Nestlé UK and Ireland head of delivery Sally Wright has retired after more than 30 years in the industry.
Wright, based at the food manufacturer’s transport hub in Haxby Road, York since 2002, left on a high note.
In the last week before her retirement, Wright completed a project for all Nestlé owned trucks to be run on alternative fuels, with the introduction of two battery electric vehicles (BEVs) to the Nestle-owned fleet and the transition to hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) for the remaining HGVs.
She also brought in bio-LNG trucks in 2021, started apprenticeships for drivers and began trials on products being moved by rail containers. The team has also completed trials using electric shunters on the York site.
Wright said: “I’ve had a phenomenal career at Nestlé, which I am so grateful for. I have been given so many opportunities during my 22 years with the company and have been able to drive a lot of change. Having a leadership who trusted me, and gave me the confidence to push forward with projects, has been great.
“I love logistics, I live and breathe it, and the whole industry is fast-paced and exciting. Logistics tends to be Marmite and it is something that people fall into rather than specifically seeking out a career in it, as a lot of people don’t necessarily know about it as a career option.”
Wright started her career at 18 in an admin role at a manufacturer near Howden, Yorkshire, where she checked drivers in and out, sorted out their paperwork and directed them around the site. And she was sold on a job in logistics.
She then moved to another manufacturer with a third-party transport operation and began managing the relationship with a haulage company before then moving on to manage their in-house warehouse. From there she moved to manage the operations of a 3PL for an FMCG company.
Wright was recruited by Nestlé logistics legend Bob Ashton in 2002 to manage the fleet of Nestlé vehicles, track and understand their tachographs, and provide analysis on truck and driver schedules.
She worked in this role for several years before taking on the customer services manager role for Nestlé Waters.
“I worked with the Nestlé Waters business for three years where I would go regularly to the head offices of big supermarkets and have some pretty positive conversations,” she says. “But often during the summertime the conversations were more challenging. This was when bottled water would sell like fury and we couldn’t bottle it fast enough to meet the demand.
“It taught me that if you’re honest and you go and have those conversations up front and say, ‘look, we’ve got an issue, this is what we are doing to resolve it’, customers will work with you. You might not be delivering the message that somebody wants, but as long as you’re delivering an honest one, they’ll be fine.
“It was challenging at times, but that experience has been very valuable.”
She then managed a 3PL warehouse operation for Nestlé before moving into transport planning, overseeing the movement of products between factories and DCs and of liquid chocolate from York to Halifax, as well as other raw materials and packaging. Wright explains the work “was like putting together a giant complicated jigsaw”, making the most of trucks running between factories and DCs, minimising empty running and maximising trailer fill.
Wright moved to manage the York DC, overseeing deliveries for the north of England and Scotland. One of the huge projects Wright oversaw at that time was bringing the Nescafé Dolce Gusto web shop in-house and into the DC in York.
“It was a big project as it was the first time we’d managed a direct to consumer operation in-house, as ecommerce was still very much in its infancy for Nestle,” she says.
In 2018, Wright was promoted to head of delivery, where she worked through the pandemic ensuring drivers were safe as they kept the food people needed on shelves in supermarkets and preventing the virus from spreading. She also ensured there was a constant supply of food for drivers at every Nestlé factory and DC as motorway service stations were shut.
“We made sure there was tea, coffee, milk, confectionery, food supplies and hot water,” she says. “I think the pandemic made people value drivers more and I’ve been pushing to make their working environment better and fit for the future.”
Wright has also spent three years working on a project with the potential to move goods by rail, though due to historic bridge dimensions she was told rail containers cannot carry double-stacked pallets.
“There’s nothing worse than telling me I can’t do something,” she says. “We came up with the concept of a rail container where you can hydraulically lift the roof by 25cm, load the product, then lower the roof back down millimetres above the product so it will fit through the tunnels and under bridges.”
In August 2023, the prototype rail container carried products from Hams Hall Distribution Park in North Warwickshire to the Tesco Thurrock DC.
“You don’t learn necessarily from what you do well, you learn from what you’ve not done quite so well,” Wright says. “We learnt lots from this trial and we are working on the next rail container now.
“We recruited Niall McCarthy as our rail development and operations manager. He had no experience of manufacturing, but he came from the rail industry, so he brought a huge amount of insight in to that world. Niall is now learning about FMCG manufacturing, and this is aiding his personal development for the future.”
Another huge achievement for Wright is that by early 2024 there will be three different solutions for alternative fuel for trucks; bio-LNG, battery electric and HVO.
“It’s all new and the best way to test and learn is to directly experience all of it,” says Wright. “This industry moves fast, and we have to move with it. We have been looking at our infrastructure and making sure we have chargers for the new BEV trucks.”
The two BEVs are Volvo 42-tonne FMs, based at Nestle’s combined factory and logistics operation in York and operating between factories and DCs in York, Halifax, Tutbury and East Midlands Gateway, including customer deliveries and collections from suppliers. The company has invested more than £250,000 in recharging facilities in at these locations.
The UK fleet now consists of 11 Volvos running on bio-LNG, four Mercedes-Benz vehicles running on HVO plus the two new Volvo BEVs.
Another challenge Wright has tried to rectify is bringing in apprenticeships for truck drivers and bringing more women into the logistics, something she managed to combine.
“We’ve never had a female driver in the Nestlé owned fleet and now we’re about to have two,” she says. “Our first apprentice started last December, and another is joining in January, both women. Our first apprentice successfully passed her C+E qualification in 2023 and is now part of the driver team.
“The haulage industry is trying hard to attract a greater diversity but it’s still phenomenally male dominated, so we need to understand why women are not considering logistics in great numbers and make it happen.
“It’s about challenging the ‘why’ and asking ‘why not’. I’m a big supporter of women in logistics and we are seeing more and more women considering it now as a career. It’s about seeing more people like me in this industry and showing what is possible. Success breeds success. Women need a cheerleader in this industry, and I have tried to be that.”
Wright is clear that the future of logistics and for more women to consider a job in logistics, more focus has to be on drivers’ welfare and facilities, starting with the basics like making overnight stops secure, clean and up to standard.
“Equally, to encourage the next generation into transport, we have to embrace technology and new ways of delivering,” she says. “There’s so much technology out there now that you can use that will help your business, and the road to net zero is happening at a phenomenal rate of change. There’s a degree of fear around the unknown, but let’s embrace the challenge and see where it can take us.
“I couldn’t have done any of this on my own and have been incredibly lucky to have had brilliant leaders and an utterly amazing team around me.”