League of their Own
A fleet of the newest Scania NTG commercial vehicles have been purchased by Glen Cameron Group to coincide with its recently secured Air Liquide account. It represents, given the sheer scale of the logistical and safety elements involved, one of the most ambitious projects under taken for the prominent transport company.
Last month logistics specialist, Glen Cameron Group, amidst several significant developments at the company, announced it would service the distribution network of industrial gas and services giant Air Liquide.
The operation comprises, at present, 18 depots in four states and employs 112 staff.
A French multinational, whose 100 year history has seen it expand into 80 countries worldwide, Air Liquide, is also a leading supplier of gas and services locally, working across healthcare, manufacturing, food, research and mining.
Air Liquide offers bulk and packaged gases to its customers, the distribution of which is achieved through bulk tankers, 8-tonne mini-bulk rigid vehicles and B-double combinations.
Its bulk gas products consist of oxygen, nitrogen, argon or carbon dioxide making it something of a juggernaut in the precious cargo sector.
Packaged gases are provided across 100 different types of cylinder products. That’s a big ask for any truck fleet covering vast distances and remote locations in contrasting climates. Scania is one of only three commercial vehicle manufacturers so far entrusted with the task.
The timing of the announcement, which involves the procurement of over 140 pieces of new motorised and trailing equipment, can’t be lost on anyone aware that Glen Cameron Group appointed, back in July, a new CEO, Nick Capp, whose hiring could be said to have gone under the radar as far as industry announcements for key personnel like executives goes.
Capp, who returns to the world of Australian road transport has taken up the newly created position after 25 years of experience in logistics and freight management with the likes of Linfox, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Telstra.
Glen Cameron Group, according to Nick, was a long time competitor he greatly admired and when he was informed of the newly created role of Group CEO, he wasted no time weighing up the opportunity.
“I’ve always held Glen in a high regard and in turn looked upon his business with great respect and admiration for its prospects and opportunities,” he says. “I am excited to lead the company through its next stage of growth and development.”
Operational rollout of the contract commenced in early September with 12 vehicles dedicated to transit routes along the Eastern Seaboard.
South Australia was added a few weeks later. Handover of operations was completed in November.
The contract represents a number of breakthroughs for the organisation as it expands its operations into Far North Queensland.
It’s a five year contract, marking the company’s first ever dangerous goods account, and also brings its logistics operations into Port Kembla and Port Pirie.
Strict processes for loading and unloading hazardous goods are in place.
That there is a variation across different loading points as well as unloading points makes it all the more critical to get the systems of protocol right.
According to Nick, knowledge and the transfer of knowledge, as he tells it, remains ongoing and necessitates a healthy collaboration in partnership with the Air Liquide team.
“There’s a really strong connection and interaction between our team and the Air Liquide team daily to make sure everything is running the right way and not just for a safety perspective but obviously for customer service and everything that goes with it,” he says.
“They’re highly conscious of that.”
A turn of the century French engineer, inventor and chemist, Georges Claude was the first man to apply an electrical discharge to a sealed tube of neon gas to create a lamp.
In partnership with eventual company president, Paul Delorme, who he had met while studying at the École de Physique et de Chimie Industrielle in Paris, Claude had founded L’Air Liquide S.A in 1902.
At the time Claude had developed a process for producing liquefied air in quantity having proposed the use of liquid oxygen in iron smelting long before it was more widely used three decades later.
Among his discoveries, Claude determined that acetylene gas could be transported safely by dissolving it in acetone.
This method was also later adopted during the expansion of the acetylene industry. It was studying inert gases, however, that Claude made his name when he found that passing an electrical current through them produced light and the same year he developed the neon lamp which he exported for use in signs and lights in the United States.
It was in 1957 that Air Liquide arrived in Australia. In less than a decade it had installed its first air separation unit with liquid capacity.
Now it is considered a leading supplier of industrial and medical gases and equipment for homecare, servicing thousands of customers and home oxygen and sleep apnoea patients across the country.
The company also delivers a major safety solution in mining, a polymer hollow fibre gas separation technology is applied to generate nitrogen which helps prevent gas explosions in underground mines where high methane levels effectuate evacuations that shut down the area before it is eventually stabilised.
As a technology, it helps control and mitigate these problems without the operation having to abandon the mine.
A product shortage for something like gas, crucial to a range of manufacturing processes, would create significant issues for its customer operations so it’s vital that it gets moved safely with upmost efficiency. This is where safety and compliance come to the fore for Glen Cameron Group.
“Glen and his team have invested a lot in this area. I saw this when I was on the other side of the fence,” Nick says.
“And that really counts at an operation like Air Liquide. We’re really focused on an investment in training. It’s a highly skilled environment.”
In partnership with Air Liquide Australia, the Glen Cameron Group team conducts and maintains a comprehensive theory and practical training program.
Part of this involves a guide for upskilling a new driver assigned to the Air Liquide Australia operations that takes a minimum of four to six weeks before they are deemed qualified for the task.
At the time they will learn up to 15 different modules of training, first at a theory level and then later at a practical level.
A continuous cycle of updated training and assessments follows for all of its employees.
Nick says the over-investment in training is not by accident.
“Once you’re in that environment, it’s really important that you stay up to date,” he says.
“We’re meeting with all current requirements in terms of handling those gasses at loading, in transit and the unload point.”
A large part of the fleet for this contract is consolidated with Scania commercial vehicles.
Glen Cameron Group has purchased 26 new Scanias that include NTG twin-steer 6x4s and 8x2s for the rigid applications, G450s for the single trailers and for the B-doubles the newly released G500s, a formidable machine on the flat terrain linking the 12 sites that stretch from Port Pirie in SA, throughout Victoria, across New South Wales and up into northern Queensland.
All are Euro 6 emissions compliant as mandated by Air Liquide.
Glen Cameron Group Asset Manager Shane Coates said the G500 makes for an ideal metro runner for B-double applications.
“It has been returning excellent fuel outcomes,” he says. “As the bulk of these routes involve negligible climbs we have opted for the new NGT G500 13-litre engine. It produces a significant 2,550 newton metres of torque without having to upgrade to a 15 or 16 litre engine.”
The task involved is mostly local and regional, with the G500s ideally suited to large roaming areas where the topography won’t present a challenge for the DC13 155 13-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and offers a compromise and balance between the torque required of it and preferable fuel outcomes.
The twin steer Scanias are a mix of P320s and P450s, towing dog trailers. In the application Shane says there is several Fassi cranes fitted behind the cabs where the twin steer’s additional weight increase allows for 11 tonnes over the steer.
“Over the last two years we have purchased around 40 of the Scania 8x2 twin steer product, many of them for our Interstate PUD business as they are an ideal solution when we encounter heavy weights over the steer,” he says.
“Given we’re often dealing with uneven load distribution it’s an ideal vehicle insofar that while we are always leaving the yard legal, the challenge is to stay legal as the load diminishes from the rear.”
A twin-steer truck capable of grossing 11 tonnes over the front axles therefore provides a solution to this challenge explains Shane.
“If we were to remove four pallets for example off the back of a 6x2 vehicle the weight over the steer axles increases and the Scania twin-steer product solves the impediment,” he says.
The Scania G450s are being used for single trailer applications in the Air Liquide tanker fleet. At present, according to Shane, around 150 of these operate in the fleet with outstanding aftermarket support around the country.
All of the Scania trucks procured for the Air Liquide contract from South Australia across to Victoria and right up the east coast of Australia are covered under a full comprehensive maintenance regime within the Scania support network for the duration of the contract.
“This removes any variable or unexpected maintenance related costs in a range of otherwise remote areas where R&M costs can typically increase,” he says.
“Scania owns all of its dealerships and that works well for us as we reach into one place, with one person, at an agreed price to provide outcomes and solutions for us regardless of the location.”
Queensland provides a unique set of challenges for the application given the drivers operate alone at unmanned depots without management on site.
Drivers effectively run the tanks that they source from various inhouse and external supply points and refill.
Those same drivers are then out completing the runs on their own, delivering into a whole range of customer sites.
Where there might be inimitable complexities on certain tasks at hand the adroitness of the Scania G500s, G450s and twin-steers assist in overcoming the many and varied challenges in providing Air Liquide with the best and most efficient logistics solution.
Following the purchase of any commercial vehicle, Scania provide comprehensive one on one driver trainer in cab support that ensures drivers for Glen Cameron Group are extracting the most amount of value from the vehicle, particularly as it relates to fuel.
Drivers can do up to four modules at the most in theory every week, notwithstanding the intensive practical training also required.
“They’re buddied up with experienced drivers and go through all the practical training and understanding as we’ve been slowly rolling out our implementation and takeover,” Nick says.
“Like most businesses there’s always the specifics around an individual customer drop off point which typically are not in your theory and manuals but are in the practical application and we’ve very much got to keep that updated and make it as close to what is expected as possible.”
Competitive advantages are hard won. Practically no one, develops a quick and practiced mastery of the supply chain, without years of dedication and experience.
Juggling 20 cent pieces at a pay phone to check in with his drivers, long before he came to prominence, must now seem like a distant dream from another lifetime for Glen Cameron.
Road transport, not unlike any major industry, is humbling for its cumulative challenges.
New technology, which promises to solve so many of these is also, with the rate of change, one of them.
According to Nick, the rollout of new technologies at Glen Cameron Group has got him especially enthused about the role he can provide for customers.
“We’re seeing the initiatives that are coming through now and how to improve the way that we operate with our customers and that’s an area that we’re excited about,” he says.
“I’m sponsoring a range of programs that we’re rolling out to different customers across the different divisions that will make business easier for everyone. We’re focused on visibility and real time actioning and event management. With such a broad array of thousands of customers we need to be able to provide that everywhere and that really helps us with our own planning and operational efficiencies.”