensuring supply chain integrity and, importantly, safe food is key. Technology can help with that. King adds: “We have one of the most powerful refrigeration systems on the market to ensure we maintain the temperature integrity of the food we move. The system we use has an independent temperature record that allows us to measure the box temperature while transporting goods. This means we can ensure everything is chilled to the right temperature while on the move.”
Ensuring correct refrigeration of meat during transit is a big challenge particularly as the product can be exposed to a number of different storage environments. Deviations in optimum temperature conditions can lead to spoilage and may also result in costly replacement transport and, more importantly, damage to a company’s reputation, which in turn could have a negative impact on business levels.
As a result, temperature monitoring is essential and, fortunately, technology can help ensure product is maintained at the correct temperature and problems avoided. One such system from Silvertree Engineering, features a wireless monitoring and alarm device, which cuts out the need for manual checks in the supply chain. The company’s IceSpy System5 carries out checks at one-minute, 10-minute and hourly intervals, and automatically records temperatures, humidity and door event readings from each vehicle refrigeration unit. As soon as the vehicle returns to the depot, data is automatically downloaded to the IceSpy system. The company claims the installation of the system in Asda’s chilled distribution depots provided data that enabled site managers to dramatically increase energy efficiency and maintain quality storage conditions.
Another way for companies in the meat trade to reduce both costs and workloads is to outsource their logistics. Getting products from a warehouse, factory or processing facility to a customer’s premises on a timely and cost-effective basis is a prerequisite to the success of any business running a transport and delivery operation. Vehicle breakdowns, unreliable drivers and ineffective unloading equipment will not be tolerated by customers for very long before it starts to have an adverse effect on the company’s standing, reputation and, ultimately, its bottom line.
Ryder is one company seeing a growing trend in the meat sector. This logistical solutions provider has an ongoing programme whereby it conducts audits of the transport operations of a wide range of manufacturers, processors, wholesalers and retailers. It says that in many cases, these audits identified where changes could be made to loading patterns, delivery routes and even truck body styles and dimensions that would significantly help to reduce the company’s environmental impact and costs.
One of the companies that has taken advantage of Ryder’s transportation expertise is Linlithgow-based Campbells Prime Meat. “Service is everything in our business. Our customers can place an order up to midnight, six days a week, and we will deliver by midday the following day. This customer promise is key to our continued success,” comments Stephen Sweeney, Campbells’ financial director.
“It is not good enough to tell a chef that his order is delayed, when he is expecting 20 people for lunch, because our truck has broken down. That would be both unprofessional and unforgivable. So, for the past 22 years we have sourced most of our delivery vehicles from Ryder to take advantage of the quality of vehicles, service and maintenance and outstanding breakdown cover they provide.”
Campbells currently has around 50 Ryder vehicles in its fleet, ranging from 3.5 tonne vans up to 5 tonne, 7.5 and 13 tonne trucks for large deliveries.
Overall, ensuring the safe, efficient and cost-effective transportation of meat is as important to any business as the breeding, slaughtering and processing of the meat. A good supply chain is only as effective as its weakest link and companies need to invest in the latest technology, equipment and services to ensure their products reach the end consumer in the best possible condition.
Get the right partner
Given the immediate, shelf-life nature of the meat industry, the specific requirements with regard to shipping, importing and exporting are pretty simple – speed and reliability, writes Rob Shelley, CEO of Maritime Cargo Services.
Ensuring that necessary speed and reliability, however, is not so straightforward and is not something for the uninitiated. It’s vital that meat importers and exporters work closely with the right experienced freight forwarding partner to ensure smooth running of their operations, as it’s beset with potential pitfalls.
Firstly, of course, you want to avoid unnecessary demurrage, ‘plug in’ (utility charges for refrigerated container units) and quay rent. The need to get your containers off the quayside and into the local supply chain just as fast and efficiently is paramount if you are to remain cost-effective and, ultimately, competitive in what is a cut-throat industry that operates with extremely tight margins. Of course, getting your load off the ship is just the first part of the equation – and you’re not even out of the port. You will need a team of experts to manage the increasingly complex and stringent Customs, port health and CVED (Common Veterinary Entry Documentation) validation and communications to ensure your goods can be released for free circulation.
All of these areas are highly involved in themselves, so ensure that your freight forwarding partner is well versed in such matters. Aside from the legal and health issues you have to manage, you will also have to ensure that, from a physical perspective, you have the necessary resources to load and manage distribution. That means you need to be utilising systems that accurately handle the ‘track and trace’ and delivery element of the consignment. Your freight forwarding partner needs to have ‘real time’ knowledge of where your consignment is, even before it reaches the port, and exactly when it is due. That means that the expensive resource involved in unloading and handling goods is not waiting around for arrival and are in the right place at precisely the right time. And then resource and transportation needs to be ready to ensure timely and cost effective on-bound distribution in the ‘local loop.’
Effective freight forwarders should be able to offer meat shippers online, ‘real-time’ management and control of shipments; something that has proved to be an enormous benefit to meat importers and exporters and something that is probably one of their most important considerations today.
For instance, we call our innovative online freight management and tracking system, MOATS. We struggled to find an ‘off the shelf’ tracking system that could cope with our customers’ exacting demands, so we made the decision to invest the time and money in creating our own bespoke system, which is a genuine, ‘one-stop-shop solution’. MOATS was designed to encompass absolutely all of the customer’s relevant shipping information. Our team inputs all the relevant data (including Bill of Lading and container numbers, vessel, port and cargo details, estimated time of shipping, ETA and delivery depots, dates and times, free-time agreements and so on) and carefully monitors changes on a daily basis.
Any adjustments (such as ETA) are immediately filtered into a log book and instantly available online to the client. The result is a fast, flexible and multi-faceted online system supplying real-time information safely and securely whenever it is required. Finally, this is the sort of functionality and insight that your freight forwarder should offer as part and parcel of their service levels and, of course, free of charge. Working with the right partner can ensure all of these issues are being reliably and effectively handled, leaving you free to concentrate on successfully managing your business.
Keep your tyres up to standard
As the only part of the vehicle that touches the ground, tyres play a big role in determining fuel efficiency, rolling noise and safety characteristics such as handling and braking. The most important aspect of tyre design relating to fuel efficiency is rolling resistance. This is the friction that a tyre creates as it rolls down the road. The greater the rolling resistance, the harder the engine needs to work and the more fuel it will consume. Tyre manufacturers claim that by fitting tyres with a 25% reduction in rolling resistance on all axles of a heavy-duty vehicle, it is possible to improve its fuel consumption by at least 5%. Independent in-use tests have revealed fuel savings of up to 13%.
When choosing low rolling resistance tyres it is also vital to consider their wet grip performance, which reflects the tyre’s ability to brake on wet roads. Balancing rolling resistance and wet grip has been a big challenge for tyre manufacturers, but developments in tyre technology – such as the addition of silica to the tyre tread compound – means there are now energy-efficient tyres on the market which can match and even exceed the safety performance of standard tyres. However, not all tyres perform equally and the best tyres on the market can stop a massive 18 metres earlier than the worst in wet conditions.
From November 2012, it will be easier to buy better tyres because new tyre labelling legislation recently agreed by the EU will be implemented in the UK. This will require all tyres to be labelled at point of sale with information on rolling resistance, rolling noise and wet grip. Tyre manufacturers will also have to display this information on their websites.
Rolling resistance and wet grip will be measured on a scale from A to G, with A being the best performers and G being the worst. Rolling noise will be measured in decibels split into three categories represented by black sound waves. One sound wave will demonstrate that the tyre is 3dB less than the future tighter European limit. Two black sound waves will demonstrate that the tyre is already compliant with the future European limit and three black sound waves will demonstrate that the tyre is compliant only with the current European limit.
It is also possible to improve the energy efficiency, noise and safety performance of your vehicles by looking after your tyres properly. Under-inflated tyres are dangerous, affecting braking and handling and increasing the risk of blowouts. They also increase fuel consumption and wear out more quickly. A tyre that is 20% under-inflated will only last 75% of its service life. You should check tyre inflation every two to four weeks.
Worn tyres have reduced braking and handling capability on wet roads, putting the lives of your drivers and other road users at risk. Worn tyres are also noisier. UK law requires truck tyres to have a minimum tread depth of 1mm tread depth over the whole circumference of the tyre. The same regulation applies to re-grooved tyres. Incorrect wheel alignment can lead to rapid irregular tyre wear and affect safety performance. It can also increase the fuel consumption of your vehicles and make them noisier. Tests have shown that just 1mm of misalignment can lead to a 7% loss in tyre life and a 3% reduction in fuel efficiency.