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Smart talk from Schmitz Cargobull UK’s Alan Hunt

Alan Hunt, managing director, Schmitz Cargobull UK: “The next few years will all be about technology, digitalization and data”

Warrington, UK: Alan Hunt, who was appointed managing director of Schmitz Cargobull UK last year, is a man on a mission. Matching customers’ evolving needs with Schmitz Cargobull’s extensive portfolio is high on his list of priorities.

And underpinning this is a shift away from talking to customers about capital equipment alone towards a full package that will “maximise” a distribution firm’s operating profit as well as the vehicle.

He talks exclusively to Cold Chain News magazine about the company’s approach.

Schmitz Cargobull is celebrating 125 years in business in 2017. Over that time the company has evolved hugely, says Hunt. “As well as trailers there are now truck bodies available and we are moving into the lighter end of the market with our van business too for a full logistics solution – right down to the last mile.”

The dialogue between Schmitz Cargbull and its customers has also changed over time, says Hunt. “Customers want to talk to me about what’s inside the semi-trailer, inside the box – the focus is definitely shifting to the security of the load, the condition of the load, the logistics of getting it there, all of the operational aspects.”

Hunt believes that the next few years will all be about technology, digitalization and data. In terms of reefer development specifically, Hunt says that Schmitz Cargobull’s products are “really getting good feedback and customers are really impressed with the technology that is now available”. For example, Schmitz Cargobull’s innovative smart trailer is Wi-Fi-enabled (operators can connect a trailer with a smart phone app) and this enables operators to set temperature parameters in the trailer or fridge unit, monitor them and step in fast if there are problems.

The next few years will be all about technology, digitalization and data

“You can programme them remotely so you can set parameters for different loads,” says Hunt. “So if you’ve got deep freeze on there, if you’ve got chocolate on board, flowers, pharmaceuticals, perishables etc, you can actually call them by name, Parameter 1, the next one Parameter 2 and so on,” says Hunt.

“That allows the fleet manager to have confidence in what they have set the equipment to and that really will give confidence to the supermarkets and to the customer that the load is secure, the load is being controlled.”

Hunt says there are safeguards in place in case of problems in terms of alerts and notifications. If there is an issue with the equipment – for example, if the cooling unit develops a problem – the notification comes through and Schmitz Cargobull knows it about it first. The operator or fleet manager is alerted and Schmitz Cargobull organises a service partner to be at the location with the necessary parts and equipment.

The smart trailers will be available for week 39 this year, says Hunt. Another development on the temperature-controlled vehicle front is a refrigerated version of the dry freight box, available for the home delivery market.“That will be available through mainland Europe initially,” says Hunt. “It will be 2018 when we will start to see that – we will see that in the UK a little bit later. We’re currently talking to customers, vehicle manufacturers and body builders at the moment, trying to understand where our offering fits.”

Yet another initiative at the company is on the Cargobull Trailer Store (CTS) used equipment side of the business. A new “Back to New” programme, that could be available within the next 12 months, will offer customers vehicles that are perhaps three or five years old. “Some customers who look at what we do may not want to, or be able to, purchase new equipment but because we have a very good quality, durable product, that is very well respected in the market, people look at the equipment that is returning to our business after, say, a five-year operational lease and see the real value in that. That is a programme we are just working through at the moment.”

Customers talk about what’s inside the trailer – the focus is on the security of the load, the condition of the load, the logistics of getting it there, all of the operational aspects

More widely, Schmitz Cargobull is also involved in a number of projects regarding energy regeneration. “There are some projects underway – some testing on how we get the energy back from the trailer, primarily I guess from the axle and road wheel towards the loading unit. There is potentially some discussion on whether we can provide power back externally from the trailer into other equipment as well.”

Another area of focus is Schmitz Cargobull’s independent service partner network in order to provide customers with a premium service. “Our opportunity now in our own organisation is to provide an absolutely exemplary service so the challenge for us and our service partner network is to raise both our own performance and their performance.” In the next few years Hunt sees the UK and the Republic of Ireland as big potential growth markets.

“Our market share in the temperature-controlled industry is high – in mainland Europe we have 65% market share in the reefer product range. So, as a reputable, responsible organisation we have a long-term plan to grow that market share further across Western Europe, the rest of Europe and out into the Middle East. Certainly that will be through more development of electrically driven technology.”