Brian has grown up with trucks and vehicles and the transport industry. Right from a very early age from being a ‘truck wash Saturday lad’ with a local family business, his aspiration was to be an international truck driver, much to my father’s dismay back in the 80s.
He later decided that life on the road wasn’t for him but secured a job with a company that specialised in moving freight to Ireland.
At the time, there were still borders in place, pre the common market, so he was dealing with exports and imports from GB into Ireland and vice versa.
Then he got an opportunity to join two other guys he worked with, to set up Trans-Bridge Freight Services. And 30 years later, here we are, TFS has evolved into one of the leading operators from the UK into Ireland.
Pharmaceuticals is a big area of focus for Trans-Bridge, and the technology they deploy has to keep pace with the expectations of not only the customer, but also the regulatory authorities such as the MHRA in the UK.
Moving pharmaceuticals is highly regulated, they have to keep the products at a certain temperature. And that’s not just vaccines, temperature requirements extend to anything that has a labelled temperature condition on it.
When they move a consignment, they have to be able to validate and prove the temperature of that consignment right through from from start to finish. Telematics is a key component for Trans-Bridge where they have to be able to see that the doors are closed, that the temperature in the compartments are correct that the vehicle is following the route that they intend it to.
The tech enables them to monitor 24 seven, with sophisticated systems that send text messages and email alerts if there’s any deviation on the temperature or if there’s any issue with the truck.
Brian sees the blockchain programme as being sort of an additional layer of security that can bring all those components together, the customs components, the temperature components, the security components, and you can have all that in one accessible platform. That’s a real big sell for them and to their pharmaceutical customers.
Brian Anderton, Dom Burch
Dom Burch 00:10
Welcome back to the ubloquity podcast with me Dom Burch. This is the podcast where we get to speak to thought leaders from across the industry to help figure out this wonderful world of blockchain and how it’s going to have a positive impact on many industries. And I’m delighted this week on the podcast to be joined by Brian Anderton. Now, Brian is officially the Operations Director for Trans-Bridge Freight. But as I’m sure we’ll find out, does a whole load more than just direct operations? Brian, welcome to the ubloquity podcast.
Brian Anderton 00:38
Dom Burch 00:39
How you doing? You alright?
Brian Anderton 00:40
Yeah, good. Thank you.
Dom Burch 00:41
Good. Excellent. Well, listen, I appreciate you giving up the time, because I’m sure in the role that you do time is precious. But tell us a little bit about you. How did you end up at Trans-Bridge? What was your What was your route, if you like into the role that you do now?
Brian Anderton 00:53
Well, I guess I’ve essentially grown up with, with with trucks and vehicles and the transport industry. And right from a very early age of kind of being a truck wash Saturday, lad with a local family business, my aspiration was to always kind of be an international truck driver, much to my father’s dismay back, back in the back in the 80s. Once I came to that age where that was the direction I was heading, I decided that life on the road wasn’t for me. And I secured a job with a company that specialised in moving freight to Ireland, I spent predominantly my first couple of years in that role was I was an export clerk to the Republic of Ireland. At the time, there was still borders in place, pre the common market, so I was an export clerk dealing with exports and imports from GB into Ireland and vice versa, then I got an opportunity to join two other guys I worked with, at that company to set up Trans-bridge freight services, and to go along in a more sort of general operational role. So effectively, controlling vehicles, drivers, freight into Ireland, so on and so forth. And 30 years later, here we are, we’ve evolved into one of the leading operators from the UK into Ireland, primarily notorious for service, I like to think with our peers. And my responsibilities continue to be the day to day operation of the business, but I also have responsibilities in terms of the future direction of the business sales, and kind of, you know, all other things that that spin around the day to day operation of a transport business, still focused on Ireland Very much so. And, you know, when I went through the kind of current climate where we see ourselves today.
Dom Burch 02:37
And I guess, over those years, you know, too many to mention that however, things changed, because I guess you’ve gone from what would have been very much telephone based paper based systems, you know, ringing people up getting people onto the right ferries and getting them in and out and across borders. How’s that changed over the years, and I guess over the last, you know, 6-12 months has started to really rapidly change.
Brian Anderton 02:59
Embarrassingly, I remember the days when transport organisations communicated by by telex. And then the revolutionary fax machine came along. And, you know, it’s kind of evolved from there. I mean, you know, if you mentioned a fax machine to probably our younger team members at the moment, they’d look at you as if you were on Antiques Roadshow. And so yeah, technology is a massive, massive part of our business and any transport business, I guess, these days, moving on from the fax machine, you know, we saw the opportunity of the internet and web access for customers probably, you know, 15/16 years ago, when, you know, we were trying to keep pace with a lot of the big carriers, the parcel carriers, especially where customer accessibility to portals and online information PODs. And that kind of thing was becoming really, really important to blue chip companies, especially. We are very, very focused on technology. You know, we have our own internal development team, which allows us to be very flexible, and to meet your kind of a plethora of customer demands, very, very quickly and efficiently.
Dom Burch 04:02
And actually having an in house resource is really key, isn’t it? Because you need to be sort of tailored in one aspect. But also, I guess there’s a lot of trial and error isn’t there and kind of going can we hack this, can we make this work, you know, there’s got to be a better way,
Brian Anderton 04:15
When we looked kind of off the shelf in the box packages. whilst they’re very good at being kind of a broad solution. They don’t allow you to be very customer specific. So we, we have a very broad range of market sectors that we deal in pharmaceuticals being our kind of key market and they kind of demand a lot more detailed information quicker information than sort of your average parcel carrier. So yeah, being able to adapt to what a customer wants, and that can range from customer to customer gives us a great advantage.
Dom Burch 04:47
Now let’s talk about pharmaceuticals then because I guess moving particularly in a pandemic, right getting medicines into the right place, and then obviously the complications now with Brexit and there were worries weren’t there, that when Brexit first came in we were going to have this problem of, you know, medicines getting backwards and forwards from France or whatever it was. Just talk to me about that sector, then because that is a specialist sector, but is obviously an absolutely essential part of society, making sure that people are well, what is it you have to do on behalf of those companies in order to get the things they need across borders in the right way and not for them to be stuck. And all the rest of it?
Brian Anderton 05:23
Pharmaceuticals is a big area of focus for us, we, we evolved as a business moving away from traditional kind of manufacturing industries and textiles and things like that. And we managed to get a foothold in the pharma market, it’s very sort of intense, it’s very demanding, for obvious reasons. And you know, we have to step up our quality and our technology to kind of keep pace with the expectations of not only the not only the client, but also the regulatory authorities predominantly MHRA in the UK. And initially, it was kind of a difficult challenge for us, because we didn’t really see a massive dip in volume, for obvious reasons, you know, we will, we will moving pharmaceuticals and pharmaceuticals needed to continue to move, even, you know, at the height of the pandemic, and obviously, PPE was a was a kind of massive, massive demand on it. So, you know, kind of throughout the pandemic, we didn’t see a lot of disruption to our business apart from the obvious of protecting staff, it was kind of a perfect storm COVID kind of came along really bad time for us, as we were starting to plan for coming out to the EU. Moving pharmaceuticals is is very, very regulated, we we have to keep the products at a certain temperature. And that’s not just vaccines, that that temperature requirement extends to anything that has a labelled temperature condition. So if you look on the back of a packet, which you would think has no kind of temperature sensitivity at all, it clearly states that there’s an upper limit of 25 degrees C, so we as a transport organisation have to maintain that throughout the supply chain. So we can’t have vehicles, delayed at ports, you know, situations that arise as a result of Brexit. So we’ve been working very, very closely with the teams of you know that the trader support teams and our customs agents and various other sort of local politicians to try and move this this this process of moving pharmaceuticals from GB into predominantly Northern Ireland, also into the Republic of Ireland. And I guess you’ve got, you know, within that you’ve got direct hospital and pharmacy deliveries, theatre time critical deliveries, you know, things that have to be there a certain time, how are you going about then things like temperature recording, because I guess, you know, this is where things like telematics systems start to come into play, don’t they where your electronically capturing data, and able to demonstrate and prove and verify that, yeah, the waggon was chilled to the right temperature and that the product was moved on time and arrived on time. Just talk to me about how you’re doing that now and how it’s sort of move beyond somebody with a clipboard, just checking one in 100 lorries. When we move a consignment, we have to be able to validate and prove the temperature of that consignment right through from from start to finish, we move the products in control trailers, with side access doors. And obviously, telematics is a key component for us where we have to be able to see that the doors are closed, that the temperature in the compartments are correct that the vehicle is following the route that we intend it to. And we have a team of people that are watching that kind of, you know, 24 hours right through right through the movement of the goods from GB into Ireland. Our validation of equipments is far more intense than probably you would expect to see, for example, in the food industry. So before we commission, any piece of equipment, we have to carry out an extensive Temperature Mapping process, which gives us a very detailed picture of any hot spots in the vehicle any the cold spots in the vehicle. And that’s kind of determines where we place probes monitor temperature. It is very, very intense for pharmaceuticals, as you will appreciate. Most pharmaceutical products have some resistance to temperature, but really contained for when it arrives with the patient, not in the supply chain. So you know, patient takes away a packet of paracetamol not to be kept over 25 degrees C, if it goes over 25 degrees C, it isn’t gonna kill them. But it’s arrived at the point where they take ownership of it below 25 degrees C and we’re able to prove that.
Dom Burch 09:24
And I guess you know, you said a minute ago, you’ve got people watching this 24 seven, I guess that belies a lot of the tech that’s sitting below it because you’ve got systems now I guess harvesting all these data points and storing them. And I guess that’s where things like blockchain come into their own, you know, a way of capturing all of these different data points in a supply chain. Or as you know, someone put it to me in a in a podcast recently in the supply network because the thing about supply chains is they aren’t always that simple.
Brian Anderton 09:51
When I say we’re monitoring 24 seven, you know, we’ve obviously got a lot of sophisticated systems that are sending us text messages and email alerts. If there’s any deviation on the temperature or if there’s any issue with the truck. Where we see the blockchain programme as being sort of an additional layer of security that we can bring all those components together that the customs components, the temperature components, the security components, and you know, kind of have all that in one accessible platform. That’s, that’s a real big sell for us to the to the pharmaceutical customers.
Dom Burch 10:24
And once that’s gathered, and once that’s in place, I guess it becomes a point of difference, but also, it will force others, won’t it so then join in and be part of the pack, because the last thing you want to be is one of those organisations that says, No, no, we don’t bother with the blockchain. No, we can’t verify in that way. So it’s going to be a point of difference for you guys. But also, I guess, will it become the industry norm in the years ahead?
Brian Anderton 10:46
Yeah, I think it will, you know, that the level of security is obviously way above what is currently out there in the market at the moment, as a standard. And yeah, I think that, with the changes that Brexit have brought about the integrity of the supply chain is more important than it’s ever been, you know, certainly where there are overlaps between the kind of GB regulations and the EU regulations, which is obviously a hot potato at the moment, I think that the integrity of the supply chain is going to be essential to give confidence to you know, taking Northern Ireland as a kind of unique market to give confidence to the EU that medicines moving from GB into Northern Ireland can be traced from wholesale warehouse to pharmacy or to hospital or to patient. And that’s going to be really, really key in in a greener way forward for the regulatory frameworks.
Dom Burch 11:37
Now, in your role you mentioned earlier, you’ve got sort of one eye on future strategy and future development, I guess, for the for the company, without giving away any trade secrets. Where do you see this heading? Like, what what’s gonna change in the next 6, 12, 18 months that, you know, what would your advice almost be to other people listening to the podcast or in this sector? And thinking, you know, shit, we need to get our skates on what what are the things that are exciting you about what’s coming around the corner?
Brian Anderton 12:02
The fact that all this data that is currently setting different portals and different platforms, we can, the fact that we can potentially lock all that in into one one module is of real big interest to us as a strategy. And yeah, I think anybody else involved in the movement of sensitive goods, whether that be food or pharmaceuticals, or high value electronics, you know, I think that the inclusion of customs and all the other actors that are in this kind of this supply chain, having access to the to the one package of data is going to be a real, real big sell.
Dom Burch 12:39
And I guess that game changer is the bit you talked about earlier, that kind of visualisation of the data and been able to access it at the touch of a button. Also, I guess helps you as you’re flowing goods, just spot where there’s opportunity for efficiency or for changing the way of doing things to prevent, you know, something going wrong in the future, or just to really optimise what you’re already doing.
Brian Anderton 12:59
The transport industry is going through a really, really challenging time with your kind of severe lack of resource into the drivers and equipment. And you know, we need to be slicker and better at what we do. And yeah, I think that having this level of visibility of the supply chain would really kind of identify areas where we’re not getting great productivity, or where we can do things better. Yeah, definitely.
Dom Burch 13:24
Well, listen, Brian, I appreciate you giving up the time for doing the podcast. I’m sure in your role, you never quite take your eyes off the prize. Your phone’s probably been beeping and buzzing in the last 20 minutes. But it’s been a real pleasure. Real pleasure catching up with you on the ubloquity podcast. Thank you so much for joining us.
Brian Anderton 13:40
Thanks, Dominic. Cheers. Thank you.