As one of the largest logistics operators in the country, Qube prides itself on developing long-term relationships with key suppliers. One such relationship has been with commercial vehicle supplier Scania – the foundation of which has been based on mutual growth, service and a hunger for constant innovation.
Qube is focused on providing long term supply chain solutions for its customers and working to deliver innovative solutions that meet the changing needs of their customer base.
The Qube Logistics business connects ports with metropolitan and regional Australia, primarily moving freight around the country on trucks and trains.
Road transport operations are supported by an estimated 900 prime movers and over 1600 units of trailer equipment.
Core facilities are maintained in each of the five Australian major ports with rail terminals in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
Qube also services the bulk-mining sector throughout Australia, particularly in Western Australia.
Many of the trailers in the Qube fleet are hauled by Scania commercial vehicles.
At present, Qube Logistics operates nearly 300 Scanias with an order of more than 40 additional Euro 6 V8s expected to arrive later this year.
Qube General Manager – Operations and Assets, Nick Mills, says the consumer economy is continuing to grow meaning the demand for imported household products also continues to grow.
As an organisation, Qube is focused on creating vital infrastructure to support this growth, particularly with the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal that is presently under construction in Western Sydney.
“Looking around the port, we have to build our capabilities based on the significant growth of the population and commodities alone.Everyone is trying to ensure that the infrastructure is going to sustain future requirements for 20 to 30 years,” he says.
“The whole point of Moorebank is to create this hub where you can vacate the port terminal quickly on trains and put it in a park where you have a link between your international terminal to your domestic and national transport footprint.”
As every port develops a strategy in which to vacate its infrastructure as efficiently as possible, rail and high productivity vehicles (HPV) have become essential.
Super B-doubles are not infrequent operating around Qube’s Melbourne offices.
In Sydney, Qube has two high volume, high movement intermodal terminals in Minto and Yennora.
From these locations, freight is taken to a distribution location where it can be consolidated, condensed or moved again.
“It’s really creating the best outcome for road, because the roads are just getting more and more congested” says Nick.
Nick has worked his way through the organisation from the ground floor. He began as a Fleet Allocator in the Melbourne terminal 22 years ago.
As the organisation has continued to grow and expand its services, there have been significant opportunities for staff to progress through the business.
The organisation boasts many long term and experienced stalwarts who are valued highly for their knowledge base and problem-solving skill sets, while the newer staff are entering the organisation to drive fresh ideas and innovation.
During his time at Qube, Nick has been fortunate to work under Fleet Manager John Allen, who has been with the company for more than 40 years.
A building on the south side of the West Melbourne Qube site has been named in his honour such is the esteem with which he is held.
JA, as he is affectionately called, trained Nick, who he continues to work closely with, demonstrating a full circle in an ongoing mentorship.
JA has been involved in the procurement of Scania commercial vehicles over four different iterations of the company.
Originally with Port Cartage, JA continued through as the business was purchased by Liberty and then Patrick Stevedores before it fell under the aegis of P&O and finally Qube.
The association with Scania was accidental. It came about after JA, as the story goes, was ignored at a dealership in which the principal dealer was occupied by a photo shoot with bikini models.
He walked across the road to Scania where he proceeded to purchase 50 trucks from Gail Giles, who is still employed by the company to this day.
That was nearly 30 years ago. For a time, the second-hand department referred to JA as the $4 million man.
“That was the biggest ever used truck order with Scania Australia,” JA recalls. “It was mainly Scania 3 and 4 series. Each vehicle had 800,000 kilometres on them. After a coat of paint and a thorough review for roadworthiness, they were put to work on 100 tonne permits around the ports operating 24 hours a day.”
Qube reviews their fleet annually and historically has worked closely with Scania each year.
According to Nick, the company likes to ensure it is keeping pace with the market, safety and the changing customer demands.
While this helps mitigate risk, Qube prioritises consistency across its operations.
That means having alignment between the workshop, safety, compliance, training, management and the fleet.
For example, the current bogey axle limits are 16 tonnes around the ports even though most are rated to 42 tonnes.
Scania provide robust axles on their commercial vehicles rated to 130 tonnes.
Should VicRoads or the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator increase the ratings, Qube already has the capacity to go to the next level.
Many of the commercial vehicles Qube Logistics order are currently rated for 50 tonnes and operate doing Higher Mass Limit singles around 45 to 46 tonnes.
“We can increase our payload capacity and we can go from tri-axle to quad axle trailers, but the prime mover is already rated to suit the next step for high productivity trailers,” Nick says. “They all have a capacity to work at a higher level once that green light is given.”
Scania’s modular concept groups sets of components together for consistency of performance and integration, the commonality across its commercial vehicles makes it an appealing package.
Nick says one of the biggest benefits that Qube Logistics can see is in the operation of its vehicles, which is, in turn, proven through the drivers.
“If we train our drivers, the fuel economy improves and wear and tear declines on the asset, hence maintenance costs come down with Scania,” he says. “We’re all working together to maximise the benefit.”
The dominance of the European truck brands has been augmented through driver comforts.
At Qube it’s about providing an asset that drivers want to drive.
Over the last four years Scania has consistently delivered Qube Logistics market leading proposals.
Scania’s vertical integration, according to Nick, has been the progressive step forward for Scania over its competitors, where they offer a third-party service provider.
Every year, Scania is asked by Qube to present a service capability statement. As part of the arrangement, the two companies discuss growth and where they plan to see it next. Understanding mutual objectives is key according to Nick.
“For the last four years, Scania has been successful,” he says. “I think that kind of shows that they continue to innovate and customise the product and solution”.
Interaction between the customer and repairer, according to Jarrod Hegarty, Scania National Fleet Sales Manager, is the same in every state.
Over the last four years the two companies have developed a firm understanding across R&D, maintenance, accreditation and messaging.
“There’s a very clear message of how Qube in every part of this country interacts with Scania, so nobody is left wondering,” Jarrod says. “It is vital we get that message clear. We’ve got trucks from Cairns to regional Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia so for everyone at Qube Logistics, it is important that we get it right.”
For Scania, working with Qube means more than only monitoring uptime and performance.
There are many fail-safes in the contract and KPIs in place. Qube, by Nick’s own admission, keep moving the hurdle and Scania keep meeting the challenges of the business.
“Transport companies are great adaptors to both industry requirements and client’s needs”, says Nick. “Through Performance-Base Standards, we continue to strive for a more efficient freight model.”
Each year the companies develop ‘value adds’. In 2019, it was data access and analytics.
At present, Scania is developing a tool for Qube to help them process data, after it reached a negative point, recalls Jarrod, and it became so labour intensive for both companies it was, ultimately, prohibitive.
“So, we came up with a solution to integrate both companies and transfer data easily and cost effectively,” he says. “Now we can process the data for benefits.”
An R&M package, traditionally, works with the Original Equipment Manufacturer looking after repairs and maintenance with the customer supplying the commercial vehicle.
Qube is now at a stage in the relationship where the company is pushing for a new set of gains. Data sharing is it for now.
Jarrod is often asked by customers what makes Qube so successful as a logistics operation. How do they keep growing?
“There’s no other company that is so eager and hellbent on innovation, improvement and change,” he says.
It’s an insatiable hunger to find advantages and improve both the business and its personnel that prompted Qube to explore HPV vehicles. This is an area that John Allen has continued to reinforce at Qube.
“It came from that very same philosophy,” says JA. “We pushed for them from the start. We had Super B-doubles on the road 20 years ago and everyone else has followed suit. When we go out to test the market you eliminate complacency with the supplier. We just keep going forward and they have to be able to keep pace.”
Nick, who has grown up under John’s tutelage, says the industry is often made more complicated than it should be.
“Ensuring our customers receive their goods in the most cost effective and efficient manner is what we are all about,” he says.