Icehouse Logistics provides the answers for complete end-to-end freight management – Words by Warren Caves, Images by Torque it Up. 

Western Sydney-based Icehouse Logistics has expanded its transport operations with the addition of two new A-double, container Skel combinations from Panus Oceania, with some local input from Express Engineering in Dubbo to customise a unique dolly-lock solution.

From humble beginnings in the print and book-binding industry over 40 years ago, Icehouse Logistics entered the warehousing and port-logistics game as a result of moving its operations of carpet-tile and swatch manufacturing to China.

This shift to overseas manufacturing resulted in the need to transport and store container loads of the company’s imported products. This soon led to requests from others in the industry to contract Icehouse to warehouse containers and products for their own businesses and from then on continued expansion was part of the future strategy. As a result of this it was decided by the company to focus on a different sector and diversify into warehousing and port logistics.

A small warehouse in Emu Plains, on Sydney’s western fringe, was eventually outgrown leading to Icehouse Logistics expanding to now operate three warehouses totalling nearly 50,000 sqm’s at Eastern Creek and Erskine park. Collectively, these handle 1000-1200 container movements per month in what has now become primarily a third-party logistics (3PL) and warehousing operation.

National Transport Manager for Icehouse Logistics, Luke Smith, joined the company three years ago when the transport fleet consisted of just two trucks. Within just three years the Icehouse Logistics operation has grown with fleet expansion to now boast 30 trucks and around 60 trailers, with four new Scania prime movers in the order system. The four G440 Scania’s will compliment the single-trailer local fleet with a second R620 to be placed into operation with the second A-double combination.

Capitalising on the available PBS scheme and utilising its strategic Eastern Creek location with easy access to Sydney’s major arterial roads of the M4 and M7, Icehouse logistics has chosen Panus Oceania to supply two new A-double, container Skel trailer combinations. This move is to maximise productivity and profitability within the company’s transport operation.

Geelong-based Panus Oceania is the Australian subsidiary of Panus Assembly, a Thai-based trailer-manufacturing company with over 45 years experience constructing and supplying trailers to world markets.

The advantage to Australian customers is two-fold. The size, strength and economies of scale of Panus Assembly in Thailand underpin the ability of Panus Oceania to market and support its trailers in the Australian market. This enables the company to offer a full range of trailing equipment options that are uniquely designed for our market and that include components supplied and supported by the Australian distributors of the individual component manufacturers.

For the Panus Oceania A-double order the component suppliers include Ringfeder couplings, York axles and SuperHawk HKTR1 11R22.5 size tyres. The Superhawk HKTR1 is a trailer-specific tyre designed for mixed highway and freeway long-distance transport.

“The reasons we chose Panus Trailers for our new equipment are that they are cost competitive and offer quality equipment. In our case Panus Oceania had stock on hand for our needs, additionally they were able to facilitate some local engineering into our build by way of a heavy-duty dolly lock capable of handling loaded reversing manoeuvres encountered on two of the three port facilities we frequent,” said Luke.

“While we don’t operate really heavy loads and work on payloads of around 24 tonne per trailer, we still required some extra design engineering to be built into our trailers. It’s this availability of customisable input that can be added to the core design that adds to the Panus trailer appeal.”

The dolly lock requirements were tasked to Express Engineering Australia in Dubbo, NSW.

Express Engineering fabricated an air-operated, double-tongued dolly lock, strong enough to cope with the extra demands of load imparted to the ball-race turntable when manoeuvring and reversing with loaded trailers. This is a first of its kind for a Panus Oceania trailer combination.

Due to tight restrictive operating environments, extra clearance provisions by way of cut-out sections have also been built into the lead trailer to allow increased drawbar clearance when turning.

The Panus A-double combinations at 30-metres long will operate on existing PBS routes between Port Botany and Eastern Creek, as well as routes approved to service two of Icehouse’s customers at Yennora and Erskine Park.

Luke goes on to explain: “Our Panus, A-double combinations will be operating on a three-round trip per day schedule, from Eastern Creek to Port Botany, bringing imported containers for our customers out to our warehouses and returning to port with either de-hire containers or export freight.”

This equates to a 12-hour shift moving a total of 12 40-foot containers (or 20-foot equivalents) in that time. Based on 40-foot container calculations, this results in 12 containers being transported during a shift instead of nine on a standard B-double combination. This results in an increase of productivity of 25 percent and affectively removes one return trip per day. When considering the effects that Sydney traffic can have on trip times, this can offer considerable time and cost reductions to the business.

Reliability in equipment is paramount to Icehouse Logistics and as Luke says, “you really have to be on your game.”

“Time slot penalties can have serious cost impositions to our business. Being just 30 minutes late can incur a $50 fine and over 90 minutes late can see a $150 fine. It also results in the need to re-timeslot, which in itself may not be possible, so we cannot afford any unnecessary delays,” Luke said.

“With reliability in mind, as we are maintenance management accredited, we service our truck fleet ourselves. The fleet is predominantly Scania based, with some Volvo and UD models and our service and maintenance scheduling comes in at 15,000 km intervals for trucks and monthly for our trailers.”

The addition of the new A-doubles should greatly increase productivity for Icehouse Logistics and ensure it can provide faster port turnaround of containers to its warehouses for on-forwarding to local customers.

The 3PL space is seeing expansive growth due to the downturn in domestic manufacturing in favour of overseas manufacturing and just-in-time deliveries.

With traffic congestion within our major cities reaching sometimes epidemic proportions any reduction of vehicle movements facilitated by high productivity equipment should be encouraged. In fact, it may well need to be mandatory thinking to survive in the fast-paced transport logistics game.

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