Cold chain leader

If you think of refrigerated transport, one name immediately comes to mind – Frigmobile. The iconic company is part of the huge Swire Group and part of Swire Cold Storage. The company has been active in cold storage services in Australia for nearly 100 years and continues to grow regardless of economic conditions.

Expansion of the company’s refrigerated services really gained momentum back in 1956 when the Swire Group, seeking further business opportunities, invested in Perishable Cargoes, a sizeable refrigerated transport operation with cold stores in Sydney, Devonport and Burnie in Tasmania. Just a year later an interest was acquired in FrigMobile, thus increasing cold storage capacity and the size of the transport fleet at a time when temperature controlled transportation was in its infancy. The company became a fully-owned subsidiary in 1967 and the name changed to what we are familiar with today, Frigmobile.

Frigmobile has always been at the forefront of new developments and technology when it comes to handling temperature sensitive freight and has worked tirelessly to improve handling and transportation methods, finely tuned to meet customer needs.
Swire Cold Storage has applied the same rigorous emphasis on service to its operational premises across the country by expanding facilities to 17, comprising 73,185,781 square feet of capacity. Racked pallet locations number 326,662, making it one of the biggest in cold storage across the nation.

In 1970, Frigmobile purchased an interest in W. Woodmason Cold Storage, increasing its stake over the years until it became a fully owned subsidiary in 1988.

In the meantime, Frigmobile’s business continued to grow, a milestone being winning a contract for the warehousing and delivery of foods throughout New South Wales for Woolworths in 1980.

The 1980s also saw Frigmobile develop an increasingly close relationship with the Adelaide-based South Australian Cold Stores, then a subsidiary of Metro Meats. This industry pioneer had an extremely long history in the industry, having been established as London Road Cold Stores in 1915 and opening its first facility two years later. After a decade long association, South Australian Cold Stores was acquired by John Swire & Sons in 1993.

In late 2002, John Swire & Sons Pty Ltd announced its biggest acquisition to date in Australia with the purchase of the majority of the assets of P. Cleland Enterprises in Western Australia and Victoria, a family-run logistics group founded in 1933. Then, in 2004, the group restructured its Australian cold storage and refrigerated transport businesses. These were consolidated under the Swire Cold Storage name, under which the Frigmobile and Cold Chain Logistics brands continue to operate today.

The company has achieved some significant milestones. In 2007, Swire Cold Storage became a 50 per cent stakeholder in Polar Fresh, a new business formed to manage two large distribution centres for Coles in Brisbane and Melbourne.

August 2008 saw the company’s new cold store in Laverton Victoria officially opened with a 26,176 pallet capacity and in October of that same year, expansion in Western Australia came with the opening of a new cold store in Welshpool with a 15,442 pallet capacity.

In March 2010 the opening of the Lurnea 3 cold store in Western Sydney expands the site’s total capacity to 41,795 pallets and in April the Hemmant 3 cold store came on stream in Brisbane, incorporating advanced environmental efficiencies with a capacity of 24,845 pallets.

The company operates 227 vehicles comprising B-doubles, single trailers and rigid trucks operating linehaul, regional and local distribution services. It recently added a number of new prime movers and trailers to the fleet. The Queensland fleet now comprises 19 prime movers, four Kenworths and fifteen Volvos, 36 refrigerated trailers and two rigids. The feedback from drivers has been positive, indicating an increased level of satisfaction with the new Volvos.

Swire Cold Storage will evaluate performance, vehicle emissions, utilisation and total cost of ownership over the life of the trucks. The new vehicles incorporate technology including GPS location at any time of the day, seven days a week. This technology also allows operations to track a number of aspects of each truck’s operating performance, including fuel consumption and driving times and distance, with live reporting. Swire Cold Storage’s Queensland company owned transport fleet currently services an area bounded by Grafton in the south, Mackay in the north and Toowoomba in the west. Areas outside of this geographical footprint are serviced using a small number of dedicated sub-contractors.

Swire Cold Storage’s NSW fleet recently received three new B-double Volvo prime movers: two FM 500s and one FH540. All three vehicles run to Euro 5 emission standards and are also satellite tracked. The trucks have automatic Volvo I-Shift transmissions for driver comfort, reduced driver fatigue and improved fuel economy. Drivers have indicated that the trucks are as comfortable to drive as a family car. New trailers have been recently added to fleets in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia and more are currently on order.

Swire Cold Storage recognises that the cold chain logistics industry is resource intensive and has the potential to impact the environment. The company is committed to ensuring that potentially adverse impacts of its operations are identified and appropriately managed, and to developing operations that become ‘best in class’ in terms of environmental performance.

By 2007, the company had met its initial environmental objectives five years earlier than targeted. As a result, new objectives have been set and from 2010 it aims to reduce water and energy consumption and CO2 emissions by 15 per cent across its operations.

To achieve these objectives, Swire Cold Storage recognises that energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions are its biggest environmental impact and should be the main focus of its management program. Refrigeration is the greatest consumer of energy within the company’s operations, and reducing consumption has been approached from five directions.

Firstly SCS has been recognised as a pioneer in the conversion from Freon to ammonia in Australia. Ammonia refrigeration systems use up to 30 per cent less energy due to improved heat transfer coefficients and do not rely on greenhouse gases. The first approach was to implement its use.

Its newest warehouses demonstrate marked improvements in energy consumption that can be achieved through warehouse design. Most notable is the introduction of rapid roller doors, which minimise loss of condition through air exchange.

Efficiency is being maximised through techniques including room cycling, load sharing and load shifting. In addition, conversion to sensor-activated LED lighting has the potential to reduce energy consumption from lighting by up to 75% per cent. Swire Cold Storage has followed the Australian Government Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) legislation and delivered a reduction of over 1,000,000kWh in the first 18 months of its commitment.

Behavioural change has also been a factor. The actions of staff at all levels play a crucial role in reducing the company’s carbon footprint. All staff are encouraged to contribute to improving the efficiency of the company’s facilities, and staff EEO workshops identified 192 opportunities for further savings.

Water conservation is another critical area and Swire Cold Storage now harvests around 30,000,000 litres of water annually. Water harvesting initiatives save around 30 per cent of consumption at cold stores where tanks are installed.
SCS seeks to add value to customers’ businesses with IT enabled logistics, enhanced efficiency and reduced operating costs.

The Swire Warehouse Inventory Management System (SWIMS) provides the link between every cold store across Australia. Equally importantly, SWIMS B2B capability means that Swire Cold Storage can interface with its customers’ IT systems to deliver a seamless flow of real time information. SWIMS has been developed to be compatible with international standard packages including SAP, BPCS, JDE, MfgPro and Movex, and custom applications can also be developed.

The SCS IT department works with the customers’ IT teams to create solutions that meet specific business needs. Electronic purchase orders, purchase order acknowledgements, advanced shipping notices, and serial shipping container code labelling of pallets are all generated electronically.

The company provides a complete range of solutions to meet customer requirements working in partnership to provide seamless service across all sectors of operations. It is more than a trucking company and while we see Frigmobile branded vehicles in operation every day, they are just one part of a highly experienced, renowned and professional cold storage and logistics company that continues to expand. It continually monitors all aspects of its business activities in order to remain the major link in the cold chain.

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