Seldom does one come across a fleet owner who so generously sings the praises of a particular brand of truck and displays such passion and pride at getting the logistics near-perfect – from manufacturing the product, to bulk loading or bagging, and the transportation by the “best drivers, in the best vehicles, to the best clients”.
The end result for Westfert Logistics’ clients is a remarkably low cost of operation, and a fair profit for Westfert. Clients are reportedly having made commitments to Westfert that no other provider will replace them as the farmers’ fertiliser supplier, no matter how far away they may be.
Westfert produces and distributes fertiliser either in 1-ton bags or in bulk, about 34 tons when bagged at full load, and transports these using a fleet of their all-time favourite FAW 28.380FTs.
Jakobus de Wet ”Just call me Kobus, like everyone else” is in partnership at Westfert Logistics in the heartland of the Free State maize-growing belt. Their plant is situated in Hoopstad, from where they have a delivery radius to about 350km, mostly west of the N1.
“We are the farmers’ favourite supplier because we do exactly what they ask, when and where,” explains Kobus. This is said not with arrogance, but simple, authentic joy at keeping an enviable logistics model “on the money button” for his business and for his clients who are acutely aware of every cost, especially in times of drought like now.
“Today, even an amount of R50 makes a difference to some of my farmer clients. Many of them work their own cost models on a per-hectare basis, so it’s important that the fertiliser we supply is not only perfectly mixed – to each farmer’s own formulation but that it is 100% evenly mixed, without unnecessary clots or grit. In field our fertiliser is spread and worked finely. Beware a farmers’ wrath if any agricultural equipment experiences downtime resulting from our fertiliser mixture.”
At present the five smart FAW 28.380FT stand neatly parked, every night, clean and ready in the fleet yard, next to the Westfert’s fertiliser plant. If a farmer wants his load dropped by 7am on his farm 350kms away, Westfert’s driver will get on the road by 3am to ensure he is on the farm ready to drop the load on time.
With the tri-axle trailers fully loaded the farm drops can be as short as 50 minutes. Fleet management systems from CTrack provide clear data on idling time, geofencing, driver behaviours and load/unload data.
“Our best fuel consumption across the fleet of five trucks based on my calculations of seven full 34-ton loads delivered in a one-day cycle, compared to our previous fleet doing the same job cycle, is 31% on fuel alone,” says Kobus.
Calling the driver closer, whom Kobus treats with great respect, Hannes relates why his No1 vehicle to drive is the FAW 28.380FT. “Its easy to steer and controls well, with the simple manual gearbox, which on the stretches I keep around 90km/p/h, usually in gear 7 and 8 which give me the best road holding and smooth driving combination.”
The raw materials for the various “secret recipes” of each of the farmer clients include the natural fertiliser elements – nitrogen, potassium, urea and potash. Almost all the urea is imported from Russia, which Westfert does both for themselves and on behalf of farmers who do their own mixing.
The fertiliser production plant is has been expanded to make use of a system whereby the exact mix in the exact quantities ordered per farmer is deposited into special bins – all managed via sophisticated computer programmes. These bins are cradled onto specialised trailers. At the drop site the bins can deposit exact quantities in literally a few minutes.
These specialised trailers are being built to our spec at the moment.
With this trailer the FAW28.380FT can literally release all the bins simultaneously in minutes, or like break bulk – separately – if loads are for different clients at other destinations. In this manner the full 40-ton payload can be optimised and turnaround time minimised as there will be no need to wait for forklifts which could be out of commission or simply work too slowly with the pallets.
This strangely named trailer – fertiliser tender trailer – with the pipe belt or auger for dropping the product can also be equipped with shutes for direct loading into a farmer’s in-field equipment.
Kobus is so entranced with the logistics and details of the process – from fertiliser production plant to happy farmer client that he gives generous credit to the FAW dealer representative, Dawie Naude, based at FAW Welkom dealership, especially Dawie’s willing involvement in the concept of continuous improvement, always looking out for ways to enhance savings and improve performance constantly.
“Dawie is also on call should we need any additional service or maintenance support – virtually 24/7. This over and above the excellent maintenance and servicing we already enjoy from FAW.
“These FAW 28.380FTs are so good – affordable, good performance, exceptionally low cost of operation and truly rugged enough to deal with the potholed roads in the region. No difficult or over-complicated electronics, simple and easy.
“Ours is a drive and stop operation, so a truck will last us 14 to 15 years before replacement is needed.”
Westfert Logistics’ vision for the future?
“Seeing as 85 to 90% of our farmers in the area concentrate on maize, we’re very positive about expanding our client base. Our aim is to become the main provider for fertiliser in this region. A tall order – maybe – but as we grow we’ll take our trusted partners at FAW with us. Perhaps we can look to a fleet of 50 trucks running these challenging roads and fields in the next few years,’ smiles Kobus.