Flexibility and continuous improvement are critical ingredients in the McCain contract

1 November 2017

Imperial Logistics’ long-standing partnership with frozen foods leader McCain reflects the group’s commitment to continuous improvement aimed at driving its client’s competitiveness.

For more than 15 years, Imperial has been responsible for the inbound transport of raw potatoes to McCain’s facility in Delmas, Mpumalanga. The recent renewal of Imperials’ five year contract for this service is a testament to the company’s success in delivering an unmatched transport model that is flexible, efficient and cost effective.

The Challenge

McCain produces 70% of the world’s frozen fries. They have facilities on all continents exceptfor Antarctica and the Artic; a claim that is not shared by any other producer in the world. Globally, McCain buys more potatoes than any other company in the world. In Africa, McCain South Africa is the largest producer of frozen fries and vegetables in sub-Saharan Africa, with a 75% market share.

McCain’s production facility in Delmas receives raw potatoes from some 80 farms around the country. The company supplies frozen chips to most of South Africa’s leading fast food chains; each of which has very specific requirements in terms of the potato cultivar required for their fries. McCain currently sources eight different potato cultivars for its fries, and the Delmas plant processes between 10 000 and 14 000 tonnes of raw potatoes a month.

“The frozen fries business is a very complex one, fraught with challenges that include the weather and time,” stresses Imperial Logistics chief strategy officer, Cobus Rossouw.

 “Once it is out of the ground, a potato has a very limited life span. It is paramount that it gets to a proper storage facility or factory as quickly as possible. Arriving at the farm on time to load is critical for the transport of raw potatoes. Farmers plan their days, and the labour needed to load their potatoes, so they cannot be kept waiting,” he expands.

The recent severe drought had a massive impact on potato farmers, and to meet McCain’s needs, their transporter needed to have the flexibility to reduce or increase the number of vehicles to be deployed at short notice, and to send these further afield to collect potatoes.

The Solution

An in depth understanding of the challenges facing McCain and its suppliers, and a flexible, asset light business model, enables Imperial to seamlessly execute McCain’s inbound transport. “With vehicles provided by dedicated sub-contractors, Imperial is able to quickly upscale from 20 or 30 vehicles a day to 60, depending on potato farmers’ yields and McCain’s requirements,” Rossouw explains, adding that this would not be possible for a traditional fleet owner.

In this contract with McCain, Imperial has incorporated a new fleet configuration, consisting of walking floor vehicles which can load up to 33 tonne as well as a larger 32 tonne rear end tipper vehicles.Around 14 000 tonnes of raw potatoes are transported by Imperial each month, from farms situated around the country. More than 20 000 tonnes are collected annually from McCain-owned farms which are situated in the Lichtenburg region.

A recent continuous improvement initiative delivered by Imperial is a web-based portal designed to give McCain exceptional visibility of loads in transit. This valuable visibility tool shows the estimated time of arrival of the closest five vehicles, with details of the potato cultivar being transported and the size of the load.

The Outcome

“Imperial’s innovative portal enables McCain to plan production around the loads coming into Delmas,” says Rossouw.

As a result of the bigger vehicles added to the McCain fleet, Imperial is delivering cost savings and environmental benefits to its client. Rossouw commented “This initiative has resulted in fewer loads, which translates into reduced carbon emissions. A carbon saving of 6% has been achieved.”

In the last financial year, Imperial has notably reduced McCain’s cost per ton by more than 7%.

Imperial has a full staff complement on site at McCain’s Delmas facility 24 hours a day. Fully trained drivers understand the crucial time constraints for loading and offloading potatoes. “Turn around times are testing in this industry, but we share our client’s commitment to quality, and constantly strive to ensure that McCain potatoes are not compromised by transport delays,’’ declares Rossouw. Working together, McCain and Imperial designed a driver induction process which has been successfully completed by 92 drivers.

“Imperial’s asset light model, which enables us to grow or downsize McCain’s fleet based on demand, has proved the ideal solution for McCain’s transport requirements for raw potatoes,” Rossouw concludes.

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