Speed important when running large cold store facility

Co-ordinating frozen food stuffs in one of the biggest cold storage facilities in the world is no easy task. It is one where you have to be on your toes from the moment you walk through the door to start work until it’s time to go home.

Luckily for Oxford Cold Storage, its transport manager, Jacquelene Brotherton, not only has the experience to do the job, but also has a genuine passion for it. It is an industry she was born to be in, according to Brotherton.

“I have worked in the transport industry my entire working life since 1970 when I was still at school,” she told Food & Beverage Industry News recently. “I would get off the school bus in my uniform and go to work. I did that on afternoons and weekends out the back of Bourke. Since then, I worked for 17 years with Bruce Dickinson Livestock in Dubbo. I worked in fleet management. I worked for Frasers Livestock. I worked several years at Lewington’s. I also worked in the three mainland eastern states over those years. I just never wanted to leave the industry.”

Brotherton loves her job, and she has been intricately involved in the many changes and improvements Oxford has undergone during her tenure there. All the while, she has kept the transport side of the 19th largest cold store company in the world (by capacity) running on time.

“I came onto their site in January 2006 under the employ of ID Transport as they were leasing space there at the time,” she said. “I managed their ID’s customers, as they had several major customers onsite, and I was the onsite representative for them.

“Several months after that ID sold to Pure Logistics and I moved with the business as part of that transaction, it was part of the deal. I stayed with Pure until 2007 and then resigned. I didn’t really know where I was going to go after that. I took another job somewhere for less than a week as a favour to a friend and then when the opportunity presented, I decided to come back to Oxford, but this time under their employ.

“That was in August 2007. I’m one of the newer employees here having been here for only 11 years. One of our original employees has been with the business for 44 years while several others have been here for over 30 years. That should give you an idea of what the company is like to work for, and how loyal the staff are to their employers and vice versa.”

With a large part of the business being foodstuffs, getting goods in and out on time is of the essence. It’s not until you start talking numbers, that you realise the scale of the job that Brotherton has in front of her. With help from a reliable team, she manages to run a very smooth operation in an industry where timing is everything

“Around 700 trucks come through the site each day. It is a very busy site,” she said. “We have the capacity to store 175,000 pallets of frozen products, which is huge volume of stock. We service numerous size customers. Some quite small and some very large. There are hugely different requirements and it takes significant management to do that properly.

“We have more than 300 transport companies registered on our site,” she said. “We have to keep in contact with them and make sure our database of truck registrations is continually maintained and kept up to date. This includes new vehicle registrations being added and the removal of old vehicles which have been sold or destroyed so that we can remove them from our database.”

One reason Brotherton has loved her career is the diversity it has offered.

“My roles have mainly been in trucking but it has been all aspects of trucking,” she said. “It has been in livestock where your food comes from. Refrigeration where your food goes to. Even the warehouse part of the industry was a real eye opener to me. It is an essential service as society moves more to, not just fresh food, but many other essential things we store here such as vaccines and the like. There is a whole different world out there.”

While the business is very busy, Brotherton wouldn’t change it for anything. She has had plenty of highlights over her 40-year career, with last year being particularly memorable for all the right reasons.

“A highlight of my career was when I was bestowed life membership of what was then the Livestock Transporters Association of New South Wales,” she said. “It is now the Livestock Bulk and Rural Carriers Association (LBRCA) of New South Wales. Then winning the Excellence in Road Transport at the Women in Industry last year. That was something I was truly unprepared for, but it was a very nice surprise. I also won the inaugural Female Leadership in Transport award at the Australian Freight Industry Awards in September of 2018. I had a big year. It was an extremely joyous, humbling and fulfilling year.” Like many successful people, Brotherton believes helping yourself is the first step towards a fulfilling career. It seems the more Brotherton does, the more accolades she amasses. When it comes to the cold storage and foodstuffs industry, Jacquelene believes that people should really go for it.

“This industry offers amazing opportunities for everybody,” she said. “You need to get involved in your industry associations. You need to get involved in the transport women’s association. I am still involved with the LBRCA, I am the chair of Transport Women Australia Limited, I am involved in the Refrigerated Warehouse and Transport Association, and I’m also involved with Women in Trucking in the US.

“Immerse yourself in the industry. It has fantastic people. There are huge opportunities for everybody. Find a mentor. There are plenty of people who will freely share their knowledge with you. I have had plenty of mentors from the industry throughout my career.

“Make people aware that it is an essential service – warehousing, cold storage, transport – all those elements are essential services for everybody in our society.”