Driving automation in the logistics sector with NewCold

Driving automation in the logistics sector with NewCold

The industry is changing — automation has become king. The influence of technology on how businesses operate shows no signs of slowing down and its now become paramount that companies are agile or risk getting left behind. In the case of NewCold, the latest industry trends have been embraced and instilled into four key pillars: innovation, trust, agility and automation. NewCold is recognised as a leader in the development and operation of highly automated cold stores. The firm has a global network with eight locations in three continents and is still growing.

Speaking to Supply Chain Digital at the company’s Wakefield site, Abhy Maharaj, Global Chief Commercial Officer & Chief Operating Officer, stresses just how vital technology has become to NewCold. “At the heart of NewCold is technology and we always operate with the customer in mind. What makes us different is the way in which we leverage technology to deliver solutions for our customers,” he explains. “Take Big Data for instance, when NewCold thinks about automation or about its customers and services — that starts with data. We understand the data, its value and how to build the logistical business around it. All of our sites are 80-90% automated and you won't find anything else close to that all over the world.”

Maharaj lives and works at NewCold’s Asia Pacific headquarters in Melbourne. Still relatively fresh into the role having joined in July 2019, Maharaj believes that NewCold’s key focus on customer-centricity was an important factor on his decision to join the firm. “When I looked at the model, it was breath-taking because it centered around automation and getting large volumes of product in and out,” affirms Maharaj. “I developed a strong relationship with NewCold's founder, Bram Hage, who I felt was a great visionary and always had the customer at heart. I truly believed it was a business model that suited me very well and it’s tremendously scalable across the world. It’s rare that a European-based business can enter the US and Australian markets so quickly and we’re only just scratching the surface. I feel like it’s a great time to be joining NewCold and also for us to realise our potential beyond the three continents that we’ve just entered.”

With automation at the forefront of operations, NewCold leverages warehouse management software (WMS) in its automated facilities, which has proven highly successful at the company’s eight facilities worldwide. The WMS, developed by Davanti Warehousing, delivers its own state-of-the-art product — the innovative cloud-based management system CORAX. Having been developed using the latest Microsoft technologies, the SaaS (Software as a Service) allows NewCold to control the software design to meet its requirements and fulfil the needs of its customers. Through the assessment of these customer needs, NewCold provides tailor made solutions for the specific transport requests of its customers. The company possesses a range of different solutions to execute the transport of its customers, which includes a fleet of 200 own managed trucks and a diversity of partnerships which enables a full network optimisation. From operating a large-scale own transport fleet to a 3PL managed transport solution with dedicated partners, Maharaj’s customer-centric approach comes from understanding the drive behind his customers’ requirements. Despite the influx of new technology, Maharaj believes that it is vital that all incoming technology serves a purpose and enhances existing processes to ensure technology is not embraced for the sake of it. “Our sites are developed with sustainability in mind because customers want less energy use. Typically, NewCold’s sites are 50% more energy efficient than conventional cold storages,” he explains. “We make it easy for our customers to understand exactly where their products are in order to enable them to track it in real-time. Our systems are very smart so if a product arrives and is in the warehouse only for a few hours, it is placed in the most optimal position so that it can be moved in and out efficiently. There’s already quite a degree of AI already built into our software system.”

The long-term success of all businesses lies with the relationships that is developed with its customers. By operating with an agile approach, it allows NewCold to be lean and easily adapt its processes. “Engagement with our customers is key,” he explains. “We need to be constantly aware of the latest industry trends and the needs of our customers. For example, an increasing number of people are eating out of their homes, or using innovations like UberEats or DoorDash, so you need to consider the impact that this is having on our customer’s businesses.” With customer demands frequently changing, Maharaj believes it’s important to keep up-to-date with the latest trends in order to retain its position as a leader in the market. “It’s all about understanding those requirements from our customers to enable us to think ahead,” says Maharaj. “Our software is not just about warehouse management; it also revolves around starting to integrate more into the customer channels. We’re in multiple markets with some of our major customers and it’s important to recognise that supply chain and logistics aren’t the same in every market. It’s really about acknowledging how we can apply the learning across not only one country but multiple ones and then bring that to our customers and say ‘you could potentially improve your business if you adopt these changes,’ and that’s really how we work together.”

Highlighting the importance of developing strategic partnerships to help accelerate operations, NewCold has developed key partnerships with a number of companies such as; TGW Group, SKT, B-Built, Ancra, Fisher CGI, Kinspan, SSI Schager, Deweerdt, S-Zero. Maharaj believes the ability to develop mutual trust and understanding is vital to all successful partnerships that NewCold establishes. “Partnerships are essential to us. We have a co-competence that relies heavily on our partners. At the core, we need to grow together and learn from one another, so trust plays an important role in that,” explains Maharaj. “Partnerships also help us with innovation too. If they’ve got thoughts and ideas on the latest incoming technology, then they share that information and we collaborate together to develop new solutions for our customers or improve efficiencies. I also believe that due to the pace of which NewCold is growing; execution and agility is also critical. As we continue to incorporate new customers and enter new markets, we need to be fully informed of the trends that are out there as well as the challenges that we might face.”

With innovation recognised as one of NewCold’s key pillars, Maharaj understands the importance of measuring risk when looking to implement new software and processes. “With any technology and innovation, there’s a risk attached. We tend to develop our own systems and technologies because we’ve got existing sites that we can test and if it’s not working, we also have mechanisms in place where we can quickly stop the process.” Maharaj believes in a ‘fail fast’ process that if something isn’t going to work, then the process can be moved into an environment that can be tested more easily. “We don’t take massive risks where we will implement new untested processes on a full site all at once. We’ll take an approach where we collaborate with our customers, our people and understand what the risks are. We manage the risks and if the worst happens then we always have a back-up plan.” Another vital part of NewCold’s mantra is trust. Maharaj believes this to be essential to NewCold’s strategy. “Due to the way our logistics and cold storage business is set up, our customers need to believe in and be educated on the automation we have. When you look at the advancements of technology, we have spent a considerable amount of time educating and making sure that people fully understand what it’s all about — there has to be the trust there.”

With an intent to reduce the impact its operations have on the environment, NewCold has begun to optimise the cold supply chain and introduce innovating concepts. Due to its facilities being tall, it allows the buildings to embrace storage technology with a high stock density. The company’s stacker cranes in the cold store operates in the dark, with only LED lighting used for maintenance. This approach has enabled NewCold to use 50% less energy per pallet position in comparison with traditional cold storage facilities. “There’s a substantial focus on sustainability worldwide and we like to think we focus heavily on helping to bring that change too,” affirms Maharaj. “In the early days of NewCold’s model, we dramatically reduced energy consumption and with our customers becoming increasingly more focused on sustainability, it has led to it becoming an important driver for us. We have a strong philosophy around sustainability and we want to help bring a greener future. There’s still more to do — we aren’t finished yet.”

Looking to the future, Maharaj has a clear vision of the position he hopes NewCold to be in over the next few years and beyond. “We’ve got substantial projects already underway and our existing sites are filling up. Across Europe, most of our sites are full so there’s extension work to be done on our sites in order for us to increase our capacity,” he explains. “We’ve already entered Australia and the US, with both our sites becoming busier, I believe there’s also possibility for new builds coming into those regions. Our immediate focus is to ensure that we bring in new business as we look to enter new markets. We’re always looking to grow and it’s a big part of our focus by scaling up our software developers, operations people and management team to ensure we deliver on our commitments and successful implementation of projects on-time and on-budget.”

Abhy Maharaj