When an international shipping company purchases a regional refrigerated warehouse, the warehouse expands and growth opportunities increase, says Steve Flink, transportation manager for P&O Cold Logistics in San Antonio, formerly known as Loop Cold Storage.
“P&O has been very good for us,” Flink says. “Since the purchase in 1999, we have completed a 44,250-sq-ft warehouse expansion in San Antonio. Before the purchase, our fleet hauled primarily for non-warehouse customers. Since then, P&O has purchased two other warehouses in Houston and Dallas. Our fleet now has a large customer base from those three warehouses.”
P&O Cold Logistics (POCL) is a subsidiary of The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Group, which was founded in 1837. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange. Early in its history, P&O established important shipping links with the Iberian Peninsula. The company expanded service, spreading from Gibraltar to Alexandria, Egypt, then through the Suez Canal to Calcutta. P&O reached Hong Kong in 1845 and Sydney, Australia, in 1852. For a century, P&O's mail and passenger steamers were part of the backbone of British trade and expansion.
POCL, formerly Pacific Cold Storage in the United States, started in Los Angeles in 1953 as a produce business with refrigerated storage. The first public refrigerated warehouse was 500,000 cubic feet, mainly devoted to meat packers. Frozen food was just becoming popular, and Pacific Cold Storage soon diversified into all areas of perishable foods. By 1978, Pacific Cold Storage opened its fourth warehouse in the City of Industry. In 1994, the company was acquired by P&O.
POCL now is one of the largest public refrigerated warehouse companies in the world, with 20 facilities across the United States, and others in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Brazil. Total storage capacity worldwide is 120 million cubic feet. US facilities hold 73 million cubic feet. The International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses ranks POCL in the Top Ten refrigerated warehouse and distribution companies for 2001.
Most recently, about two months ago, POCL acquired the Condyne Group of Massachusetts. This acquisition includes two large distribution centers in Avon and Taunton, Massachusetts, and a fleet of refrigerated trucks. “P&O is aggressively growing its business,” Flink says. “With distribution from coast to coast, it can mix and match customer needs. The goal is to integrate locations to provide more efficient logistics services throughout the country.”
Fleet Runs I-35 Corridor
Each of the POCL locations in Texas is geared to a specific market. The San Antonio warehouse, for instance, specializes in storing raw vegetables and in handling processed meat bound for Mexico. The fleet of 10 tractors and 13 refrigerated trailers based in San Antonio has established a niche running the Interstate 35 corridor from Dallas to Laredo, the busiest US-Mexico inland port.
“Currently we handle mostly truckload freight,” Flink says. “We haul export meat and poultry from a plant in Waco to freight forwarders in Laredo, and return to San Antonio with frozen vegetables from Mexico. Since P&O purchased the La Porte (Houston) and Dallas warehouses, our distribution is evolving. We are developing a pool delivery program for customers of all three warehouses.”
Besides truckload, the P&O fleet offers LTL service for carriers that serve San Antonio distribution centers. “We are a full-line transportation company providing brokerage and delivery services,” Flink says. “Soon we will offer full consolidation services for customers, as P&O does in California and Massachusetts.”
The La Porte center brings in seafood and meat imports. A POCL tractor moves containers from the Houston port, about four miles from the warehouse. A 60,000-sq-ft expansion under construction at La Porte will be completed in September.
Flink coordinates P&O distribution throughout Texas. He has served as transportation manager in San Antonio since 1997, when he was hired to start a fleet to enhance warehouse services and generate additional revenue. “The purchase of other Texas warehouses offers me an opportunity to double the fleet by the end of 2001,” Flink says. “This is the first year all three are linked in an online system. We are contacting customers to update them on our services.”
The fleet leases vehicles from two suppliers. PacLease Truck Rental supplies most of the tractors, Peterbilt Model 385s and Model 387s. Penske Truck Leasing supplies mostly Great Dane trailers. The newest is a Great Dane 53-footer equipped with a Carrier Transicold Phoenix Ultra unit.
35,000 Pallet Positions
POCL in San Antonio has undergone several expansions over the years, says Gary Terrill, POCL general manager in San Antonio. The site originally housed a cotton mill in the 1920s. In the 1960s, a new owner started a peanut mill and installed the first freezer in 1964. With the completion of a 44,250-sq-ft freezer in 1999, the campus-style facility has a total of 68 shipping and receiving doors. Twelve doors serve the newest freezer, which has a 43-ft refrigerated dock. The warehouse also has five rail doors on a rail spur served by the Union Pacific railroad.
San Antonio has a total of 35,000 pallet positions in 7.56 million cubic feet of refrigerated storage. Chilled product held at 34° F to 38° F is stored in about 522,000 cubic feet with 2,726 pallet spaces. Other cold rooms are held at 0° F to — 10° F. A blast freezer has 172 pallet spaces.
On site, Texas Lumper Service provides loading and unloading labor. Texas Lumper is an independent service providing insured workers.
POCL offers USDA export and import inspections. The warehouse serves as an off-premise freezer for food manufacturers. This allows POCL to provide inspection services for Meat and Poultry and Certification Service for Trichinae and Cysticercoids.
The warehouse has 18 pallet jacks, 21 forklifts, and five narrow-aisle high lifts. The new freezer has a 45-ft ceiling. Racks are five- or six-high. Aisles are 12 ft 2 in wide for 164 inches above the floor. Upper racks extend farther, reducing upper aisle width to 8 ft 2 in. This wider aisle allows for order selection and space for equipment to pass. The narrow upper aisle enhances warehouse cube utilization. “Order selectors retrieve fast-moving items from the lower racks, while upper racks store back-up inventory,” Terrill says.
POCL uses warehouse management software from Delfour Corporation in Markham, Ontario, Canada. Originally installed in San Antonio in 1997, POCL continued to run the program after acquiring the San Antonio warehouse, and converted all three Texas warehouses to the same system in 2000.
“P&O has seen cost savings from using company personnel for on-site training,” says Wendy Stanfield, software specialist for POCL. “We were able to adopt the new system quickly, and Delfour remains available for consulting and custom programming.”
The system tracks all inbound and outbound inventory, and customer transactions and reporting, Terrill says. Warehouse managers and customers can access data on the Internet. Delfour logistics software uses Oracle relational database management and Java technology.