Viewpoint: Putting a customer-centred service ethic into the heart of cold storage and distribution businesses.
Garry Tilburn, managing director, Reed Boardall Cold Storage, explains his business ethos
“Our industry is undergoing a period of change, and while it is tempting to say that size isn’t everything, the current climate favours larger operators. But – and this is a very big but – that doesn’t mean big and unwieldy. Cold storage and distribution is not simply a warehousing operation based on cumbersome, pre-planned robotic formulae, it’s much more of a people business.
For me, the only good reason to work on the grander scale is to capitalise on the flexibility, agility and customer service opportunities it can offer. Scale has to work for customers first and foremost. I have the good fortune to run one of Europe’s most sophisticated cold storage and distribution hubs – and having that fabulous infrastructure is unquestionably important – but I see my job as dealing with people.
At Reed Boardall we’ve spent years investing in great quality staff so that we are geared to giving customers, and our customers’ customers, exactly what they want. They know our guiding principle is ‘order today, get it tomorrow’ no matter how large or small the order may be.
Our customers are confident that we give their retail customers what they want, when they ask for it. It’s no good telling a storage customer’s retail customer that their delivery failed because the store’s capacity to out-load in time was exceeded. Changes in volume, both on receipt and dispatch, require flexibility. And it is only this flexibility that will meet the retailers’ ever-increasing needs for low stocks and speedy replenishment.
We work, for example, with many household-name food producers, but a significant proportion of our customers are smaller businesses which enjoy the cost efficiencies of the large-scale storage and transport consolidation we offer. Our state-of-the art stores and fleet enable us to deliver stock next day, in exactly the volumes needed by the retailers served by our customers. In this broad context, ‘order today, get it tomorrow’ is not simply sloganising, it’s a commercial imperative.
This is how large scale can equal flexibility.In the current economic climate, where all investment has to be minutely considered, committing to a long-term future means maintaining unrivalled performance levels. The best infrastructure and technology can help, but it is people who make the difference by listening and responding to customers. Putting that customer-centred service ethic into the heart of larger storage and distribution businesses is, in the face of increasing store automation, more important than ever, especially in the frozen logistics sector.
Reed Boardall’s reputation is built on the performance of its listening, smart, responsive people.In today’s frozen chain, big business has the advantage – but only if they can also think small.”
Viewpoint: Vehicle telematics enables NFT to achieve cost savings and supports its environmental policy
Andy De’Vere, managing director shared user operations at NFT explains his company’s approach to telematics.
“NFT is the UK’s leading provider of logistics solutions for the food retail and manufacturing sectors, providing primary and secondary services through our transport, warehousing and logistics solutions.
Efficiency and professionalism are key. Our adherence to strict timelines is non-negotiable and we require watertight systems in place to ensure that our operation runs seamlessly. We’re critically reliant on the skills and strength of our fleet, and our drivers, and as such have dedicated significant investment into telematics to help streamline and tighten our transport division.
We initially invested in Microlise in December 2011, which offered the latest developments in telemetry technology, and since then we have continued to advance this area to ensure that we are operating with maximum competence. Our system provides real-time visibility of fleet performance against planned activity so we can monitor progress at all times.
Careful assessment of day-to-day performance is continuous, allowing detailed planning for future capacity. We use telemetry technology in a number of ways. CAN bus technology enables us to monitor variables such as throttle, engine, cruise control and brake use. This helps to educate our drivers and delivers improvements in reduced fuel consumption, along with corresponding decreases in CO2 emissions. We can also monitor real-time vehicle speeds, safety performance and fleet utilisation. GPS positioning allows us to see instantly where the fleet is.
This provides decision support for planning and ad-hoc vehicle selections, enables better dynamic planning and management of transport during road incidents, and helps us to generate customer updates on full end-to-end track and trace.Journey management and customer service support are useful in a myriad of ways.
We can monitor live journeys and particularly observe critical deliveries, as most of NFT’s are time and temperature sensitive. They enable intervention and forward alerting when traffic delays affect deliveries, allow us to share journey data with customers and are integral in the development of accurate KPI reporting and on-time performance. They also assist with retailer engagement.
Telematics encourages transparency of performance and provides objective data reporting on the management of route efficiency, driver performance and fuel efficiency; delivering hard facts about environmental credibility and improving road safety.
This is hugely motivating for the logistics industry and really helps to drive excellence, accountability, professionalism and integrity. Crucially, vehicle telematics has enabled NFT to achieve cost savings and has provided strong support for our environmental policy; both major considerations for logistics operators.
Each vehicle is a key part of our fleet and therefore of our whole operation as the ‘intelligent link’ between manufacturer and retailer. Monitoring each and every vehicle and driver means we can actively measure, and work to minimise, our overall carbon footprint. We have also gone further with our customer experience in track and trace from door-to-door and although in its early infancy, we have received positive customer feedback. We continue to work with our partners to ensure we stay ahead of the competition and further enhance our offering.”
Viewpoint: Taking the heat out of warehouse costs
Mark Reeve, managing director of food industry construction specialist, Chalcroft, considers the benefits of new, purpose-built facilities for operators throughout the sector.
“Arguably the greatest consideration for any business assessing the merit of investing in new warehousing facilities, is energy efficiency. A key consideration is the energy consumption of environmental control systems, such as refrigeration, as well as insulation values of the building envelope, and energy-efficient lighting. Set against energy prices which continue to rise, a purpose-built facility offers greater scope to reduce costs in all of these areas. For instance, investing in LED or T5 lighting (a low-energy fluorescent tube which uses 15% of the energy of a conventional fitting) in a new warehouse can recover the cost of installation in less than 18 months.
Investing in other new technologies in racking systems and stock control for instance, can also play a significant role in reducing long-term costs as part of a new build project. Another specific area that many of Chalcroft’s customers focus on pallet retrieval efficiency. A purpose built facility allows operators to move pallets in the most cost effective way and a design which enables operatives to move just one or two extra pallets per hour will significantly increase profitability.
By working in partnership, warehouse operators can take advantage of the extensive experience that the construction industry possesses and maximise efficiency measures in all areas.
Investing in a new, purpose- built temperature-controlled warehouse provides the opportunity to create a facility that matches a business’ requirements exactly, but there are wider benefits too. In one new temperature-controlled warehouse recently constructed by Chalcroft for example, reclaimed water from condensers is now being used to flush toilets, improving environmental performance as well as cutting costs. Indeed the question of sustainability goes hand-in-hand with efficiency and a purpose-built warehouse that incorporates energy-efficiency measures will not only reduce running costs in the long-term, but can deliver improved occupant comfort and increased levels of productivity.
Yet while greater consideration is being given to new, purpose built facilities, the reality is that less energy efficient buildings continue to be built, incurring far greater costs in the long term. Meanwhile, the industry continues to place increasing demand on finite natural resources which simply serves to drive energy prices higher still.
In effect, short-term planning, justified by lower immediate construction costs, continues to be favoured over more strategic investment in sustainability. The more strategic approach however could provide far greater financial savings along with an increase in brand value and other marketable corporate social responsibility achievements in the long term.
Ultimately, there are many ways in which new, purpose-built warehouses can help businesses operate as sustainably and cost effectively as possible. To achieve the most effective results, all parties must be prepared to work collaboratively. Only by working cohesively and in partnership with the construction sector, will the logistics industry be able to maximise potential operational efficiencies, productivity and cost savings.”
Mark Reeve, managing director, is one of the four directors who own Chalcroft.
Viewpoint: The temperature-controlled industry: pitfalls and paradise regained?
The challenge of Euro 6 legislation to the industry has yet to make its presence truly felt. It is going to have a major impact, and woe betide any of us who think it will simply ‘go away’ writes Nick Hay, managing director of multi-temperature consolidator, Fowler Welch.
On the one hand the government is taxing us to the hilt while forcing us toward ever-greener environmental performance, yet on the other they do nothing to mitigate the significant on-cost of this EU legislation, and the considerable investment being made by fleet manufacturers: the arrival of Euro 6 will put further pressure on our sector.
My concern is that, as an industry, we have little idea of the future effects of Euro 6. And that’s everything from new vehicle availability to operational impacts; there is undoubted risk in the assumptions of Euro 5 residual values. So growing numbers of operators are taking a gamble on what the future holds, with no opportunity to test their theories until it is too late. In a sector where investment levels are already huge and margins perilously small, that is a gamble too far in my opinion. Is the short-termism and focus on Euro 5 going to be a mistake that we, as a sector, will regret..?There are some positive signs.
If we look at an industry giant such as Wincanton, it’s good to see a major player showing real signs of margin growth. From the outside it appears that the Wincanton team is doing a great job at the moment and should be congratulated. The Fowler Welch operation has also seen some positive signs of late, and the importance of this re-emergence into healthier times cannot be underestimated – no profits means no investment for the future. Others are in less good shape however, and that includes some who looked, until quite recently, like the yardstick against which we would all be measuring ourselves against for many years to come.
My greatest worry remains that far too many operators are still costing on a marginal basis, and in these continuingly tough economic times that is simply not sustainable.Nick Hay is managing director of Fowler WelchEnds 346 wordsBold Quote“My greatest worry remains that far too many operators are still costing on a marginal basis, and in these continuingly tough economic times that is simply not sustainable.”
Nick Hay, managing director, Fowler Welch
Viewpoint: Why Double Deck trailers put the ECO into economics
There are more benefits to be had from using double-deck trailers than just a massive increase in volume, says Lionel Curtis, engineering manager at Gray & Adams
The economic benefits of a double-deck trailer, carrying 60% more volume than a standard trailer, using just one tractor unit and one driver, are fairly easily identified. There is a slight deterioration in fuel economy, but this is more than offset by the other savings, especially if back-hauling is feasible.
The most obvious emissions-reducing effect is in the fuel used per cubic metre of product delivered. Five trips with a double-decker deliver roughly the same volume as eight trips with a straight 13.6m trailer. On a 200-mile trunk, this saves around 50-gallons of diesel or 585kg of CO2 on traction fuel alone, there are other fuel savings for the fridge units as well. And the benefits are there for urban use as well…one urban double-deck can replace a 26-tonne and an 18-tonne rigid with a single tractor unit and a carbon reduction benefit of 30% or more.
By changing the shape of the trailer, it is possible to carry two different loads – raw materials in, finished goods out. This is exemplified by the Arla Foods combination trailer that has been in the press over recent weeks – bottled milk is delivered to supermarkets on the upper deck and farm-fresh milk is collected in the lower deck tank on the return journey, reducing empty-running to a minimum, thereby maximising the utilisation of the tractor unit and minimising the environmental impact of collections and deliveries.
Applying tried and trusted aerodynamic packages to double-decks goes a long way towards offsetting the negative impact of increased height on tractor unit fuel consumption – but the key performance indicator from an environmental perspective is in measuring fuel consumption per cubic metre delivered, rather than just mpg.
There are also emission-reduction benefits in manufacturing double-deck trailers – raw material reductions (fewer tyres etc.) and, even further upstream, emissions are reduced at the mineral extraction level and in the materials processing stages. These contributions, which can amount to several tonnes of CO2 per trailer, are not often measured or reported.
The environmental impact of mineral extraction, for example, is not just to be measured in terms of reduced emissions; where does the steel come from for our chassis? The answer is from a big hole in the ground somewhere in the world. Similar arguments can be developed for most, if not all, of the materials used in trailer manufacturing.
Using less raw material means fewer holes in the ground in parts of the world that cannot afford to give up their agricultural land. The enviro-economic benefits reach way beyond the fuel pump!
First published in Cold Chain News, 12 February 2013
Viewpoint: Transfriogoroute ready to meet industry demands
October saw the completion of plans to merge the Food Storage and Distribution Federation (FSDF) with Transfrigoroute UK (TUK). Graham Eames, board member of both organisations, explains why the merger of talent and resources is working to meet the needs of a dynamic and changing industry
The FSDF was a trade association representing operators of cold storage facilities. As that industry evolved, so did the association, firstly to include distribution and finally to focus on the food supply chain and the operators who made it work.
TUK was created in 1984 as the UK arm of Transfrigoroute International set up in 1956 under the auspices of the World Health Organisation and United Nations to ensure an efficient and hygienic cold chain to effect distribution.
TUK, from its inception, was open to any company that operated refrigerated vehicles and focussed primarily in the pursuit of excellence in operational standards of its members and the equipment they used. It never had any permanent staff, instead it was run by elected members.
Given the levels of efficiency now in the cold chain and the quality and innovation in the equipment used, TUK has achieved its original ambitions. However change is constant and the merger with FSDF gives us, for the first time, a firm base and permanent staff with which to widen our scope and give the new generation of operators and companies the opportunity to make their mark.
Our meetings with FSDF show we are of one mind and, as our industries have evolved and consolidated, the overlap became so obvious that a merger of talent and resources seemed quite natural. The information, resources and expertise available to prospective members is not equalled by any other similar organisation. We have a dynamic and changing industry and the new organisation is perfectly equipped to represent it, protect it, and drive it forward.
Benefits include the scope to widen membership to encompass the rapidly growing transport of pharmaceuticals and other products. TUK brings additional expertise in the world of energy reduction, cost reviews, and use reduction, and of course, the need to address the HFC/HCFC issue. Members now have a wider choice of services and contribute to more comprehensive work on operational and equipment standards and equipment-driven innovation.
The combination of two respected organisations gives us a loud, effective voice and our combined skills and professionalism gives us greater influence in the UK and Europe. We look for new members who seek professional support and advice, who wish to be part of something bigger, and maybe contribute something back to the industry that supports their career.
Networking is a much over-used word nowadays, but its benefits are no less valuable. I know of several operators who saved the costs of their subscription from the wisdom and ideas they picked up at just one meeting. We need to develop our people, and through them, our business. A members’ meeting enhances knowledge, trust and friendships which can last a career.
As someone once said, when you bring together many skills, passion and bright talents, you can create a masterpiece.
• Graham Eames is managing director of Phoenix International
First published in Cold Chain News, 15 November 2012
Lorry road-user charging up date
London, UK: The British government is to introduce a road user charging scheme for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), intended to come into force by 2015.
Primary legislation will be necessary to introduce a lorry road user charge and the government intends to introduce a bill into parliament in the session which commences in May 2013 with a view to bringing the scheme into force before the end of the current parliament (May 2015). But changes to VED structures may also be required before such a bill is introduced further consultation on , says Rahul Bijlani, senior associate, at law firm Bircham Dyson Bell.
The UK road haulage sector has been arguing for some time that it faces unfair competition from European hauliers: not only are fuel prices cheaper in mainland Europe but foreign-registered HGVs do not pay to use the general road network in the UK, whereas UK-registered HGVs frequently pay charges or tolls in other European countries. Moreover, unlike UK-based hauliers who pay UK road tax and fuel duty, foreign hauliers who refuel their vehicles across the Channel contribute nothing towards the maintenance and improvement of the UK road network, Bijlani says.
In this context successive governments have considered measures to ‘level the playing field’ for UK hauliers in the form of a lorry road user charge. “This is complicated by the fact that any such scheme must comply with the relevant European legislation, the ‘Eurovignette Directive’ which aims to safeguard fair competition in haulage within the European Union and sets limits on the type and levels of charges that can be introduced. In particular the Directive means that a scheme cannot lawfully discriminate between UK-registered vehicles and vehicles from elsewhere in the EU,” Bijlani says.
Consultation on the latest proposals for a lorry road user charging scheme, which reflect a coalition agreement commitment to work towards a system of charges to ensure a fairer arrangement for UK hauliers, closed in April of this year. The government has not yet formally responded to the consultation but the proposals have been broadly welcomed by groups such as the Freight Transport Association and Road Haulage Association.
“Under the Government’s current proposals a road user charge would apply to both foreign and UK-registered HGVs but UK hauliers would be compensated for the increase in their costs, with the most likely mechanism being a reduction in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). A reduction in VED to the minimum permitted by the Eurovignette Directive would mean 94% of the UK HGV fleet would not face an increase in their overall cost burden,” he says.
The charge would apply to individual HGVs (not their operators) of 12 tonnes and over driving on any road in the UK and would vary in amount according to vehicle type, weight and number of axles, ranging from £85 a year for the smallest HGVs up to £1,000 a year for the largest. Keepers of UK registered HGVs would pay the charge for the same period and in the same transaction as VED, whereas foreign-registered HGV operators would be able to pay daily, weekly, monthly or annual charges. The daily rate would be up to £10 a day (the maximum permitted by the Eurovignette Directive) for large HGVs, which are estimated to account for over 90% of foreign-registered HGVs using UK roads.
“At this stage the rate is proposed to be calculated according to the VED band of the vehicle, but the government has stated its aim to consider charging by reference to emissions levels once the scheme has been introduced. ”
“The Government intends to contract with a private-sector company to administer the scheme insofar as it relates to foreign HGVs. The charge would be paid online or at points of sale on or near the UK border, such as at ports or on ferries, with the intention that the charge would have to be paid before a foreignregistered HGV could drive on a UK road. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) would administer the system for UK-registered HGVs, alongside the collection of VED (ie payment of an annual or six-monthly charge).”
“Payment of the charge would be enforced by the Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA) which is currently responsible for checking UK and foreign hauliers’ compliance with various regulations on road safety, drivers’ hours and the like. A database of vehicles that have paid the charge would be maintained by the company contracted to administer the scheme and, by reference to that database, VOSA could check compliance with the scheme – no physical permit would be required.” Bijlani says.
Viewpoint: Driven to deliver
Whether you are employing your drivers, use agency drivers or prefer a combination of both, drivers should be the lifeblood of your operation, dedicated to their work and proud to represent your company, says Nick Gordon, chief executive, TRG Logistics
- Your drivers, as visible representatives of your business, should always demonstrate exemplary performance, behaviour and attitude. However, this is not always the case.The key to a successful driver is twofold: firstly, the training that he or she receives and secondly, but more importantly, the driver’s ability to retain the information that is given to them.
If we look at the training element first, the provision of high-quality training should be the cornerstone of your business. In today’s competitive marketplace, there is no excuse for under trained or poorly trained drivers.
Within the temperature-controlled marketplace, the importance of imparting a wide range of information to the drivers cannot be understated, as temperature-controlled distribution in itself requires a far greater level of driver knowledge, across a broad spectrum of subjects and procedures.
Key areas of operating in a temperature-controlled environment include the detailed understanding of the load being carried, whether it is single temperature products or multi-temperature compartments with differing load criteria. This needs to be combined with understanding the controls of the relevant refrigeration system, including setting the required temperatures, completing the daily checks of the system, maintaining the temperature within the various compartments, as well as checking the need to ensure temperature compliance. Cross-referencing all paperwork that applies to the refrigeration system, as well as printing the data from the refrigeration unit is essential and part and parcel of the driver’s daily routine administration.
Finally, protecting the integrity of the load has to be one of the key elements of the driver’s overall responsibilities. The driver has to be clear as to the correct procedure that needs to be undertaken in the event of a failure of the refrigeration system, to minimise the impact on the particular load being carried. A typical cargo within a 13.6m refrigerated trailer represents a significant financial investment to the operator and the ultimate customer. To lose a load through a lack of knowledge by the driver is simply just not acceptable in today’s world.
The temperature-controlled distribution industry is incredibly complex and in general no two operations are alike. To cope with this complexity, I think that all companies who supply drivers need to review each customer’s requirements in turn and adopt/adapt their driver training to meet the specific requirements of the individual operation.
And when the training is completed, this is not the end of training at all. Maintaining training records is paramount and combined with developing new training skills ensures that the frequency and validity of the training takes drivers to the highest possible level and keeps them there.
We believe that, by providing a wide range of expert training around all kinds of logistics roles that are designed around individual customer needs, high-quality training leads to high-quality drivers.
Nick Gordon is chief executive at TRG Logistics
First published in Cold Chain News - September-October 2012
Eutectics – a low maintenance freezer solution
Cold Logic is selling the Framec Trade eutectic refrigeration system in the UK. The Italianmade system is used extensively in Europe, says Paul Tuszynski, director, Cold Logic.
“The benefits of the Cold Logic eutectic system have been enjoyed for many years in the rest of Europe and we are delighted to have been selected to bring this product to the UK,” he says.
Eutectic refrigeration truck systems are one of the most efficient means for the daily distribution of ice cream and frozen food, Tuszynski says. An evaporating system with eutectic plates or beams connects to the refrigerating unit to maintain internal temperatures below -25°C for a minimum of 12 hours, he says.
The refrigeration unit is powered by the mains during breaks and cools the eutectic liquid of the plates mounted inside the body; eutectic plates work as cold storage units. The advantages of this system include low temperature dispersion, low energy consumption, low maintenance costs and low noise, Tuszynski says.
Cold Logic has a demonstrator van currently with Stratford Fine Foods, a family owned frozen wholesale distributor, which has long experience of operating eutectic systems. “We thought it made sense to place the first demo vehicle with someone accustomed to running these things. I am delighted to say that they are very happy with it,” Tuszynski says.
Stratford Fine Foods’ vehicles leave its premises at -30ºC. One run to London delivers ice cream with about 40 drops on the round and gets back to the depot still at -20ºC, says Tuszynski. “After a day’s work you find me a blown air fridge that will do the same. In London it’s all stop start with no recovery time for the refrigeration unit at all. But the eutectic system is continually pumping away and if they get a vehicle breakdown they don’t lose product because it will stay at temperature for 12 hours without doors openings.”
Cool Logic plans to sell the product to operators who have not operated eutectics before. “We know we are ploughing a different furrow but we want operators to experience what is like to have deep-freeze product delivered at deep-freeze temperatures,” he says.
“We have the demonstrator and are happy to lend it to people who are genuinely interested. We want feedback. Blown air systems have had it their own way for a very long time because the chilled product was the one that was always advocated in the UK unlike in Europe where is has always been frozen product.”
“I appreciate that frozen food is pretty much a niche market. The ice cream market is ideal for our kind of product but that doesn’t mean that anyone delivering other frozen products does not need to look at them.” In Italy, eutectics are popular for home delivery work where typically operators use a multi-compartment body carrying roll cages.
Tuszynski cites data from the British Frozen Food Federation – Cold Logic is a member –
showing growth in the frozen food market. The restaurant trade in particular is moving toward frozen foods because of the lower food waste achieved from using frozen against fresh.
In the UK ice-cream suppliers have long used eutectic systems but modern systems are relevant to a wider range of operators. Modern systems no longer have the weight penalty traditionally associated with eutectics. “Nowadays a 3.5-tonner will get a payload of about 900kg.
“The reason we get that, apart form using different materials, is by using detached systems as the vehicle doesn’t need the charging system attached to it.”
The vehicle is charged overnight with the charging unit remaining at base. Any maintenance on the charging unit can be done without affecting vehicle utilisation thus reducing downtime.
There is a small price premium on eutectic bodies but this is more than outweighed by long body-life, typically ten years. Van operators can expect to use three chassis per body, he says. Leasing and finance companies will reflect this in rates charged, offering packages on chassis and bodies over different terms, he says.
The bodies come as a package put together by Framex in Italy. The UK body builder merely bolts the body, using a subframe that matches the chassis, and connects the pre-installed wiring loom. “There’s no plumbing of fridges, no gassing and all that kind of stuff. It’s a sealed unit and they tend not to go wrong,” he says.
Whole life costs for eutectic systems are appreciably lower than for blow air systems principally because maintenance costs are very low on eutectics, Tuszynski says. “Eutectics are hugely attractive for rental operations because of low maintenance,” he says. “From our point of view we are not in the market to rent or lease these units: we are happy for other people to do that. Clients can take it on contact hire deals or finance and have people in place that will finance the vehicles.
“They will finance in two ways: for an operating or finance lease, they will separate the two elements so you cost the body over a far longer period that a chassis because you are likely to slip two or three chassis under it.
“We are very excited about the launch of this product over here and very keen for people to try it. Some people say they will have to change this and change that. True, but if the change is for the better, you have nothing to lose.”
Eutectic Vehicle Solutions – Highlights
• Eutectics offers many benefits over a blown air refrigerated system when transporting frozen foods
• Maintain temperatures of -30°C to -18°C in a multi drop environment.
• Lower fuel costs over a blown air system as the refrigerant “charges” overnight not whilst on the road.
• Less temperature loss when doors are opened as compartments give access to the area needed not the entire body.
• Maintenance is greatly reduced, it’s not unknown for systems to operate in excess of 3 years without a service call.
• Operators can cost the body over ten years or more since the body can be transferred to a new chassis,
• Near silent running while delivering allowing access to low noise areas.
• The vehicle doesn’t need to be running when you’re on your route, so you can take advantage of stop/start technology.
Firast published in Cold Chain News September-October 2012
CryoRed – The world’s first ice-crystal biosensor
Manchester, UK: The use of freeze-sensitive labels and electronic time-temperature indicators (eTTI’s) has become widespread as a means of monitoring vaccines and other high-value, freeze-sensitive products as they pass through the cold chain supply network.
Whereas these devices have without doubt cut shipment losses and raised standards of safety, they are still essentially sub-optimal solutions in that it is not the freezing event per se which causes damage: in the pharmaceutical industry, numerous products are routinely stored and shipped at sub-zero temperatures without any adverse effects or loss of activity. Rather, it is the rate of freezing that is critical, as this determines the size of the ice-crystals that are formed – large ice-crystals being associated with mechanical damage and cell dehydration. Generally, the slower the rate of freezing the larger the size of the ice-crystals and the greater the chance of product spoilage.
Protein Technologies in Manchester, UK, has now produced an optimal solution to the problem of freeze damage with the development of CryoRed – the world’s first ice-crystal biosensor. CryoRed is a fluorescent protein which has been engineered to be hyper-sensitive to the formation of large ice-crystals. Normally the protein fluoresces a bright red colour, however, when it is exposed to the slow freezing conditions in which large crystals are formed, it is irreversibly denatured and turns an opaque white.
The ability to differentiate between different types of freezing events in this manner has not been possible hitherto and has left manufacturers and cold chain supply companies with no choice but to err on the side of caution. In 2006, for example, when a shipment of almost 20,000 flu vaccines was mistakenly frozen, Novartis elected to destroy the entire batch of 500,000 doses rather than risk the chances of a single patient suffering an immunogenic response.
CryoRed exhibits a number of further advantages over conventional freeze detection solutions. As a liquid suspension, it lends itself to formulation in blister packs or small stick-on labels; traditional freeze-sensitive labels and eTTI’s are far too bulky to be attached to individual products. A second major advantage is cost. The colloid-filled membranes on which freeze-sensitive labels are based call for complex fabrication and each eTTI requires a separate electronic circuit board. Because CryoRed is produced by fermentation, it can be manufactured as a bulk liquid at low cost.
With such versatility of formulation and low cost of manufacture, the potential applications for CryoRed are manifold. Because of its unmistakably bright fluorescence, CryoRed will allow individual vaccine vials to be labeled with a small, freeze-sensitive dot, just as they have been with heat-sensitive dots for many years. CryoRed can similarly be used with other biopharmaceutical products such as antibodies or protein therapeutics. As these compounds become ever more structurally complex, the requirements for patient safety ever more stringent and the economic imperatives to operate efficient cold chain supply networks ever more pressing, the drive towards individual product labelling is likely to gain strength.
Another application for CryoRed is in the quarentening of donor organs and tissues. Many of the adverse incidents that occur in the cold chain supply network come about as the result of the failure of freezer-chillers. Typically, freezer-chillers maintain organs between 0°C and -4°C, however, when they break down, it is common for these units to slowly drop in temperature to -17°C to -25°C – ideal conditions for the formation of deleterious ice-crystals.
Such break-downs are generally picked up by electronic alarms leading to the removal of the organs to a second, properly functioning freezer-chiller where they are then held in quarantine. As there are currently no means of assessing ice-crystal damage, however, subsequent visual inspection of the organs provides little information as to their true integrity leading clinicians regretably to err on the safe side and discard them with potentially life-threatening consequences.
A third major application for CryoRed relates once again to the current absence of any visual means of assessing ice-crystal formation. The cryopreservation of stem cells is a challenge as existing methods represent a trade-off between preventing the formation of damaging ice crystals and the toxic effects of cryoprotectants, notably DMSO. As a result, many stem cells must be administered in multiple dosages to minimize the risk of the side-effects of DMSO. The use of CryoRed will allow clinicians to break free from this historical bind and utilize novel, low toxicity cryopreservatives such as xylomannan strong in the knowledge that any changes to the ice-crystal formation profile are quickly detectable. A million patients have already received stem cell therapy and the global market is forecast to triple in size in the next three years to over US$60 billion.
Having recently filed a comprehensive patent on ice-crystal biosensors, Protein Technologies is currently seeking licensees for CryoRed in the packaging and reagents industries with a view to bringing the product to market within the next 8-12 months.
Marketing budgets are as important in these straitened economic times as they were in the good times. Sally Nash provides some cool marketing tips
SPENDING money on marketing during a financial downturn can be advisable, according to one of Cold Chain News’ Top 25 operators Grocontinental. The company’s joint managing director Linda Grocott says: “We have taken the view that even though we have enjoyed a very successful time with our business during recent years, we needed to market ourselves more consistently. The most successful companies always continue to market their businesses confidently, and the need is even greater during a recession.”
Grocott gives good advice as many large multinationals have expanded their marketing campaigns during economic crises and they have not only survived, but also thrived. For example, Procter and Gamble pushed Ivory soap during the Great Depression and Walmart launched its “Every Day Low Prices” campaign in 2000-2001.
But is a large budget necessary to achieve an effective marketing strategy? “You don’t need a huge marketing budget to present a positive image of your company,” stresses Grocott. “Good definition and positioning, clear messaging and consistency in style and voice mean you’re not re-inventing the wheel each time you want to produce marketing material.”
Marketing on a tight budget takes imagination, time and effort but it can be done, according to M1 Marketing’s managing director Liam Olliff. “On a tight budget money is best spent on canvassing, on getting on the telephone to set up meetings face-to-face. Nothing works as well as putting yourself in front of someone. Build a relationship with your customers.”
The most important factor when it comes to marketing is not how much money you spend but how effectively you spend it. “Let’s fact it, much depends what you do with your money,” adds Olliff. “You could allocate 6% of your profit on international exhibitions which could turn out to be a complete waste of money. On the other hand you could spend £80 on a quiet lunch with someone and double your money.”
And James Keeler, director of Garnett Keeler Public Relations, echoes this cry. “Many companies waste millions – sometimes multiples of millions – on ill-thought-out sponsorship programmes (a classic example) which have more to do with ‘patronage’ than ‘sponsorship’. Unless you are engaged in strategic key message delivery your money will be spent according to that old marketing cliché: “I know that 50% of my marketing budget is wasted; I just don’t know which 50%!”
Spending money on hiring a professional public relations professional can work well for some temperature-controlled operators. “We use an experienced freelance marketing consultant who works with us two days each week to help us with both our marketing strategy and execution of press releases, copywriting, promotion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects, advertising, award submissions and internal communications,” says Grocott.
“We find using someone on a freelance basis gives us a third-party objective view of our activities and introduces new ideas and learning from other businesses. A freelancer can also be a good sounding board.”
Keeler points out that a leading agency will do things faster than a busy operator could. “It will have instant access to all the relevant databases and software tools – and unless your company is huge, few in-house PR operations could justify that level of expenditure.”
For anyone going it alone, be warned that an effective marketing campaign does not rely solely on the occasional press release. Instead, Keeler says that nowadays most companies with critical mass run integrated campaigns across multiple platforms (the web, digital marketing, broadcast media and the conventional print medium.
Smaller companies can compete quite well with larger ones for online marketing if they have an attractive and up-do-date website. However, a quick look at the websites of many UK temperature-controlled operators – even some of our Top 25 companies – show that few are being updated regularly. Sometimes the latest news announcements date back to January 2011 or even earlier. This is a fatal mistake, according to Keeler.
“Forward thinking, innovative companies have highly active, feature-rich websites which are directly linked to every other aspect of their marketing programme, are updated daily (if not several times a day), are highly optimised, easy to navigate, fast, attractive and interactive. Customers will judge you from the first point of contact, and for most new customers in the 21st Century, the first point of contact will be a website.”
Grocott says the company plans to review and update its website this year to ensure that it keeps pace with digital developments and the ever-evolving world of search engine optimisation. “For example, we will look to introduce a company blog and most importantly, add video content to the home page of our website by the end of the year, to ensure we don’t disappear into the ether as Google searches become more sensitive to video content.”
Should you use social networking?
Some distribution companies, such as the Stobart group, have embraced social networking sites with a regularly updated Twitter site (@StobartGroup) that has over 13,000 followers. Likewise, Stobart has its own official Facebook page where a typical post is: “Right it’s Friday again and you know what that means, yes Eddie Stobart on Channel 5. This week we see Fiona and Edd Stobart go on a run…” Stobart has also used Facebook to promote its £7.99 Easter Egg mug, to discuss depot tours and make general announcements.
Social networking was almost irrelevant in business-to-business marketing a little while ago but that is no longer the case, says James Keeler, director of Garnett Keeler Public Relation. Social networking will become increasingly important as the social networks themselves evolve to meet the needs of business.
“They are doing that at a bewildering rate,” says Keeler. “I think there will be many people who will still prefer to sit down and open the pages of something tangible – a magazine or newspaper – for many years.”
So has the traditional press release died in the midst of text messaging, Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts? No, but they need to work harder to stand out. Liam Olliff recommends building up a relationship with journalists in the transport and temperature-controlled sectors. Press releases can be useful for getting key messages across, particularly for companies that cannot afford to advertise.
Meanwhile Keeler warns companies not to have unrealistic expectations when issuing a single press release as it is unlikely to achieve anything.
“Press relations is about the sustained and continuous delivery of key messages over a year or more (repetition equals reputation) – but the challenge is that if you keep saying the same old thing over and over again, it isn’t news, it’s history so it’s unlikely that anyone will print it. Exciting companies, run by ambitious people, will generate content (not just for press releases but for digital marketing, advertising, online newsletters, video, the web etc) without any difficulty at all.
“Boring, staid companies which do not change from year to year and have nothing new to say present a major challenge for their PR people – because they don’t generate content,” he says.
Claim your free Google Places listing if you have not already. You can include your company and contact details along with photos and videos. You can also highlight special promotions, post live updates, and respond to reviews from your Places for business account.
Online advertising, such as Google Places, looks destined to replace paper phone directory listings that cost thousands of dollars per year, according to the website http://socialmediapathways.com
By using citations and reviews, a Google Places listing will move up in ranking (there are usually seven Places listings on Google’s front page). With high ranking, your free advertising with Google Places will bring you more targeted customers faster than traditional, organic methods.
10 Top Marketing Tips
- Get a good prospects list and use the telephone to help “market” yourself if you are on a tight budget.
- Get testimonials to use in marketing materials, website to build confidence
- Use press releases, both online and offline, judiciously to build awareness and brand, as this is a free method.
- Cultivate relationships with the media, whether this is your local newspaper editor or the editor of a trade journal
- Enlist the help of a marketing professional if you have the budget.
- Be creative if you have a limited budget – hold an “open day”, visit local schools etc
- Attend exhibitions, trade shows and relevant conferences if only to network and chat to people
- Establish a strong identity through your livery, logo etc and build your image with professional-looking vehicles and depots
- Establish a website that is updated regularly and consider adding a blog and video content.
- Explore new trends in marketing such as social networking Google Places, mobile-friendly websites to assess whether they will help your business
Tel: 020 8647 4467
Tel: 01326 560400
Google Places: http://www.google.com/places/
PR Web: http://uk.prweb.com/
Press release distribution and tips on writing and optimising press releases