The margin of error when it comes to retaining the quality and freshness of perishable fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) in general is minimal wherever you are on the planet. Nevertheless this small margin decreases further still when one is operating in high-temperature zones south of the equator.
For blue chip retailers in such parts of the world maintaining the cold chain during transit and having the right goods available in store on a just-in-time basis is fundamental to their brand integrity and their market reputation. Operationally, it is a demanding, high-pressure environment with no margin for error.
Aspen Logistics Services is a leading supplier to the FMCG logistics sector in Southern Africa. While its core business remains located within South Africa, the company also services a growing customer base in Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique.
A level 3 BBBEE accredited business, Aspen is committed to achieving sustainable commercial success, principally in the road transportation of temperature controlled products, adding value to all stakeholders within the supply chain, while also retaining its position as being the benchmark for quality transportation service within the sector.
In order to achieve this Aspen operates under a clear set of principles. These include striving to create smart partnerships with its clients by providing a tailored, premium service at a cost effective price, to constantly improve efficiencies within the supply chain through on-going innovation and to continually develop its staff by providing what it calls “dynamic leadership”.
In addition, Aspen is committed to being a socially responsible service provider with sound and ethical business practices which comply with the principles of good corporate governance. By being such a business it is able to achieve sustainable and controlled growth that complements its clients by conducting operations in a sound manner.
As part of Aspen’s sustainability drive, great attention has been paid to reducing carbon emissions from the fleet, year-on-year. For example, its trailer builders have embarked on a number of environmentally friendly initiatives in their factories. Aspen operates Thermoking SLX refrigeration units which have made enormous strides in reducing CO2 emissions as well as reducing fuel consumption and reduced noise pollution.
Aspen prides itself on having an exceptionally high standard of operations with an advanced technological infrastructure and a very high standard of equipment, including its fleet of trucks. The company is indeed highly passionate about the condition of its 80-strong fleet of trucks that use Caterpillar engines because of their global reputation.
Aspen can be counted among the most famous names in the on-highway truck industry to have Cat engines under the hoods of their vehicles. It was recently announced that as part of Caterpillar's drive to reinforce its reputation for dependability it was helping to launch Barloworld Power's Million Kilometre Campaign, which encourages a strong maintenance partnership between customers and TEPS dealers.
Qualifying clients and their dealers receive a special certificate in recognition of their service partnership. Perhaps more significantly, clients can in turn affix the Cat Million Kilometre logos to their truck's cab, sending a clear message to the market that their fleets are in optimum condition and geared towards on time consignment delivery.
Aspen was the first CAT customer to be awarded a Cat Million Kilometre certificate. Speaking during the award ceremony in September, Aspen's managing director, Dr Sujen Padayatchi, said that the Million Kilometre campaign epitomises the quality of the Caterpillar brand and underscores the company's confidence in the reliability of Cat's on-highway engines.
"As a company, we have an absolute passion for what we do and our trucks are the lifeblood of our business," said Padayatchi. "For this reason, our drivers are amongst the best in the industry and our maintenance programmes strictly adhered to, ensuring high availability at all times. This is underscored by the fact that Aspen's workshop was accredited by Freightliner in 2005 in terms of OEM compliance. One of the most remarkable features of our Cat engines is that, old or new, we get the same consistent performance from our Freightliner trucks, which is very reassuring both for us and our customers in terms of on time delivery."
Aspen has focused on the logistics niche that deals with express overnight transportation of mostly perishable products, due for next day in-store delivery. The company chose this market because it is highly consistent with year-round dependability and little seasonality. It also has huge growth potential with an emerging middle class who aspire to eat better quality food which includes many chilled products.
The company is ideally placed to win more business within South Africa’s dynamic food market through straightforward organic growth, however it also sees large opportunities in surrounding markets where it aims to expand its geographical footprint.
While in the past the warehousing and infrastructure to support refrigeration in many parts of Africa has been poor, with big names like Walmart moving into Africa, there will inevitably be a surge in demand for quality transportation providers able to operate within its very tight guidelines as the demand for refrigerated products grows in line with increasing living standards.
Written by Will Daynes, research by Paul Bradley