Industry Operators, Transport Features

SCT in for the long haul

From humble beginnings in Victoria, privately owned SCT has grown to the multi-faceted logistics company it is today

With Christmas on the horizon and an abundance of freight to be shipped, the team at Altona-based SCT are in the thick of their peak season.

After 49 years in the business, the skills required to move large volumes of goods all around the country, by rail or truck, are tattooed in the DNA of the organisation. Planning is key.

So it is that as the business works hard to deliver on its Christmas 2023 promises, its leaders are also busy looking ahead to 2024 and considering how they might best mark the remarkable milestone of 50-years in business.

It’s been a remarkable journey since 1974, when Peter Smith first opened the doors of SCT in response to growing demand for efficient container transport to and from the ports in Victoria.

What started with a vision to simply do things better than the opposition has evolved into a multi-faceted logistics operation servicing the east and west coasts of Australia by rail and road that now employs 1500 staff.

The business has grown from moving shipping containers for customers by trucks to where they needed to be to being the first private rail operator in Australia to operate between Melbourne and Perth, linking east and west.

As its reach has grown, so too has the need for real estate and SCT today has warehousing, storage and rail hubs situated across the country at sites including Altona (Vic), Penfield (SA), Bromelton (QLD), Minchinbury (Sydney), Parkes (NSW), Forrestfield (WA), Wodonga (Vic) and Horsham (Vic).

The management of the company has evolved too.

Peter’s sons Geoff and Glenn, as managing director and CEO respectively, have been guiding the business from the top for the past 20 years.

Reflecting on the changes he has been a part of, Geoff says it ties back to finding solutions that best service customer needs.

“Over the years, SCT has acquired land strategically located and with direct rail access onto the Interstate Network,” he told ATN.

“The shared rail terminal model requiring the cooperation among competitors which SCT had to adopt in those early days was a challenge. As both train sizes and the number of services grew, building and operating our own terminals became a matter of survival.”

Growing into all facets of the supply business, including the warehousing, has allowed SCT to grow and service some its customers unique needs, including the likes of Treasury Wine Estates which has been the SCT anchor ports, property and logistics model partner since 2014. Treasury Wines has had two purpose-designed warehouses developed in conjunction with SCT at SCT’s Penfield site in South Australia.

With the industry projected to grow domestically over the next few years, supply chain partners are being called upon to be both agile and resilient.

As a business, SCT believes it has invested wisely and is well placed to grow its operations to cater for increased customer demand and to also step ahead in the sustainable transport space where governments are increasingly focusing their attention.

Given recent climatic events that caused network disruptions and closures, Geoff says SCT is buoyed by the resilience investment going back into the rail network.

In building its own terminals, controlling a large fleet of equipment, and having 60km of internal rail line, SCT is able to run trains daily throughout the network. Its sites have direct access to mainline rail track, cross dock terminals, handling areas and internal rail infrastructure allowing for the high-quality service levels and a value for money transport solution for its customers.

Geoff says he recognises the role not only SCT but the broader rail industry can play in helping business reduce carbon emissions within the supply chain.

A big part of SCT’s DNA is innovation. It has been investing in state-of-the-art infrastructure and assets year on year to remain competitive and continually position itself to meet capacity into the future.

Geoff says that a notable example of recent times is the new intermodal facility located within SCT’s ‘Altona precinct”. In keeping with the aim of being more sustainable, the building was constructed with recycled building materials, with features such as electric vehicle charging, a 99kw solar panel system added to the refrigeration area, solar hot water units to the amenities areas, a 20,000L rainwater harvesting tank and electric forklifts.

Another recent development has involved SCT “insourcing” the servicing of its fleet of locomotives and opening a major workshop in Adelaide, employing engineers and diesel fitters, and constructing and implementing a parts warehouse operation.

“This initiative is about improving our locomotive performance, improving our service levels to our customers and controlling our own destiny,” Geoff says.

SCT has also moved into similar space in Victoria, taking on maintenance within its Altona facility, only a few steps away from the purpose built GEMCO Rail facility which maintains SCT’s fleet of rail rolling stock.

As the Altona site traffic increased, SCT moved to reduce congestion, adding a new eastern mainline connection to create 1800m-long departure and arrival rail roads that have increased capacity and productivity of rail at the site.

The company continues to invest in the latest equipment, and so far this year has added new rail rolling stock, 25 rail platforms and a new batch of 48’ temperature-controlled containers. “It’s all about matching the right container equipment to the right purpose-built rail rolling stock – it’s how we create efficiencies for our customers,” Geoff says.

SCT also underwent a comprehensive road fleet replacement program for its sugar haulage business with seven first-of-their-kind purpose-built quad axle skel trailers approved under Performance-Based Standards (PBS). The vehicles provide payload advantages, improved safety, efficiencies, and a reduction of environmental impact and have removed 4,000 truck and trailer movements off mostly country roads used by local people.

Aside from planning a 50th anniversary celebration of some sort, SCT has plenty of projects on the board for 2024 including the introduction of a drop-pit and wheel lathe at the maintenance site, new technology for the rail operation and more building in Perth where it will expand its warehousing capacity for ambient and temperature controlled operations.

Geoff says there will also be a locomotive upgrade to a part of the train fleet.

With a determination to continue looking after customers, end-to-end in the supply chain, to hire and keep the best people, and to constantly innovate, Geoff says SCT is “genuinely excited about the year ahead and reflecting further on what has been a remarkable 1st 50 years.”

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