Extensive planning and decades of industry experience have helped pilot Malcolm Logistics through the perfect storm of Brexit and the pandemic – but far from resting on its laurels, the firm is focused on the future with new growth targets and ambitious carbon reduction goals. By Anthony Harrington.

Malcolm Logistics, the leading provider of third-party logistics services, has its Headquarters in Linwood, Renfrewshire. The company operates more than 500 vehicles and has around five million square feet of warehousing, most of which is in Scotland’s Central belt.

As Andrew Malcolm, CEO of Malcolm Group explains, the Group operates a national UK supply chain solution across eight prime depots and several customer sites. The Group also has three rail-linked depots, located at Grangemouth, Elderslie and Crick in Northamptonshire which provide reliable rail solutions for many of Scotland’s key production businesses.

HeraldScotland: CEO Andrew Malcolm aims to greatly reduce the firm’s carbon emissionsCEO Andrew Malcolm aims to greatly reduce the firm’s carbon emissions

This month, Malcolm Rail celebrate 20 years in rail freight, having operated its first freight train service on the February 14 2001. “We now operate daily services 364 days of the year, carrying over 30,000 containers for a wide range of retailers and manufacturers,” Malcolm says.

In 2002 its first train left Grangemouth for the rail terminal at DIRFT. Operated by Direct Rail Services the train carried glass from Alloa to be used for lager and coffee jars. The northbound train returned the next day with petfood, pallets and some retail traffic.

HeraldScotland: Malcolm Logistics rose to the challenge of the pandemic thanks to its significant road and rail operations across the UKMalcolm Logistics rose to the challenge of the pandemic thanks to its significant road and rail operations across the UK

Six years later, Malcolm Rail took over the operation of the rail terminal at DIRFT (Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal). In 2014 the Group’s rail provider changed from DRS to DB Cargo UK. The 50’ Big Box Container was also launched and was a game changer for the sector.

“In 2017 we celebrated our millionth rail lift at DIRFT, undertaken for customers Mothercare and Freightliner, and last year we operated our longest ever train, almost 800m long. This is another milestone in our rail operation, operating both the longest containers and now also the longest intermodal trains,” Malcolm comments.

Road to growth

Over the last 20 years the Group has moved around 700,000 containers, taking some 230,000,000 miles off the UK road networks. The customer base has grown significantly with multiple retailers and supermarkets now transporting goods by rail.

Each train is up to half a mile long, taking up to 80 HGVs from the road network while getting goods to and from market efficiently and effectively. The northbound services bring retail products from national distribution centres in the Midlands, the southbound flows are still all about exporting Scotland’s local produce such as mineral water, food & drink, and chipboard.

Turning to Brexit, Malcolm points out that while Brexit had the potential to create significant issues for the company, he and his team have been working on their response since 2016.

“As a business we have had to respond to procedural changes, and work with our customers to ensure that they are supported. We have also had to respond to changes in traffic flows, for example new ports of export and import. Further adjustment will undoubtedly be seen in the coming months as the new operations settle down. The most important thing is that we support the movement of goods as we have always done and find solutions where required,” he comments.

The biggest impact the business has experienced has been the increased costs of operation, largely to do with processing documentation, though with the Group’s vehicles operating on the UK mainland, it has not had the substantial operational issues other logistics companies have faced.

“We are all aware of the huge impact Brexit had on Port operations which was highly publicised this year – resulting in delayed movements of products. Our rail infrastructure allowed us to divert goods to more suitable locations to ensure that the supply chain is not affected. We are in the process of achieving accreditation as a Customs Approved Area in order to receive and handle trains from the European Mainland,” Malcolm explains.

On the challenge posed by the pandemic, Malcolm says that the Group’s priority throughout the last 12 months of Covid-19 has been the health and welfare of employees. “Logistics is classified as a key sector, and as an operational business it meant that a significant part of our business could not be delivered by working from home,” he notes.

When lockdowns were announced at relatively short notice, causing spikes in demand and shortages, the Group was able to respond using its significant road and rail operations.

“We helped to move more key products than ever before. The extra capacity required was in part made available by a reduction in other products that we carry which were considered non-essential,” Malcolm says.

“We are truly proud of how our teams, our customers and our suppliers have come together and worked to achieve everything we delivered in 2020. We hope 2021 is a better year for everyone,” he adds.

Carbon reduction aims

Malcolm Logistics is very much aligned with the Government’s ambitions and is greatly focused on reducing CO2 emissions by exploring innovative multi modal opportunities to reduce the impact of its daily road and rail movements, while maximising potential savings in time, handling and fuel usage. The launch of its 50’ Big Box Container revolutionised the way goods are moved. A new versatile trailer was engineered, which is easily and safely extended, to accommodate the new super-sized containers (both award winning initiatives of innovation).

“Our customers have the facility to move 15 per cent more freight per journey over the largest available conventional container. And, by using a combination of eco-friendly Road and Rail services, we can achieve a 13 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions per pallet,” says Malcolm.

Malcolm Logistics have been involved in the Governments 10 year long “Longer Trailer Trial” which has now been extended for a further five years and aims to conclude in 2027. Up to the end of 2019 the trial results indicated that:

- On average, the use of LSTs reduced journey numbers by 1 in 12, with more than 54 million vehicle kilometres saved

- 48,000 tonnes of CO2(e) and 241 tonnes of NOx have been saved

- On a per kilometre basis LSTs have been involved in about 53 per cent fewer personal injury collisions and casualties than the GB articulated heavy goods vehicle (HGV) average.

Green opportunities

Malcolm adds: “Our fleet is currently 100 per cent compliant on EURO 6 which are the most efficient for reducing harmful emissions. We are carrying out extensive trials on alternative fuel vehicles (LNG, Hybrid, Bio-methane) and are assessing the most viable options to eliminate emissions and meet the forthcoming targets by 2035.

“The Scottish and UK Governments have objectives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and increase railfreight. Malcolm Logistics identified an opportunity to help achieve both, by a controlled increase for the permissible weight for the road transport of intermodal rail freight.

“The 48T for 48M Proposal was initiated by us. There are services offered by Eddie Stobart, JG Russell and the freight companies DB Cargo, DRS, Freightliner and GB Railfreight which would also benefit from the proposal.”

 

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Malcolm Rail celebrates 20 years on the right track

Malcolm Rail this year celebrates 20 years in rail freight. It now operates services 364 days of the year, carrying over 30,000 containers for a range of retailers and manufacturers.

2001: The first train left Grangemouth for the rail terminal at DIRFT. Operated by Direct Rail Services the train carried glass from Alloa to be used for lager and coffee jars. The northbound train returned the next day with petfood, pallets and some retail traffic.
“Operating rail within the Malcolm business was the idea of our late colleague Jim Clark, who alongside John Holwell, was very passionate and instrumental in integrating rail into Malcolm Logistics extensive road-based operations. They focused on providing the industry with robust and flexible rail solutions, which form the basis of what the group operates today”explains CEO Andrew Malcolm.

 

 2008: Malcolm Rail took over the operation of the rail terminal at DIRFT (Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal), a venture in which Jim Clark and John Holwell, supported by Andrew Malcolm and the Board, played an integral part. The development of Rail terminal operations had been a major part in Malcolm Rail’s investment & development strategy over the past 15 years.

 

 2014: Malcolm Rail’s provider changed from DRS to DB Cargo UK. This successful partnership has already been extended several times and has led to the company’s trains being hauled by electric traction, including the liveried loco 90024. The 50ft container box was also launched and proved to be a game changer. Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal officially launched Malcolm Logistics’ 50ft Container at the Multimodal Exhibition in Birmingham’s NEC. Witnessed by professionals from all areas of the industry Malcolm Logistics were proud to unveil their newest intermodal innovation, which was set to revolutionise the way goods would be moved in the future.

 

 2017: This was the year Malcolm Rail celebrated its millionth rail lift at DIRFT undertaken for customers Mothercare and Freightliner. This was recognised at the annual Rail Freight Group awards that same year. In addition to the company’s current daily anglo-scottish services, it has operated routes serving Kirby Thore and Elderslie for dedicated customers, and also Scottish domestic services between Elderslie and Grangemouth to support import and export traffic. The Elderslie – Grangemouth was only 34 miles each way but proved that rail can work on a short and long-distance service.

 

 2020: This year Malcolm Rail operated its longest ever train, almost 800m long. This was another milestone in the rail operation, operating both the longest containers and now also the longest intermodal trains.

HeraldScotland:

 2021: The Malcolm Group has been actively developing rail-based freight movements for the last 20 years. During that time, it has moved around 700,000 containers taking 230,000,000 miles off the UK road networks. The customer base has grown significantly with multiple retailers and supermarkets now transporting goods by rail. Some retailers are choosing to promote their use of rail in their branding, and with growing focus on decarbonisation we look to grow our rail operation going forward. DIRFT has also expanded significantly. The second phase was completed in 2015 and a third phase is currently in development.

The success of these trains is in not only getting lorries off the road – each train is up to half a mile long, taking up to 80 HGVs from the road network – but in getting goods to and from market efficiently and effectively. The northbound services bring retail products from national distribution centres in the Midlands, the southbound flows are still all about exporting Scotland’s local produce, be that mineral water, food and drink, and chipboard.

The trains are also helping Scotland decarbonise its economy. On average, rail freight makes only 25 per cent of the carbon of HGVs, and where it can use electric haulage, as most of these trains do, the performance is even better. Around 45 per cent of all rail freight in Scotland is electric, far better than the national average which sits around 12 per cent.

Rail Director David Turner (left), based at DIRFT heads this operation. David started with the Group in 2012 and was promoted to Rail Director in 2014. He leads the partnership with Prologis, maintaining stakeholder relationships with terminal users at DIRFT – including increasing rail departure performance.

“David has been responsible for the introduction of new working procedures and staff development which have improved our efficiency across the operation.” explains Andrew Malcolm.

“Our team today has delivered on the spirit of the late Jim Clark. Focused, and committed in delivery high quality services for our customers. As we look to celebrate our 100th year of the wider business, this is a year for acknowledging our achievements and looking forward to our future,” he concludes.

 

This article is brought to you in association with Malcom Logistics.