North Down Grains
Established in 1984, North Down Grain Ltd specialises in the agri-food sector. The company supplies a broad range of grass and arable fertilisers and agro-chemicals, and buys and sells locally grown grain. They provide storage, packing and distribution services for a number of UK and European agri-food supply companies and also operate a fleet of HGV lorries providing ex-farm and inter-dairy milk transport for Lakeland Dairies.
We drink it in our teas and coffees, pour it over our cereals, and churn it into creams, cheeses, butters, yoghurts and ice-creams. Either fresh or long-life most of us probably take for granted the convenience at which we can purchase milk from almost every supermarket around the world.
North Down Grain operates a fleet of 29,000 litre rotating tankers, operating seven days a week, 365 days of the year. Each year they collect an impressive 130 million litres of milk from up to 160 farms across Northern Ireland. On average these tankers cover over a 100 mile radius and visit 20 to 30 different farms each day.
Renowned for its unpredictable climate and bouts of rainfall influenced mostly by the Atlantic Ocean, Northern Ireland plays host to a magnificent green landscape and beautiful country side wrapped around miles of long winding roads. Bearing tight corners and steep climbing hills these roads to the eye are somewhat picturesque, however driving along them in rotating tankers full of milk whilst maintaining fuel efficiency can prove to some extent a bit of a challenge.
Philip Davidson is the Director for North Down Grain and before him his father Charles Davidson. Having grown up living and breathing his father’s profession it comes as no surprise that Philip has naturally inherited the flair for operating a successful business with a keen eye for driving it forward.
One of the ways Philip has added value to the business is by recognising the need for a telematics solution, a solution that could help bring down fuel costs and contribute to improved fleet efficiency by monitoring driving events such as over-revving, excessive idling, harsh braking, harsh acceleration and over speeding.
North Down Grain chose MiX Fleet Manager, MiX’s flagship fleet management solution. Powered by a feature-rich software platform, MiX Fleet Manager allows customers to manage, monitor and measure the performance of their vehicles and drivers.
“We are now into our second contract with MiX Telematics and have become very satisfied users of the system,” says Philip. “However, we did have some concerns in the early days that led us to question the return on investment value. Upon expressing my concerns, we were assigned a MiX Telematics fleet consultant who worked closely with us to achieve our goals,” he says.
Fleet Consultant, Dron Kyle, visited North Down Grain on site and worked closely with Transport Manager Brendan Given to understand their business requirements.
“One of the key drivers for implementation was fuel consumption and so I set to work analysing North Down Grain’s fuel data. I understood they required a set of reports that would allow them to oversee their overall fleet and driver performance. After some analysis, it was clear that setting up fuel targets was a key aspect in generating the information they were looking for,” says Dron.
“Brendan was very engaged. We held regular phone calls and within a few weeks we started to make inroads. We monitored driving events and, midway through our engagement, saw the number of event occurrences drop. After 18 weeks of regular engagement, the guys were happy with the set of reports we had generated and continued to operate independently with their new set of reports,” continues Dron.
“I am very pleased to learn that the organisation is now achieving up to 12% fuel savings on their annual fuel bill,” he concludes.
MiX Telematics offers fleet consultancy services to all its customers as a value-added service. The company recognises that improving fleet efficiency means working with and understanding certain areas of data, creating benchmarks and setting targets with a clear goal in mind.
“I now have a full set of reports that I run on a weekly basis. Using these reports, I have access to information on fuel usage, driver performance and vehicle performance. This information provides me with the overview I need and allows me to make strategic business decisions. Overall, we are now very happy with the MiX Telematics system and the support has been excellent,” comments Philip.
In addition to reporting features within MiX Fleet Manager, North Down Grain also use the solution’s tracking features to plan out drivers’ days, communicate estimated arrival times, and monitor workshop visits.
One technique used by North Down Grain to obtain fuel savings is to rotate their drivers on different routes with different vehicles over specific time periods. This allows them to identify their best drivers, their most fuel-efficient vehicles and their toughest routes – all very valuable information that they use to save on fuel costs.
Brendan comments: “Healthy competition among our drivers works well and often drivers on the same route will compete against one another for the best scores. I am a big believer that facilitating engaging driver training techniques and incentive initiatives are key in getting the people that work for us to drive our vehicles to the very best of their ability.”
I understand that, on a bad route, driving conditions can be harder and, when necessary, I go out with drivers to see if I can help them and make sure they are doing okay. I don’t expect them to perform fantastically on a route if I didn’t think I could do it myself,” says Brendan.
One of the greatest achievements of the system so far is improving the average mpg from 5.8 mpg to 6.5 mpg and in some cases up to 7mpg. Overall, this has contributed to 12% savings on the company’s annual fuel bill.
Aside from fuel savings, the system has also helped in protecting North Down Grain against false claims. Since installation, there have been two occasions where other road users made a formal complaint against their trucks. In both cases, and by using the historical tracking function, the company was able to prove that their vehicles were not present at the time and place specified.
“The MiX system is an invaluable tool. I have the mobile app installed on my iPhone and it’s the first thing I check when I wake up in the morning. It allows me to run a smooth and efficient business operation and offers peace of mind when I’m away from the office. I couldn’t imagine trying to work without it,” comments Brendan.