MTA WINNERS-Temp Control

Enterprise Flex-E-Rent sales director Mark Hewell, second left, presents the trophy to McCulla operations director Brian Beattie, finance director Carol Thompson and MD Ashley McCulla

Temperature-controlled storage and distribution firm McCulla (Ireland) serves the UK, Ireland and the continent and secured this year’s award for its flexible, innovative performance.

McCulla (Ireland) has developed from a standard refrigerated haulier to a full-service temperature-controlled transport and storage provider. It provides groupage and tailored services for customers of all sizes, including full-load deliveries by pallet or box, mainly of temperature-controlled goods.

Its headquarters are in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, 30 minutes from Belfast port, and in January 2014 it opened a facility in Ballymount, close to Dublin port, which provides storage and cross-docking of goods.

As well as offering a regional DC to store supermarket work, the firm also delivers to restaurants and a hotel and restaurant chain in Northern Ireland. McCulla operations director Brian Beattie told MT: “The company offers product collection, storage and picking to order, as well as transport from Ireland to the UK, for the frozen and chilled sector. We offer a route to the Irish market that many European/UK mainland operators aren’t willing to do. We provide services to a range of end-users, from major international manufacturers to the small corner shop.”

McCulla has diversified into niche distribution sectors over the last five years. For example, it supplies goods to the pharmaceuticals industry, a compliance-dominated sector that involves the transport of temperature-critical and high value or sensitive loads.


It has also expanded into the transportation of technology products, and is doing five loads a week from the UK to Paris. The company also provides security escorts on its technology and pharmaceutical routes.

“Our organisational structure embraces change and we strive to invest and advance the business, in terms of facilities,” said Beattie.

It runs a mixed fleet of 100 trucks and 150 trailers, as well as Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans and rigids up to 18 tonnes. They include urban rear-steer trailers; 13.6m multi-temperature trailers; roller-bed trailers for air cargo; twin-deck trailers with moving floors and high-roof twin-deck trailers.


The firm will become one of the first in the UK and Ireland to order a gas-powered Volvo, from its range when it is available in November. A fleet replacement policy for Euro-6 trucks is also being implemented, with 15 delivered in 2015, 13 in 2016 and 12 on order for delivery in 2017.

“All equipment is purchased with five-year European maintenance agreements, on full R&M packages from the manufacturers,” said Beattie. All tyres are supplied with 24/7 cover from Continental and it uses ThermoKing fridges, including full European cover.

Staff retention

McCulla employs 200 staff, including drivers, loading bay staff, administration specialists, traffic planners and four in-house mechanics. Staff turnover is less than 3%, with five drivers

having more than 15 years’ service, and five members of office staff more than 20.

Beattie said: “We are committed to employing and developing new talent. We help young office staff achieve an NVQ in customer services management and new drivers participate in our in-house CPC training academy.”

All qualified drivers have five-weekly KPIs – vehicle idling, use of cruise control, harsh braking, harsh acceleration and over-speeding – which they are monitored against and each receives a driver performance score, linked to financial incentives. Top performing drivers earn up to £40 extra a week, while the firm’s driver trainers work with the lowest performers to improve scores.

Working together

McCulla works in partnership with other third party logistics networks, including some of the best known UK transport firms, and researches and monitors all to ensure they meet its high standards. The company can also synchronise its computer systems with clients so the customer can create a job and watch its progress through to the proof of delivery stage. Its warehouse stock management system provides one customer with 99.75% delivery accuracy across 1,500 product lines.

Beattie said: “We have successfully married technologically-advanced facilities with a personal hands-on service and by developing unique and integrated partnerships, we are customer-led.”

It uses a combination of the Manpack 3 transport management system; Bluetree telematics with integrated R-Com Satellite Tracking Systems and GPRS messaging facilities; Accellos warehouse management/stock system and Zetes POD data capture.

As a result, customers can receive new and historical fridge temperature recordings, as well as geofencing data that shows the order’s real-time location.

“All goods entering and leaving the facility are monitored and controlled by a computerised stock management system, providing full traceability,” said Beattie. “This reduces human error in processing orders and allows for a high level of delivery accuracy.”

Cold-store facilities

It has a storage capacity of 9,000 tonnes across several chambers, capable of running at temperatures ranging from 5C to -25C. Its cold stores include defrosting facilities and computer monitored blast-freezing equipment capable of freezing products in a 24-hour cycle.

Beattie said: “Each site has an intruder alarm, security fencing and CCTV around its perimeter, and access points are controlled by biometric fingerprint readers. Enhanced rear-door security locks and door opening alarms have also been fitted to the trailer fleet.”

McCulla harvests rainwater to be reused for the company’s cooling towers and to wash vehicles. It has also invested £3m in an anaerobic digester plant at its Lisburn site, supplied by German manufacturer Weltech, which has made it the only company in the UK and Ireland to have a carbon-neutral cold store.

Beattie said: “The plant runs on grass, rye, and maize silage, chicken litter and cow slurry, and the plant also generates biogas, which means the company will be in a position to make its own compressed natural gas for the gas-powered Volvo trucks to run on once they are available to the UK market.”


McCulla (Ireland) was established in 1969 by David McCulla, and is under the ownership of the second generation of the McCulla family, brother and sister Ashley and Carol Thompson. The pair, who took joint control in 1992 as shareholders, have overseen an increase in turnover from £700,000 in 1992 to £21.7m in 2016.

MD Ashley McCulla is an RHA board member at national level, while operations director Brian Beattie (pictured below, right) sits on the RHA regional council for Scotland and Northern Ireland.


Although still overseeing the company, the McCullas have recently taken a step back,

entrusting the day-to-day running of the operation to Beattie, commercial director Peter Summerton (left) and financial director David Bradford (centre).

“The change in structure is about positioning the company to be the best it can in the

future,” says Beattie.

“We will continue to offer a pro-active, quality and flexible service, but in today’s

fast-paced and impersonal culture, the business will be influenced by its family roots.”

The judges were impressed with McCulla for being a “highly flexible, innovative,

service-led” operator with high levels of compliance and a “great environmental



All drivers and cold store operatives are trained in personal hygiene and facility cleaning as part of their induction and training. Procedures are managed by a full-time compliance officer and two full-time quality personnel, who are accredited to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) standard.

Beattie said: “A routine cleaning system using food-grade approved chemicals is documented, enforced and monitored, for both the warehouse and vehicle fleet. This system is documented in two ways: as part of the BRC accreditation manual and the staff handbook.”