• TCS&D 2019 Dates: 25 & 26 June 2019. Location: East of England Arena, Peterborough


Question: How did you get into the temperature controlled distribution sector and what is your role within Oakland International? 

Answer: I am the co-founder and Chief Executive for the Oakland Group which we launched 20 years ago this November. It was not a planned strategy to get into this sector, having historically been involved in the family farming business which had been operating for 34 years.

We started by offering a chilled Christmas solution for fresh cream, yogurts and juices, whilst additional work on the old farm buildings enabled us to offer an ambient (non-food) solution. Added to this we took on some packing and rework opportunities for Christmas goods and seasonal biscuit assortments. So that was when we realised that we had become a multi-temperature supply chain solutions company.

Question: Can you firstly tell us what temperature controlled vehicles that Oakland International operates?

Answer: Historically we have never owned or operated our own vehicles as we have been a firm believer that there is plenty of capacity within the current distribution network. We have also supported primary logistics solutions where they exist cost effectively, as we have always seen this as added value through closer connectivity with our customers’ customers.

We have been fortunate to have developed great partnerships with UK and Irish transport companies such as Caffrey International and Samworth Brothers whose expertise in their field has served Oakland and our clients well, whilst adding value through existing network capacity.

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 Oakland International?

Answer: As we do not operate our own fleet we have focussed on energy efficiency in our warehouses and have evolved over the years to incorporate newer technologies around our refrigeration equipment for our chillers and freezers.

We now generally adopt pack systems which can also give us the flexibility to switch from chill to freeze so that we have the capability to react to the market fluctuations for chill and frozen.

The monitoring of the equipment has also been a significant investment that we have committed to, using Danfos energy management and monitoring systems which our refrigeration engineering partners have online access to – simple things that get overlooked such as running too cold and having wrongly sequenced defrost cycles are a focus for us.

Question: Are you using telematics across your fleet currently? If so, what advantages do you see this gives your clients?

Answer: We firmly believe that any network partner that we use should have a robust telematics system operating within their business. The visibility that this can give collaborative partnerships is substantial, from a client confidence perspective and also for seeking out opportunities for ad-hoc deliveries or return load optimisation.

Question: Customer needs are constantly changing, so what are you finding is now the biggest request from your customers?

Answer: Aside from the usual pressure on pricing, customers are looking increasingly at the depth and breadth of the supply chain solutions offer – outside of just transport and warehousing. Customers rightly expect their partners to act as partners for their business, looking at everything from packaging design, new market opportunities and innovation. We are also being more regularly asked about risk management strategies for everything from labour through to IT and vehicle breakdown cover. More recently, we are being regularly asked for support on challenges being brought about by Brexit.

Question: What type of temperature controlled warehousing does Oakland International offer to its customers?

Answer: We offer the full spectrum from frozen through to chilled and ambient, including deep chill. We have small and large compartmentalised chambers with kit which allows us to switch temperatures in response to customer demands. Our single-site solutions for frozen and chilled give clients a one-stop solution for tempering and coding solutions locally in the UK and Ireland.

Question: What number of pallets does your temperature controlled warehousing hold?

Answer: We have around 25,000 pallets capacity for chilled in the UK & Ireland and around 4,000 pallets capacity on frozen. Ambient can fluctuate between 5,000 and 10,000 pallets.

Question: What environmental measures does Oakland International incorporate to ensure best practice?

Answer: We have always had a very strong focus on environmental impact, reflected in one of our two Queens Awards last year for sustainability.

We are an early adopter of new technology and have extensively deployed this throughout the business. This includes solar PV, LED lighting throughout, Power Factor Correction, energy efficient heating, zero to landfill strategy, extensive recycling, energy efficient refrigeration and monitoring system, electric vehicles, on-site sewage treatment.

We would love to have a wind turbine on site but haven’t yet convinced the planners. We have even tried out a worm farm – not our best project so far though!

New initiatives yet to be deployed include battery power pack storage, CHP and anaerobic digestion plant. We believe in sharing ideas on what works with businesses, schools and universities and don’t mind sharing what has not worked for us as well – the environment is everyone’s responsibility

Question: Since the Brexit decision, have you noticed any changes with your business?

Answer: There is a lot of concern from many of our European customers of course but then a lot of the damage has already been done in terms of exchange rates and I believe that a new ‘normal’ is now in place. We have had a lot of interest in our Brexit team approach headed up through our sister company Oakland Invicta which is currently running seminars on how to deal with the possible outcome of border controls. There is a lot that companies can be doing now as risk management strategies which will at least prepare them for what could be a challenging border control process. We hope that sense will prevail with border controls and customs but our message is that it is best to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. We have a website set up to help anyone in the industry – even our competitors!

We feel that having our own business model in Dublin and a strategic partnership in Spain with Carbo Colbatelle as well as our UK centres in Corby and Redditch will give clients a range of solutions which will fit their import and export needs whatever the outcome of Brexit.

Question: Lastly, would you like to share any news about your company that you feel would benefit the TCS&D readers?

Answer: We are on a growth curve and have invested heavily over the last two years in both the UK and Ireland. Our strategy is about honest partnership and collaboration and we are extremely open to working with anyone who feels that they can add value to our business, their business and our combined service offer to our respective customers and their customers.

We enjoy the challenge of finding solutions to complex and bespoke supply chain challenges and admittedly get a little frustrated at the pace of change within elements of the retail supply chain.

The market has become volatile and I feel has lost some of its core values through an aggressive approach on retaining revenues and/or profit at the expense of innovation and long-term sustainability. It would be good to see more focus on better business which benefits not only commercial sustainability but also blends into an environmental and social responsibility focus.