Question: How did you get into the temperature controlled distribution sector and what is your role within Castell Howell Foods?
Answer: My role within the business is director of transport operations, however as its a family business and I’m one of the “Jones’s”, the role is more than varied on a day to day basis. I’m 38 years old and have grown up with the business since its started just over 30 years ago, as a youngster and indeed then a farmers son, Lorries and anything mechanical were always something that I took a deep interest in.
Question: Can you firstly tell us what temperature controlled vehicles that Castell Howell Foods operates?
Answer: CHF operate a varying range of temperature controlled vehicles from a few small 1.5t vans, 25 X 3.5t sprinter vans, 25 X 7.5t dual temp rigids, about 80 X rigids of 12-18t GVW and 5 X 44t tractor trailer combinations, all of which are refrigerated. Makes include Mercedes for small vans and sprinters, Mercedes and Daf mainly for Rigids and Mercedes and Volvo for the 44 tonners, there are a few other makes thrown in the mix.
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 Castell Howell Foods?
Answer: 20 years ago our idea of multi temp was to have a moving pvc curtain wall that could move on a sliding rail up and down the inside of the body, that developed into a moving bulkhead and a side door and fan kits in the bulkheads, inevitably those fan kits never really did a great job and the cable to power the fan would be plugged into various points in the sidewall, more often than not these cables would get ripped off during loading. These days we have a great selection of kit available to us of great multi temperature systems that truly deliver independently controlled temperature zones, this partnered with innovation in side doors and integral bulkhead doors improve the security of the cold chain and also make life far easier for the drivers. Over recent years, the greatest change in technology for Castell Howell has been the introduction of full on board CCTV. We currently fit 8 cameras to our rigid vehicles, 4 externally which are a combination of driver aids such as reversing and near side view enhancement, and 4 internal cameras, 1 camera is placed in the cab facing the driver, 3 of the internal are fitted in the load space. This allows us to monitor working practices such as the use of steps, handling and picking of delicate products and that drivers are wearing the correct PPE. An increasing requirement is for security and in rare cases to prove that we have delivered specific items that an end user may claim has not arrived. From the internal and external cameras we can define if a product has been picked by the driver and has left the vehicle, and the external cameras can pick up in which direction our driver carries them away.
Question: Are you using telematics across your fleet currently? If so, what advantages do you see this gives your clients?
Answer: We have been using telematics for about 10 years now, the benefits and requirements are generally for ourselves, the obvious gains for us are driver performance and the tracking of the vehicles. We can use it to try and anticipate a customers delivery time, typically, even though we deliver to most customers 6 days a week, some will order goods for the day they are due to use them, if a delivery is seemingly late then the phone is usually pretty busy with customers chasing the whereabouts of their order, we can utilise telematics to locate the vehicle and give an estimate of when the driver should arrive, however it’s generally considered “the kiss of death” to do so as invariably the driver may face other challenges that the traffic team may not be aware of and may be taking diversions. Our drivers are paid on a salary basis, as a result we find that the drivers tend to complete their routes in the most efficient manner and little time in their day is wasted.
Question: Customer needs are constantly changing, so what are you finding is now the biggest request from your customers?
Answer: With the revolution and expansion in dining out over the last 10-15 years, product offerings have developed significantly from the frozen ready meals that used to form the basis of our stock lines, whilst they certainly still have their place, Castell Howell has witnessed a near explosion in the range and diversity in the products we offer. From fresh fish, extra matured beef, local and imported cheeses to fine dining ingredients, Castell Howell now lists over 12,000 product lines. Ensuring the availability of all of these products for next day delivery is a huge challenge for the business, the challenges include physically managing the range within the warehouse, ensuring sufficient levels are ready for despatch without overstocking along with the cost of holding so many products on our shelves, this combined with ever increasing customer demands on timed deliveries give us our greatest headaches.
Question: What environmental measures does Castell Howell Foods incorporate to ensure best practice?
Answer: Castell Howell operates a very modern fleet with most trucks less than 3 years old, this ensures that we are utilising the most fuel efficient and clean Euro 6 vehicles available to us. Other initiatives include, undermounted fridges on approximately 50% of the fleet, air deflectors are now fitted in lieu of the traditional illuminated headboards that we used to fit, a tyre pressure monitoring system that captures the PSI level of each tyre that crosses the Wheelright system sited at the exit of the truck wash, we pay our drivers up to £40 per week according to their telematics score/performance which has a major impact on driver behaviour and fuel usage, the commercial fleet are limited to 52mph which has proven to save between 3-4% of fuel usage, we collect some of our suppliers goods if our vehicles are in the vicinity, reducing carbon footprint and delivery costs, both the distribution warehouse and the recently built meat cutting plants are fitted with solar panels to make the best of the West Wales sunshine, Castell Howell is a proud partner of the WRAP foundation, we recycle 95% of all of our packaging and have a strong link with the local authority and waste management company to ensure that our landfill contribution is negligible. Most significantly our product range of over 12,000 products allows our customer to source all of their catering requirements from a single supplier, this cuts down on the number of deliveries to thief sites and has a great impact on carbon footprint and congestion in some of the major cities.
Question: Since the Brexit decision, have you noticed any changes with your business?
Answer: Our business hasn’t really changed at all, people will still eat! The biggest change we have witnessed is the excuse that is now used for any price increase, Brexit. There’s clearly been a lot of bandwagon hopping, however some suppliers have made themselves look rather silly in doing so, we had a bread supplier claim that our products would be subject to a 15% price increase due to the exchange rate and the effect of Brexit, sadly for them we sell flour, bought from the same British source as them, and British flour hadn’t moved in price at all. Clearly they were trying it on. As exchange rates fluctuate, and thankfully they have been fairly steady for some time, we see some slight trend changes, but in my opinion nothing significant. Whilst at Castell Howell we don’t supply to Europe, we do buy products from Europe and indeed further afield, and regardless of “deal or no deal”, we at Castell Howell, along with everyone else in the U.K. will still be buying from Europe when we do leave the EU. For me, if leaving the EU can result in the reinstatement of some common sense, and the removal of legislation such as type approval and driver CPC, both of which in my opinion are laughable, then perhaps some of the doom and gloom can be lightened with some optimism and positivity. We see Brexit as an opportunity, a clean slate and the perfect time to harness and strengthen relationships, at Castell Howell it comes indeed from our own agricultural routes to the end user, a time to be patriotic and to champion our own farmers, producers and the U.K. manufacturing industry.
Question: Lastly, would you like to share any news about your company that you feel would benefit the TCS&D readers?
Answer: In 2016 Castell Howell reached the milestone £100m turnover, and entered the top 50 companies in Wales for the first time. We also opened a dedicated fish processing plant to complete our offering of the best fresh locally caught fish delivered daily throughout Wales and the West Country. 2017 has been another busy year with the completion of £4m reinvestment to the main warehousing and distribution facility in our Cross Hands headquarters, and construction work is ongoing with improvements and expansion to our loading facilities, 2018 will see further development of the office facility as desk space is at a premium with the continued growth of the business.