If there are two main challenges facing Simon Wood, EMR's Logistics Director, it's finding drivers to transport the thousands of tonnes EMR moves around the country each year – as well as ensuring there are efficient trucks for these drivers to operate.
That might sound daunting but it’s all part of running a modern logistics operation and Simon, and the transport teams, work hard to recruit and retain EMR’s 200+ strong group of drivers.
“At EMR we offer the majority of our drivers a Monday to Friday working pattern in a world where many are asked to do four nights on, four nights off, never quite knowing when they’re going to be at home for evenings and weekends,” Simon says.
“We do have a few drivers working at customer sites on varied shift patterns to provide 24/7 coverage and of course we value their contributions hugely too.”
On top of this, Simon leads a team with a dedication to safety and operational excellence that’s mirrored throughout the EMR group.
“To enhance our strong safety focussed approach to running transport we have recently formed a road risk safety steering group, which brings together teams from across the business including insurance, fleet management and compliance, to make sure we’re managing risk on the road and raising driving safety standards.” says Simon.
Trucks, meanwhile, offer another challenge all together.
“Right now, there is a very long lead time on buying replacement trucks because there’s a global semiconductor shortage. A single truck uses thousands of semiconductors so, unsurprisingly, manufacturers are quoting late next year to get new trucks delivered. The recent blockage of the Suez Canal in March only worsened deliveries and unfortunately no recovery in availability is expected until 2022.”
While truck shortages provide day-to-day challenges for Simon, his role also involves understanding how the company’s logistics and transport operations must evolve in the years ahead to reach EMR’s net-zero target by 2040.
In total, Simon oversees the movement of recycled metal and other material via 10,000 demountable containers, 220 trucks and dozens of rail freight wagons. And while the business is investing in electric vehicles (EVs) where possible and expanding its use of rail, Simon says that it’s impossible for businesses like EMR to have all the answers today when it comes to decarbonising their use of transport:
“EVs are not really on the agenda for the large goods vehicles we use at the moment. Developments in this area are something I keep a close eye on. When we’re replacing trucks, we have to judge the performance of different vehicles, and EVs and other low carbon transport solutions like hydrogen fuel cells aren’t there just yet. There is demand from across our sector for low carbon heavy goods transport so I am sure the manufacturers will find solutions.”
In the meantime, Simon is supporting EMR’s Decade of Action strategy by making real world changes to the business now that will feed into the company’s broader path to cutting emissions. For him, it’s about helping drivers use fuel more efficiently by reducing and harsh acceleration or braking, for example.
“It’s a constant cycle of coaching the drivers and measuring the fuel we use,” he says. “And of course, maximising the payload on trucks is another key thing. Our customers can influence that and it’s one of the reasons we have bins and skips of different sizes. By working in partnership with our customers we can optimise payload and ensure we’re doing the fewest trips when collecting materials.”
Simon’s 30-year journey in the recycling industry was inspired by an early career change.
“My degree was in Physics and Chemistry at Oxford Brookes and I immediately got a job as a development engineer at a firm called Oxford Instruments,” he says. “My father-in-law was the managing director of a metal recycling company and after 3 years at Oxford Instruments I decided to join them in 1988 to get some commercial experience.”
The business Simon worked for was taken over by Sheppard Group in 1994, creating EMR in the process. Since then, Simon has gained experience across the business, as Depot Manager, General Manager and Area General Manager, before taking on a national transport role in 2015.
It’s given him a unique insight into the way EMR operates, as well as a deep respect.