Minding the environment

Over the last 12 months, Fowler Welch has experienced success at various levels. Specialised in the handling, consolidation, and distribution of chilled and ambient foods, the company has won new contracts, renewed existing ones, scooped a couple of awards, and, on top of that, continued to reduce its carbon footprint. “It was a really positive year for us,” affirms CEO, Nick Hay. “It is notable to mention the contract we have secured from Heck, which is a premium UK sausage manufacturer, as well as the partnership we have struck with Thanet Earth – the largest greenhouse complex in the UK. Alongside, we have extended our contract with Bernard Matthews and will continue to take care of the distribution of its chilled products.”

Fowler Welch has long established itself as a proponent of sustainability, paying heed to the environmental impact of its actions and devoting a considerable amount of efforts to introduce greener practices in its work. Nick highlights three major developments the company has instigated and taken to a successful end in the past year. “First of all, we revamped the refrigeration and electrical supply to our Kent depot, thus reducing electricity consumption significantly. Then, we made a £2 million investment in our Spalding site, once again centring on improving its electrical performance. We put new LED lighting in, new refrigeration, and generally freshened up the warehouse.

“Last but not least, we were able to increase our MPG yet again from 9.43MPG to 9.75MPG, which led to a further reduction of our carbon emissions by another 2000 tonnes from 2017, across our fleet alone,” he adds. Given that Fowler Welch runs a fleet of over 450 trucks criss-crossing the country, it was just logical that it started a number of initiatives to drive the carbon emissions down. These included the installation of telematics across all the vehicles, as well as a driver league table that recognises ‘good driver behaviour’ measured by levels of cruise and braking control, and load sympathy, amongst others.

The food supply chain expert has also launched an extensive in-fleet environmental road test programme that will continue in the next three years. “We have taken six tractor units from each of the five major marques – Mercedes, Scania, DAF, Volvo, and MAN. All of these units are the latest-generation product of the respective marque, so we will be able to compare their performance, with regards to the MPG, the uptime, and the driver acceptance, to gather useful data that will help us make informed decisions when purchasing new vehicles in the years to come,” Nick explains.

Inspired by the 18 per cent carbon emissions reduction it has achieved in the last six years, Fowler Welch published its first Environmental and Sustainability Report this year, providing the public with an overview of the steps the business has taken to accomplish such an impressive feat. External recognition has also been at hand, as the company was presented with the ‘Best Practice in Logistics’ award at the first Waste2Zero Awards. “We were acknowledged for our efforts to reduce waste across the supply chain, which includes working together with a food redistribution charity called FareShare. We have introduced 19 of our customers to the charity, having thus facilitated the donation of enough food for over two million meals for vulnerable people,” he comments.

“In addition, Fowler Welch was crowned ‘Logistics Supplier of the Year’ at The Grocer Gold Awards 2018, having been singled out for ‘bringing about the most tangible and meaningful improvements to the operation’ and demonstrating ‘innovative thinking’. We see ourselves as an extension to our customers’ teams in improving their efficiencies in the supply chain and offering an all-round service, and to be recognised by our peers is a richly-deserved award for everyone at Fowler Welch.”

Two examples mark the blend between the company’s willingness to develop value-added services and its unflinching drive for sustainability. Fowler Welch has recently designed new trailers for two of its customers to optimise their operation and reduce their mileage and carbon impact. Nick overviews the projects: “One of the clients in question has an automated pallet delivery system, which allows all the 26 pallets to be taken off the trailer at once. The downside of these trailers, however, is that you cannot use them without the ability to drag all the pallets on at once. To tackle this, we designed a trailer with a second floor that drops down over the mechanism and enables us to use it as a conventional trailer, which reduced the empty running by 80 per cent.

“Similarly, we noticed that we were not making the most of the weight that we could carry on a trailer for Tulip, because some of the products the company exports cannot be stacked very high. Again, we designed new trailers to add to our fleet, in which bars drop down from the ceiling, allowing us to treat a conventional trailer almost as a double-decker, and this ingenuity saved Tulip and us 250,000 miles per annum,” he points out.

The advent of supermarket home deliveries and the rise of Amazon have had a profound effect on the nature of retail delivery options, and Nick understands that being pragmatic and adaptable is the right approach to maintaining a strong position in the changing environment. “We need to embrace the changes and find ways to lead our customer base through them. We strongly believe that our IT systems and core consolidation services will be increasingly important to our clients in the future, as we orientate in the new conditions,” he maintains.

As a result of the strong new and renewed contracts, and the widened range of services offered by Fowler Welch, the company has managed to increase its year-on-year turnover by 13 per cent, an indicator that the organisation is on the right path. Nick discusses how he wants to see Fowler Welch develop from now on: “Our desire is to carry on growing organically. The business has done so in the past eight years to reach its current turnover of £175 million, and, over this period of time, we have demonstrated our capability to find the exact solutions our customers want. We genuinely try to collaborate with them and we are planning to do more of that, while constantly looking to integrate new value-added services to our offering,” he concludes.

Fowler Welch
A leader in food supply chain logistics
Reduced its carbon impact by 18 per cent in the last six years
Already won two prestigious industry awards in 2018