Accelerating the movement of goods

C.H. Robinson recently opened a new facility at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport as part of its continuing expansion in Oceania. MHD sits down with Andrew Coldrey, Vice President Oceania at the company to find out more.

One of the world’s largest logistics platforms, C.H. Robinson, is on a significant growth trajectory. The business is investing heavily in the Asia Pacific region to ensure it is well placed to meet the growing demands of its customers.

Late last year, Bob Biesterfeld, CEO at C.H. Robinson, announced the company’s largest investment in innovation and technology to date. He revealed that C.H. Robinson will invest $1 billion USD in technology over the next five years, doubling its previous investment of the same amount every ten years.

According to Andrew Coldrey, Vice President Oceania at C.H. Robinson, the new purpose-built facility at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport is an example of C.H. Robinson’s investment in its future growth in this region.

“We had outgrown our previous facility and we wanted to expand the services that we offer to our clients. This new facility has enabled us to significantly improve our throughput for our ocean and air customers across this region,” Andrew says.

C.H. Robinson’s previous facility handled inbound air freight, but was struggling to manage the outbound freight, Andrew says.

“It was tight, and we couldn’t do much with our coastal shipping offering or have the opportunity for the more flexible and specialised solutions we offer our customers,” he says.

The facility is just over 5,000 sqm, with the warehouse approximately 4,000 sqm in size and the rest used for office space. The site is a multi-user site and features a number of different types of cargo and customers and will handle freight for approximately 30 per cent of C.H. Robinson’s Oceania customers.

“We have some exports to Europe, which cover medical goods, machinery, motor vehicle parts as well as lots of food exports to Asia. We also operate domestic shipping from here and we are starting to see that growth significantly,” Andrew says.

Increasing throughput rates

In addition to increasing capacity, a main priority for C.H. Robinson was to increase the throughput and efficiency of handling cargo for its customers.

“As well as better servicing our clients, we wanted to reduce delays that were incurred due to third party scanning,” Andrew says.

From 1 March 2019, the Government announced new export screening requirements for air cargo. All outbound international air cargo, regardless of its destination, is now required to be examined under the Enhanced Air Cargo Examination (EACE) program before it is loaded onto the plane.

According to Andrew, this was causing delays for a number of C.H. Robinson’s customers. “Before we opened this site, we would have to load the cargo earlier so that the airline could scan it, or alternatively use an external company to scan it,” he explains.

C.H. Robinson has invested in new scanning technology at the new Tullamarine site. The site boasts a Rapiscan 632DV x-ray machine which enables C.H. Robinson to do all required scanning onsite.

“The new machine removes the need for third-party warehouses and circumvents the bottlenecks and delays at cargo terminals for the screening of cargo, allowing customers shipments to reach their destination on average one to two days earlier,” Andrew says.

Andrew says that it is expected that these new regulations will also come into effect for all domestic cargo, so C.H. Robinson will be prepared to also offer these efficiency gains when these changes come into effect.

“Once this requirement also comes in for domestic air freight, it will put even more pressure on the airlines. Now, with us being able to scan it ourselves onsite, it helps relieve that pressure at the airport and ensures that our freight is moved much faster,” Andrew says.

For Andrew, anything that can shorten the supply chain translates to better customer service or a cost-saving, so he is confident this throughput will be of a huge benefit to C.H. Robinson’s customers.

People first

Andrew says that as C.H. Robinson is not an asset-based business, people are everything. “We’re really focused on safety and well-being. People are absolutely everything to us. It’s not just about attracting good people, but about keeping them safe and happy,” he says.

People are the most important aspect of the business, Andrew says. “While technology is paramount to success, it’s people that solve problems. They are the ones who utilise the technology and get the most out of it.”

The organisation operates in the oil and gas sector, where Andrew says safety is absolutely paramount. “We’ve learnt a lot from our customers in this area, while a lot of the focus on safety is on the physical handling or goods, we have also translated this focus into the office environment.”

The new facility at Tullamarine boasts an ergonomic working environment, with standing desks, ergonomic chairs and multiple kitchen facilities.

“We want to make this space a good one so that people can bring their best selves to work every day,” Andrew says.

The new site has also presented opportunities for the workforce to upskill and develop professionally.

“As we can now offer our customers more services, we have had to upskill our workforce in these areas. We’ve expanded our coastal services and we’ve also started doing the trading part of some of our Asian exports. It’s a huge learning curve but it keeps our people engaged,” Andrew says.

For him, it’s hard to be a successful company and stay one size. The growth trajectory that C.H. Robinson is on in Asia Pacific has allowed the business to keep its workforce engaged and challenged, which Andrew says is important when retaining talent.

“Our people need to keep growing and this project has given so many opportunities for that,” he says.

Andrew sees significant growth for C. H. Robinson’s customers in this region and is confident that this new site will support that growth. “We’re proud to offer our customers this faster throughput as a result of our investment in this facility and the technology we have in place. We’re excited to see where this facility will take us over the next five years,” he says.


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