When FMCG last caught up with IBL Cold Stores a year ago the warehouse specialist had just embarked on a venture aimed at increasing the amount of added value and niche temperature control services it offered, including controlled meat tempering and blast freezing. Over 12 months on and the initiative has proven to be a resounding success.
“There has been tremendous demand for these services in the north-west, particularly within the meat industry,” explains Ian Desmonde, Managing Director. “We have therefore really moved on and refocused the business to place tempering and blast freezing at the forefront of our operation. This has been extremely beneficial to us, as it has helped give us greater stability in terms of workload, whereas traditional cold storage cycles tend to lurch from feast to famine. There are extreme seasonal peaks in demand for products such as mince pies and turkeys towards Christmas before significantly dropping off in January.
“By going down the added value and niche service route we have been able to move away from the peaks and troughs we’d experienced previously. This stability gives us a much better platform on which to plan our strategy moving forward, allowing us to manage our resources far more appropriately.”
Ian Desmonde, Managing Director
“By going down the added value and niche service route we have been able to move away from the peaks and troughs we’d experienced previously. This stability gives us a much better platform on which to plan our strategy moving forward, allowing us to manage our resources far more appropriately. This enables us to deliver an even higher level of service and in the past 12 months our team have really been able to hone their skills. We underwent a number of successful BRC accreditation schemes recently and absolutely flew through them, which really underlines the amount of expertise our workforce can now bring to the table. Because we’ve taken a traditional warehouse operation and moulded elements of it in-line with food production standards, it’s been a really good period for the business over the last 12 to 18 months. I’ve been delighted to not only see our facilities evolve but also our people. Long may that continue.”
Despite the growth it has enjoyed IBL has had to be careful that it didn’t become a victim of its own success due to the increased demand it has been seeing. “I’ve got to be honest, the facility did come under pressure because of the volumes that were coming through the site but we’ve been determined to ensure that we’ve stayed one step ahead at all times,” adds Mr Desmonde. “For instance we’ve just completed an extension to our dry goods operation, and we’re now exploring the next possible expansion of our cold stores to better manage the additional demand we’re seeing. We’re currently in touch with two different developers about the possibility of adding in the region of 20 per cent to our cold store capacity within our existing site footprint.
“It’s great to see that we’re having to expand our facilities so quickly as it really vindicates the decision behind our slight change in direction. It puts us on the right track and we’ve got plans for further investment with regards to added value. We have just put in a second line, a microwave tempering line to help us meet demand, which remains strong. Due to the current market climate companies have to operate leaner and as a result require just-in-time solutions, which is where we come in. The benefits of control tempering for a manufacturer are numerous: the time aspect, the reduction in waste and the improvements of yield. The feedback we’ve been receiving from the marketplace has been very good in that respect.”
As well as increasing the bricks and mortar side of its operation, IBL has also continued to add to its personnel with its workforce having grown by 33 per cent in the last 12 to 18 months. “We took the step earlier in the year of appointing our technical manager, who was involved with a lot of the processes, as well as the general manager of the site,” says Mr Desmonde. “There’s been a huge focus on driving through quality and that continues to be the main objective above all else. We have also expanded our presence on the road; our fleet presence on the road is up by 20 per cent. We were never a traditional haulage company but we now find ourselves with a fleet of ten trailers and five tractor units so every aspect of the business is benefitting from this model.
“With competition within the marketplace being so strong it’s been vital that we keep adapting to the changing requirements of our customer base. For the growth to continue we need to increase our capacity further so we’re developing plans to do just that. The first stage of that was to complete the dry food extension, which was completed in March. The next stage we’re looking at is the cold store expansion and we hope to have this completed in the next six to 12 months.”
Being able to change chameleon-like has enabled IBL to adapt to the evolving needs of the marketplace, which will continue to set it in good stead moving forward.