Edwin Street first used a cart and later a one-horsepower motorbike to deliver his ice cream, mostly to neighbours in the Wollongong suburb of Corrimal, when he started out in 1920.
A century later, the products of Streets, along with Vermont ice-cream brand Ben & Jerrys, are ferried around by SEQ Ice Cream on a growing fleet of commercial vehicles, in which, Hino is presently the exclusive truck brand of choice.
SEQ Ice Cream has been the Unilever distribution arm since 2015. Proof of its growth strategy can be seen in operations.
In the past five years they have doubled the size of the business and that is also reflected in the fleet which now operates twice as many trucks including ten Hino 500 Series vehicles, seven of which can be considered new purchases. The first installment of these were delivered in May with another three already on order.
The refrigerated bodies are built by Brisbane company Scully RSV who have a longstanding commercial partnership with Hino and Sci Fleet Hino.
Powered with Thermo King T1000 units, the bodies are commonly specified for a 6- and 8-pallet payload, although a smaller vehicle is deployed in the denser Brisbane metropolitan area where it is more suited.
A 10-pallet van is currently being built in time for summer when demand surges.
Deliveries cover a geographical expanse more than half the size of Queensland.
These will take the trucks as far north as Rockhampton, out west as far as Longreach and south to Grafton in New South Wales. All told, the trucks cover a territory equivalent to Venezuela.
Within that region around 3,500 customers are called upon. SEQ Ice Cream provides full service for all aspects of the route trade.
This includes all customers where ice cream is commonly sold such as movie theatres, beach kiosks, petrol stations, general stores, IGAs, clubs, pubs, cafes, school canteens, public pools and other leisure outlets.
In short, anywhere that is not a Woolworths or Aldi. Generally, most customers receive a delivery once a week and as high as three times a week depending on their volume requirements.
SEQ Ice Cream Director Don Mackaness says the latest vehicles, which he looks to Scully for expertise on front and rear axle weights, body configurations and horsepower, all feature an automatic transmission.
“Operationally, they provide a smoother experience. There’s less concern for driver error and maintenance of equipment. The decision was made in part also with a view to their future resale value more than strictly performance,” he says. “Resale with an automatic transmission is between five to ten per cent higher than a manual.”
On average the trucks cover between 100 and 300 kilometres a day.
The longest job currently scheduled involves the 650 kilometre return leg from Grafton.
Vision Tracking is installed on all trucks.
This allows operations to monitor the working conditions of the truck including temperature of each vehicle, which must be maintained at -22 Celsius and to track the location of the fleet.
Prior to the trucks being sent on dispatch, daily orders, collated by the telesales team, are dumped onto a route optimisation system called PTV Smartour.
The logistics desk plans out each route assessing metrics for distance to travel, sales and number of drops in order to set out the most efficient use of resources for the day.
“For us it’s about getting the best, most optimised routing sequencing done for each of the trucks to limit the resource allocation and maximise delivery efficiencies,” says Don. “The drops to customers in a particular territory are broken up based on the trips required. We want to apportion the GSV evenly among the 15 trucks going by moving the load from one vehicle to another.”
The process behind it ensures the company accounts for each delivery as they happen and returns its drivers to the depot within an expected time frame and all of it with high accuracy.
“We generally can tell by the afternoon prior what time all our trucks should be back the following workday,” Don says. “So if Smartour tells us we’re doing an eight hour day generally there will be a 30 minute threshold in that example.”
With the sequencing of vehicle movements predicated on auto generated telesales the trucks complete weekly, fortnightly and monthly deliveries.
Having taken over an existing Hino fleet, the team at SEQ Ice Cream saw it appropriate to continue on with the brand for consistency and maintenance.
The new Hino 500 Series Standard Cab delivers in the key areas of driveability and reliability according to Operations Manager Shaun Chandler.
“The active safety suite features speed alerts, Lane Departure Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, the latest sensor technology that I see on my new car,” he says. “Smart systems like Vehicle Stability Control, traction control and the like reassure the logistics team that the drivers will get to where they are going on time.”
On occasion Shaun will operate one of the vehicles, but is more accustomed to driving a keyboard for his role these days.
As a personal preference he does favour a manual transmission when in the saddle on a delivery. Having greater confidence in the new Hino 500 Series trucks, when considering the geographical task asked of them, is no small recompense.
“The standout characteristic of the Hinos for me is how reliable they have been,” he says.
“In five years we haven’t had to rescue anyone from the road.”
Logistics staff draw from an 800 pallet cold store, situated directly opposite head office in the port suburb of Hemmant, just 20 minutes from the CBD. Its close proximity to the Gateway Bridge makes it ideal for a logistics business.
The northside of the bridge feeds traffic to the Sunshine Coast and the south provides a direct route to its other main market on the Gold Coast.
The total workforce is accounted for by 40 employees across the warehouse, administration, sales department and truck drivers.
As the fleet is already on-road at 4.30am it doesn’t suffer from traffic disruptions now prone to last mile services in most major metropolitan areas in Australia. In general, the drivers are returning to Brisbane by mid-afternoon.
“Those extremities aren’t an issue because all the traffic is going the other way,” Don says. “We’re generally travelling against the traffic. We’re coming back from the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast in the afternoon when everyone is heading out, say, on a Friday afternoon or holiday period.”
It makes sense, given the nature of the product, that SEQ Ice Cream works on a call schedule split between summer and winter.
Just as the core of the business is based around Brisbane, many people, however, will go on holidays to the outer lying coastal areas.
“That is a great balancer for the business because generally when everyone comes back to school and work in the Brisbane area the business is quite busy and when everyone goes on holidays the other extremities are busy,” Don says. “From a resource point of view we get a reasonable balance there. It works well. Generally, we would increase those delivery frequencies during summer based on demand. We will still call customers nearly as regularly, but the volume of drops would increase as would the volume of delivery numbers that sales value going out each day.”
Don, who holds both a Bachelor of Applied Science and an MBA, moved to Brisbane five years ago after having worked on the Southcoast of NSW for 18 years building up another business. Taking over the Southeast Queensland Operation was contingent on a definitive growth plan.
The predicate for this hinged on committing to different boundaries of additional customers and providing better efficiencies with cost savings, for the parent company of Streets, Unilever.
“For what they deliver Hino are certainly a more cost-effective option particularly for a company like ours that works to scale,” Don says.
“We’ve got a few trucks on the road so every dollar counts. Hino deliver a quality product at a reasonable price compared to their competitors. I think there’s huge advantages for us when they do a similar or better job than the competitor does at a cheaper price.”