Wheels keep on turning

General freight company and Farmlands partner, MacKenzie Supply Services, prides itself on being a vital cog in the South Island’s horticultural industry.

This was especially evident during the COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown, when supply chain services came to the fore – getting produce off orchards and farms, into stores and distribution hubs – and into the hands of consumers.

Growing with their key partners and mixing up their industry client base are two strong drivers for MacKenzie Supply Services. The Temuka-based general freight company prides itself on being based in one of the most productive areas in the country and serving a large area that spans from Marlborough to the West Coast and Otago.

MacKenzie Supply Services kept the wheels turning during the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown, fulfilling their part in the seasonal product supply chain by ensuring the seamless flow of essential goods and services for their customers, including Farmlands shareholders.

Essential harvesting and exporting

MacKenzie Supply Services General Manager, Nigel Walsh says the apple season was a successful one, despite a late summer hailstorm.

Each year, the company collects thousands of bins of apples from South Canterbury growers and transports them to Turners and Growers in Nelson for distribution. This harvest involved up to nine trips a day from producers. The 3-month season meant MacKenzies, like much of the primary sector, could keep trucking on throughout the Level 4 period. South Canterbury onion crops were another lockdown product that needed distributing. MacKenzie Supply Services freighted containers to the Timaru Port, which is about 14km from their Temuka depot, ready for export.

Transporting seed potatoes from paddocks to storage sheds was also an essential service, as pictured taking place in Methven for Geraldine-based shareholder, Alps Seed. MacKenzie staff recently worked 7 days a week on about 20 farms in the Mid and South Canterbury areas, moving approximately 5,000 bins of spuds. 

The general freight/carrier side of the business dropped off significantly during the lockdown period with the agricultural service propping the business up.

A lot of food commodities are grown in the South Island and exported, and our job is to ensure that product is being transported to the right places.”

    | The freight team worked 7 days a week during the recent spud season and took thousands of bins of apples from South Canterbury growers to Nelson for distribution.

“For us it is very much about supply chain. In the South Canterbury area, there are a lot of businesses like us which feed off the season. A lot of food commodities are grown in the South Island and exported, and our job is to ensure that product is being transported to the right places,” Nigel says.

| A MacKenzie truck unloads 80g of smolt salmon at Mt Cook Alpine Salmon, a Farmlands shareholder – on the Ohau Canal, near Lake Benmore.

Points of difference
Spreading their risk has also seen MacKenzies specialise in servicing the aquaculture industry. Clients include Hook Salmon in Wanaka, Akaroa Salmon in Akaroa and two Twizel operations: High-Country Salmon and Mt Cook Alpine Salmon (a Farmlands shareholder – pictured).

The ‘cradle to grave’ service involves carrying live smolt to the salmon farms, transporting salmon food and taking the harvested salmon to the processing plant.

MacKenzie Supply has contracts with Australian-based Ridley and Skretting salmon food companies which involve shipping salmon food in containers from Brisbane to Lyttleton Harbour and then railing them to Timaru.

Because we are dealing with a lot of imported containers, like the Ridley salmon food, it makes sense that we are accredited as an MPI transitional facility. Being approved by MPI means we can carry out inspections, open and devan imported containers on site.

The containers are collected then devanned and the product stored at the Temuka or Christchurch stores before being dispatched to the salmon farms.

“It’s been good to be able to diversify and while salmon is a key part of our business, the newer add-on is the live baby salmon that are transported in massive speciality truck and trailers,” he says.

A point of difference for the freight company is their accreditation as a Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) facility for transportation. They are also a vehicle docking facility for opening and devanning containers.

“Because we are dealing with a lot of imported containers, like the Ridley salmon food, it makes sense that we are accredited as an MPI transitional facility. Being approved by MPI means we can carry out inspections, open and devan imported containers on site.

“We are regularly audited and have to meet strict criteria to retain the accreditation status.” MacKenzie Supply Services is the only trucking business to offer a same-day transport service through Canterbury and the Mackenzie Country. The ‘ocean to alps’ transportation company works from Christchurch to Dunedin, and when required covers the South Island from Nelson to Invercargill.

Nigel describes the business as “unique and motivated”.

“We pride ourselves on the ability to respond quickly to our clients’ needs. Each one of our team is innovative and committed to delivering the best possible outcome. They go that extra mile to ensure all our customers receive only the best,” he says.

To achieve this, MacKenzie Supply Services has depots in Christchurch, Temuka, Twizel and Oamaru.

The large fleet of more than 30 vehicles includes curtainsiders, swinglifts, bulk tippers and flat decks. The range of specialised vehicles and equipment enables them to cater for a variety of customer requirements. For instance, the bulk tippers are ideal for large cartage needs e.g. grain, fertiliser, seed, coal, wood chips, soil and other agricultural requirements; the swinglift swings 20ft and 40ft containers into and out of customer yards, as well as bringing MPIapproved containers into their depots; curtainsiders move dairy products, apples, onions, stock feed, general freight and salmon food; and flat decks cart steel, hay, wool, machinery and containers. Refrigerated transport and storage for frozen goods are also part of the service.

“We use a combination of warehouse and container storage to ensure products are secure and protected, and when you’re ready to shift or sell your goods, transport is immediately on hand and simple to arrange – there’s no need to try and coordinate different storage and transport operators.”

Tech supports on-road business
The MacKenzie paperless system proved its worth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company has been using Icos Live, an online transport and logistics management system, for the past 6 years. This involves a paperless trail where customers can log in and book their own freight directly into the system, they also have the capability to track and trace their freight. The non-contact system has proven invaluable over the unprecedented period of social distancing and increased hygiene measures.

“The system also gives us the capability to be able to send an email direct to the customer once the product has been delivered and a proof of delivery signed,” Nigel says.

All trucks have GPS systems, maximising efficiency and ensuring that their drivers are on time and the company is able to pick up and deliver to the most remote places.

Radio, telephones and cell phones mean depots can contact drivers at any time.

“We are constantly looking for improvements and innovation; IT is a huge part of our processes.

“Our business foundations of providing transportation, storage and door-to-door freight transport has remained the same over the years but there have been significant changes around innovation. We are working in real time now and tracking and tracing is 100 percent.”

Customer-centric in cropping heartland
Previously General Manager of Carter's Tyres, Nigel began managing MacKenzie Supply Services when Temuka Transport first bought the business in 2012 and has watched it grow with the times.

“I grew up in the transport industry and, like my Dad, I drove trucks and have diesel in my veins.”

Nigel was an avid rugby player and is Assistant Coach of the New Zealand Heartland Rugby Team as well as South Canterbury Heartland Rugby Head Coach. His driving career was bought to a halt in 1998 when he broke his neck playing the sport. That was when he traded the steering wheel for a desk job.

“The GM role is a massive job – the co-ordination alone is huge and across the Temuka Transport Group there are eight or nine dispatch workers co-ordinating the different parts of the business. “When we took over, MacKenzies had been operating as a small courier business.

We changed that focus to take on bigger freight and more bulk.

“We are still a family-owned business and because of this our staff are recognised as part of the family. The culture we have and the history we have with our drivers proves this,” Nigel says.

Nigel believes the company’s versatility pulled them through the pandemic period.

“While one side of the business was down, we managed to keep working wherever we could and, through the wage subsidy, we were able to keep our team together. There was a drop off and it was a tough time, but our priority was to look after our staff in the best way possible.”

Their formula of not having all their eggs in one basket means they were not reliant on just one industry. “That planning certainly worked well for us over the lockdown period.”

Pictures supplied courtesy of MacKenzie Supply Services, Alps Seed and Mt Cook Alpine Salmon.

| MacKenzies collect animal nutrition products from the Farmlands Rolleston Mill and distribute those to branches around the South Island.