Logistics & Materials Handling caught up with Anthony Jones, CEO, LINX Cargo Care Group, to find out why we need to be thankful for the work that the logistics industry does to make the silly season happen.
A record number of gifts, food and alcohol was consumed this Christmas, with Australians spending a collective $25 billion across the festive period.
On December 16th 2018, Australia Post had its biggest parcel delivery in Australia’s history, with its team of posties, drivers and mail and parcel sorters delivering close to three million parcels in one day.
Additionally, Australia Post saw December 2018 as the biggest month in terms of volume of parcels, with a year-on-year increase of 6.2 per cent. However, more significantly there was a strong growth year-on-year in October (18 per cent) and November (13 per cent).
It is no secret that delivering the peak period is the most critical time of the year for retailers and their logistics operators, with hundreds of hard working people working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep everyone happy at Christmas.
Preparing for peak
Being prepared for peak is the only way that logistics providers can survive such a highly stressful and challenging period, something that Anthony Jones, CEO, LINX Cargo Care Group knows only too well.
“The demands on logistics providers become heightened at this time of year and being prepared is the key to success,” Anthony says.
For Anthony, the peak period is ever-changing. When he reflects back on his 20 years in the industry he references a time when the peak period lasted three months.
“Gone are the days of the peak period being about building up stock levels three months ahead of Christmas, with the innovations that have taken place in the industry since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) we are now operating a ‘Just in Time’ operation,” he says.
In addition to the demands placed on business and manufacturing as a result of the GFC, consumer habits have changed and this, in turn, has also meant the logistics industry has had to adapt.
“Consumers are getting later in their purchasing, and their expectations are changing. Years ago, if something wasn’t on the shelf, you missed out. Now, people just move on to the next online retailer and expect items to be back in stock within a few days,” Anthony says.
For LINX Cargo Care Group, the peak starts with its customers. “The worst thing for our customers is not to have their products on the shelves. So, we work with them throughout the forward ordering phase to ensure that we are prepared for their busiest time of the year. We are the quiet engine in the background making sure that Santa’s sleigh delivers on time,” he says.
There are a number of factors to consider when preparing for peak. For Anthony, it starts with the labour. “We have flexible labour agreements in place to ensure that we can become a 24/7 operation when needed. We need to be able to work late into the hours and ensure that we can tap into a workforce that can provide a 24/7 operation.”
Typically, a truck driver may work Monday to Friday and either in the morning or the afternoon. But during the peak there is an increased need to offer a 24/7 operation. This is largely due to the increased deliveries over the festive period, including at the weekend, Anthony says.
The little white vans that fill the nation’s roads making consumer deliveries every day are what Anthony describes as the face of e-commerce. “E-commerce has changed the way that manufacturers manage their inventory. The proliferation of e-trading has made transactions so easy for consumers but it has meant that there is increased demand and these white vans will shape the future of retail.”
Having access to a temporary and casual workforce increases the safety focus across LINX Cargo Care operations. “We want to deliver to our customers no matter what the volume is, and, importantly, do it safely. It is our licence to operate and our social conscience to make sure that every truck that goes out of our distribution centres is safe and that everyone who shares the road with our trucks is safe,” Anthony says.
This is particularly important when the roads are busier than ever and there is an increased strain on the infrastructure. “This is when locations such as our Enfield Intermodal Terminal really come into play. The location in Sydney’s west decongests critical infrastructure so that the little white vans can make their deliveries. Intermodal hub infrastructure such as Enfield, where multimodal interfaces with consolidation warehousing are the keys to future success across our logistics industry, shifting freight from road to rail to decongest the arteries of our major cities will ensure Santa’s sleigh can arrive on time and cost effectively into the future,” Anthony says.
LINX Cargo Care Group operates in a diverse range of industries, including logistics, automotive, bulk-handling, project cargo, oil and gas, general stevedoring, port management, agriculture and forestry.
Anthony believes that whatever was under the Christmas tree this year, LINX Cargo Care Group helped get it there. “I’m proud of the industries that we service and the goods that we move across Australia and New Zealand. From 100 per cent of the popcorn consumed on Australia’s East Coast, to the grain that feeds the chickens that end up on the dinner table, to the wine that comes out of the Riverina, to the silicon found in the iPads and tech goods found under the Christmas tree,” he says.
And for those lucky enough to get a car for Christmas. The Autocare arm of the business also has that covered with 50 per cent of every new car sold in Australia entering the country through Autocare.
In addition, LINX Cargo Care Group’s C3 division specialises in forestry-aligned logistics. “So we even contribute to the production of the wrapping paper that people around the world wrap their presents in this Christmas,” Anthony says.
Innovate and adapt
Anthony has more than 20 years in the logistics industry. Early in his career he joined Patrick in 1999 and quickly progressed through the operational ranks to management and senior executive positions at Patrick, Pacific National and Asciano.
In 2016, he was appointed as Group CEO of LINX Cargo Care Group and the business now brings together the capabilities of five operations built on over 100 years of port and logistics experience. The Group of businesses are LINX, Autocare, C3, GeelongPort and the newly acquired Pedersen Group.
“I’ve been very fortunate to grow up in this business and now I am humbled to be the CEO,” he says.
The demands on the logistics industry are ever-changing and the peak period gets tougher and tougher every year. But with this comes great innovation. “The requirement is there for us to continually adapt and make sure that we are relevant. For us, being relevant is meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations.”
The logistics industry is exposed to constant change in consumer expectations and disruption. In Anthony’s experience this provides an opportunity to innovate and offer a better customer experience.
“Without change and adoption of new technology we wouldn’t have the consumer benefits we have today. Models like The Iconic just wouldn’t exist if we weren’t pushed to innovate. This is something I think the industry should be immensely proud of,” he says.
For LINX Cargo Care Group this innovation is happening across the entire business. With developments in blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, data analytics and real-time reporting.
One area that the business is developing is Virtual Reality (VR). Through a partnership with Curious IQ & Samsung, LINX Cargo Care Group is developing a safety training program delivered through VR. “We have over 4,000 employees across 70 sites around Australia and New Zealand and delivering consistent in safety training to ensure that everyone gets home safely every day is of huge importance to us,” he says.