The perishable cargo sector offers both unique opportunities and challenges for those companies operating in the space. Kerry Logistics is one of those that sought to find the key to success in the perishables arena through developing a process that is as simple and streamlined as possible. It’s not something that can be done successfully within a silo, it needs strong partner airlines and carriers that can demonstrate and deliver flown as booked service.
David Mallinson, UK Airfreight Director of Kerry Logistics, oversees operations at the cargo handler, which predominantly transports foodstuffs. However, they are starting to see more demand for pharma and medical supplies, particularly a rise in the volume of health supplements and formulas.
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Moving perishable goods requires a specialist approach compared to traditional cargo transportation due to the need to deliver produce swiftly and without fail, or else risk spoiling the produce. That means those carrying perishables must have an effective and efficient business model to meet the needs of their customers, avoiding supply chain disruption.
This was particularly challenging during the Covid pandemic, when restrictions and closures caused headaches for those trying to move cargo around the globe. Over the past few years, Kerry Logistics, like others, has seen challenges on a daily basis. Although the world is opening back up, there are still issues, such as with capacity.
“Whilst carriers are returning, some very slowly, to a more “normalised” level of service, there is still, approximately, a 12% global lack of capacity,” Mallinson said. “Flights are not operating to pre-pandemic levels and quite often those flights are operating with smaller aircraft meaning space can still be an issue.”
However, despite those hurdles, Mallinson stated that “the notion that rates are in freefall, isn’t necessarily true in what is a niche market where the product demands a high level of monitoring, organisation, and a high level of flown as booked performance.”
Even in the most difficult of circumstances, Kerry Logistics overcame hurdles, finding solutions that managed to ensure the supply chains of their clients were uninterrupted. “While carriers reduced capacity or in fact cancelled services entirely, we found solutions with partners who managed to fine tune their services to our clients’ requirement,” Mallinson explained.
“These solutions included ensuring shorter close out times at origin, quick ramp transfers in the case of transhipment or even “tail to tail” transfers. With a little bit of creativity and communication we have been successful in keeping cargo moving quickly,” he added.
Reacting to a rapidly changing environment
If the last few years have taught logistics handlers anything, it’s that they need to have plans in place to swiftly respond to a situation as and when it happens. That’s how Kerry Logistics shone in tough circumstances, with Mallinson being able to confidently state that they “handled the situation without any major complications.
This helped them to thrive in Asia amidst some of the toughest lockdown restrictions and supply chain disruptions. “As one of Asia’s major service providers, even in the middle of lockdowns, there was absolutely minimal disruption to our supply chain,” Mallinson said
“The key to this is testimony to our extremely agile and nimble network through the Far East and Asia who worked tirelessly to ensure that workable solutions were always close to hand,” he explained.
Trusted partners help in this mission to limit disruption to supply chains. As the EU is not Kerry UK’s biggest market, they haven’t been overly affected by Brexit and the issues that has posed for forwarders supplying to or via the EU. However, when they do work in the region, their partners help to ensure efficiency in their transit times through Liege, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam.
“It’s absolutely crucial, without the correct alignment of partners it is simply impossible to operate at the optimum level required to move the volumes that we do,” Mallinson stated.
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Having opened a new facility at London Heathrow in 2020, as the logistics handler expands its network, Kerry UK is proudly open about its plans for the future. Although, the pandemic did force them to consider regional operations to alleviate the strain at Heathrow during the height of the pandemic, the facility has performed well with their demands.
“We have enjoyed success in the North of England too, where we now move perishable products directly to key European gateways to streamline processes and limit additional handling and expense,” Mallinson said.
With Asia being a key market for Kerry UK, the company is naturally focused on the expected growth in demand in China and the Far East through 2023 and beyond, as lockdown measures eventually start to ease.
In light of what could be a lack of capacity for larger movements of perishables and pharma, Kerry UK is looking to make use of freighter operators who can assist in the movement of charter volumes.
“Overall, we see China and the Far East as a whole, bouncing back after lockdown and are cautiously optimistic that Q2 2023 will be a springboard to our future success,” Mallinson added.