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SARDA Tony Lewis winner heads to California

By John Ackermann

The winner of the 2016 SARDA Tony Lewis Award, Francois Smith, received an all-expenses-paid trip to the IARW-WFLO Convention in the US in April to compete for the NextGen Award.

The 126th International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (IARW) and World Food Logistics Organisation (WFLO) Convention was held from 22 to 25 April 2017 at Dana Point, California. South Africa’s Francois Smith competed against three other contestants at the Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA)

 MG 2968
Opening night at the convention.
Image credit: IIARW

Each of the contestants for the Global NextGen Award presented their overview of the cold storage industry to an audience of 400 delegates from the US, Australia, Canada, South America, UK, and Europe.

Smith had defeated various other local competitors for the opportunity — sponsored by the South African Refrigerated Distribution Association (SARDA) — to attend this convention. The SARDA Tony Lewis Award recognises expertise in young people under the age of 35 in the cold storage industry in South Africa.

About Francois Smith

CSA001 - NEWFrancois Smith, the logistics manager at Sequence Logistics, started his cold store career in August 2006 as an assistant floor supervisor at Sequence Logistics and was offered a permanent position as floor supervisor after his first month of employment. He relocated to Durban with the development of the KwaZulu-Natal branch. In October 2011, he was promoted to operations manager, followed by a promotion to his current position in December 2015.

The presentation
In his presentation, Smith elaborated on the Sequence Logistics operation in South Africa. In Johannesburg, their storage has a capacity of 18 500 pallets and a daily movement of approximately 1 000 pallets each day. In Durban, their store has a capacity of 9 500 and handles approximately 40 trucks during a 24-hour shift. They pick approximately 25 000 cases totalling 35 tonnes in a 24-hour shift. In Cape Town, the holding capacity is 4 400 and handles 20 trucks in a 12-hour shift.

Sequence Logistics offers warehousing, bulk and fine picking, refrigerated transport, consolidation of consignments, and other value-added services as a third-party distributor.

Smith shared the mission of Sequence Logistics: “Our mission is to be the best temperature control solution provider in southern Africa, and to be recognised as the best. Our goal in the industry is to have the best plan adherence, best turnaround times, best order fill, best on time, and best stock condition — backed by the best customer communication and offering a logistics solution in perishables with the least cost.

“Our values are to care for each other and for the company. To challenge each other and ourselves beyond boundaries, to be successful by empowering, recognising, and taking ownership. This is what excites me the most in this industry.”

Smith felt that the cold storage demands have changed over the years in South Africa because of a change in eating habits and the electrification of homes. He went on to say that the cold store market is becoming more competitive with greater demands to cover costs and improve income streams. Frozen foods have increased in popularity, whether imported or locally produced. In 2006, Sequence Logistics had a total storage capacity of 4 500 pallets. Over the past 10 years, it has grown to a capacity of 32 400 pallets. The growing demand for efficiency within the supply chain will play a critical part in the future of South African cold storage facilities. Service providers will have to offer a complete supply chain solution — from source to final consumer.

“My personal dream is that the cold storage industry in South Africa will approach tertiary institutions to provide leadership and training programmes to get the younger generation interested in the cold storage industry and inspire them to enter the industry and make a career of it.”

What Smith found daunting was doing a presentation for the first time in front of an audience of such magnitude. But he fared well and was a true ambassador for South Africa.

The experience
“In total, there were about 800 delegates, many with their partners, and I met so many new people and was able to network among many experienced service providers in third-party distribution, cold storage warehousing, and in-house cold store operations,” says Smith.

The presentations on automated warehouses, crane bulk picking, and distribution were of particular interest. “What caught my imagination was the online shopping and it was said that the next step would be the home delivery of household groceries by drone,” he says.

From the discussions around HR, it was evident that most countries struggle to attract young people wanting to make cold storage a career.

The discussions all pointed to the need for institutionalised training in cold storage management. During the convention, there was a site visit to a food bank approximately 30km from the convention. The food bank — one large cold store operating at -18°C — and the refrigeration are powered from solar panels. Many of the poor that are being fed by the food bank are families of those who are in the armed forces on peacekeeping missions or fighting in civil conflicts in other countries.

“The convention, adjoining small exhibition, the social programme, and the many presentations were truly an amazing experience,” says Smith. “The convention is an event that I hope to attend every year, even at my own expense, as it will certainly be of value to my career in cold storage.”

“The hospitality and friendship extended by IARW and the Global Cold Chain Alliance was heart-warming and encouraging. The contacts that I’ve built up across the world will certainly be of great value to my career in the cold storage industry,” he says.

Click below to read the September/October 2017 issue of Cold Link Africa

CLA Sept-Oct 2017

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