Ice Man Cometh!

The Ice MAN Cometh!

Sydney transport company Micway has carved a niche for itself in refrigerated freight, which has made it hot property when it comes to cold goods delivery. Barry Flanagan investigates

The transport industry is littered with the remnants of failed trucking operations but the success stories share a strong common thread that many believe has helped them avoid the all too often truck company demise and that is picking a strong niche and specialising. One case in point is Micway Refrigerated Transport, a Western Sydney based operation that has come a long way since it was started by John and Mary Franklin back in 1999.In that final year of the last Millennium when Sydney was booming and with the Olympics just around the corner it was admittedly a little easier to get a business established, ensuring it stayed the distance and weathered the economic storms of the past few years is another matter. However smart management, intelligent vehicle choice and as we said a focus on a strong niche are all elements that have enabled Micway to survive and flourish in an extremely tough and competitive market.  

Today Micway is one of Australia’s fastest growing and most successful refrigerated transport companies, but 15 years ago it was a fleet with just two trucks and a vision for the future. Wayne Franklin, son of John and Mary is today the Director of Operations and the man really driving the business as it continues to grow and build on its success fleet. The company now supplies many of Australia’s best known food retailers including Woolworths, Coles, IGA, Costco, Aldi, KFC, Sizzler, Dominos and Spar to name a few, with a fleet of 75 trucks, 100 pieces of equipment from trailers to loaders and more than 130 employees across its operations in NSW and Queensland.

The company headquarters is based around a 2000 square metre cold store warehouse in Blacktown in Sydney’s west along with a similar operation at Murarrie in Brisbane.  “Reliability is an absolute must for Micway, we pride ourselves on a 98 per cent on time delivery record standard and we have built the business over the past 17 years on that total reliability,” said Wayne Franklin. “When you are transporting refrigerated food and ice, servicing major food retailers and supermarket chains, you have to deliver on time or you lose the contract, so reliability is paramount,” he added. Therein lies one of Micway’s keys to success, the fact that the company values reliability above all with a professional attitude and the best management practices the transport industry can get.

In 1999 when John Franklin was kicking off one of his clients was Geoff Norman, then an executive with P&O Cold Storage. Norman contracted the fledgling Micway operation to fulfil a contract to supply Dominoes Pizza stores. That first contract was a springboard to a lot of other work from P&O that opened lots of doors for Micway. Micway’s early success soon spring boarded into more contacts and within nine months of start up it was delivering to more than 150 stores including KFC, Sizzler, Dominos and Baskin Robbins expanding into south east Queensland. Geoff Norman was a bit like Victor Kiam who liked the electric razor company he bought it. Norman didn’t go quite that far but after years of dealing with Micway as a client he liked the organisation so much he joined it in early 2014 coming on board as the general manager, bringing his vast knowledge of refrigerated logistics with him. Norman’s recruitment to the company is part of a plan to continue the growth of Micway with the aim of increasing regional and national operations over the next two years. In the past Micway has operated a mix of trucks sourced from various makers including Iveco with a number of Stralis on the fleet, both as prime movers and as rigids. The company uses a lot of 8×4 configuration rigids to ensure it can access the loading docks of stores that can be tight and tricky at times. In 2011 Micway made a big leap in purchasing the first of a number of MAN prime movers, a move that Wayne Franklin reckons was a pretty good one given the reliability and cost effectiveness the company has achieved. Franklin say that Micway has recorded better reliability from the five MAN prime movers it has added to its fleet compared with the 70 other trucks it operates. Micway purchased its first MAN, a TGS 26.480 BLS three years ago and quickly added two TGX 26.540 BLS models over the next two years followed by two more TGS 26.480 BLS in late 2013 and earlier this year.

According to the company’s workshop manager John Morris the MANs are now the most reliable trucks on the fleet. The success of the MAN prime movers has led Micway to add more MANs with two TGS 35.360 BL 8×4 rigids ordered and set to start work in the next few months with more potentially set to follow. Wayne Franklin says the persistence of the MAN sales rep Glenn Fonti was the catalyst for adding the German prime movers to the fleet but the decision has been vindicated by the reliability and performance they have delivered. “He was very persistent but very professional and we decided to give them a go, a decision that has proved to be pretty inspired,” said Wayne. “You simply can’t have a truck parked up waiting for parts or repairs and the MANs have been really good in that regard, if there have been any problems MAN has owned them and made sure they were fixed quickly and efficiently,” he added. Micway started its MANs on urban and inter-urban work in a 300km radius from Sydney, however the performance led the company to assign the TGX 540s to line haul work between Sydney and Melbourne and those are now running in B Double configuration logging 5000km a week without a fault.

Workshop manager Morris was glowing in his praise of the MANs, citing the fact that they have not only proven more reliable, but boast a 60,000 km service interval, 50 per cent longer than many of the opposition brands. “That means the trucks spend less time in the workshop and more time out there working, they are very impressive,” said John Marsh. “The MANs are more reliable than the other trucks and our first TGS 26.480 has travelled 90,000km without a spanner being laid on it and even then it was only for a new set of tyres and a regular service,” he added. Morris also says the drivers really love the MANs and believes the fit and finish and overall cab design enhances their appeal. “They have a very good fit and finish while the cabin boasts more room and a better layout than the other trucks which means the drivers are more efficient and comfortable,” he added.

The addition of two MAN 8×4 twin steer rigids to the company’s fleet of more than 30 similarly configured trucks is part of its strategy to have the best equipment possible to drive Micway’s ambitious growth plans. It appears the success of the MANs has at least for now frozen out the opposition at Micway and with the new rigids joining the fleet and the company still recording good growth its niche strategy is paying dividends. With the next phase aiming at regional growth the ice white Micway trucks will become an increasingly familiar sight on East Coast roads.