Sustainable Packaging Solutions in International Supply Chains with Andrew Wilson

Conversation with Andrew Wilson, Director Business Development EMEA, at Tosca. Tosca is a company that specializes in the supply and rental of reusable packaging for the food industry.

In this episode of Interlinks we talk to Andrew Wilson, Director Business Development EMEA at Tosca. Tosca is a company that specialises in the supply and rental of reusable packaging for the food industry.

The company has a vision for the future where all one-way packaging is converted to reusables and contribute to the elimination of food and packaging waste to help create a more sustainable world. 

We explore what the food supply chain of the future will look like both for the consumer and for the various players within the supply chain in terms of reusable packaging. Andrew also sets out how Tosca is helping businesses who trade internationally to manage cost-effective and sustainable pallet solutions.

We also touch on the importance of highly developed communication skills to ensure the success of supply chain relationships with partners especially when working across international borders.

Click here to read full transcript

Hello, this is Patrick Daly and welcome to Interlinks. Interlinks is a program about connections, international business, supply chains, globalization, and the effects these developments have had on our life, our work and our travel over recent times.

                                           Today we will be talking to Andrew Wilson, Director of Business Development EMEA at Tosca. Tosca is a company that specializes in the supply and rental of reusable packaging for the food industry. The company has a vision for the future, where one day all one-way packaging is converted to reusables, and to contribute to the elimination of food and packaging waste to help to create a more sustainable world. Delighted to have you with us here today, Andrew. You’re very welcome, indeed.

Andrew Wilson:              Good. Thank you very much, Patrick. It was wonderful to meet you in Dublin last week at the Supply Chain Conference. And I’m delighted to share my passion about the supply chain logistics and pooling with you.

Patrick Daly:                     Excellent. Maybe to kick off, could you give us an overview, brief overview, about your background and career to date and how you came to have this role at Tosca?

Andrew Wilson:              Yes. I’ve been nearly 40 years in business. I started off in flexible packaging for the healthcare industry, based out of Bristol. Then I moved across to the States to work for it ITT Rayonier in pulp and paper. Then I moved to Portland, Oregon to get into the business of phenolics. I then came back and I worked with CHEP as senior vice president in pallets and containers. And then I went to shift and became chief executive of Nestor Healthcare, which was in nurse recruitment and doctors.

                                           And then I came back, I was tempted back into the supply chain, and have had over 12 years with Contraload, and now more recently part of Tosca in the last two years. So that’s my business resume.

Patrick Daly:                     Excellent. Tell us a little bit about the business of Tosca, its strategy, its mission and how it brings value to its customers.

Andrew Wilson:              Yes. Tosca is an glomeration of three businesses. Tosca, based in the States, which is owned by Apax, a venture capital fund, and then Polymer Logistics in Europe was then acquired, and then recently Contraload was acquired. Those three businesses are very nicely connected. They are not competing with each other, but they bring different tenants to the supply chain.

                                           Tosca’s vision and mission really is to bring end-to-end supply chain solutions straight from ingredients, packaging, and right from the source into a manufacturing center. And then we have products and abilities that can then move it to the retail. So instead of cutting a business just inbound or just in a factory internal circuits, or just to retail, Tosca can now deliver an end-to-end service delivery point, which means we reuse, remanufacture and pool products. We’re going away from the single-use, throwaway terminology, and really making it a circular economy.

Patrick Daly:                     At the retail end, where most of us have our experience of packaging in relation to food, what might the food supply chain look like, say, in 10 years time in terms of reusable packaging? And how will our day-to-day experience be different as consumers?

Andrew Wilson:              Well, Tosca currently are very big into meat crates, into egg crates, and heavily into the beverage sector, doing trays that you’ll see in most supermarkets. I think the vision is to say, why can’t it all be reusable? Why can’t the consumer choose to get their products and their shopping in the retail store, put it either into their own reusable packaging, or at least see that the supply chain feeding that interface is sustainable, is sensible, and is looking at resources.

                                           Our products, generally when we buy them and then pool them, can last … We’d depreciate them between five, seven, and 10 years, and some longer. So we are trying to encourage the consumer to drive change with our customers, who will be a retailer, who will be a manufacturer, or who will be a grower in a field. If we can start linking that chain together … I remember working with Nestle once, and their director of logistics globally said, “Andrew, when can we learn that one touch is enough?”

                                           And I suppose one touch, what he meant by that, and I believe in that, is if a pallet can go to a raw material or ingredient supplier, be used to go into that manufacturer, be clean and hygienic enough and strong enough to be able to circulate within that RDC or a warehouse, and then be onwards shipped to the retailer, where it might even be used as a display pallet, a half or quarter pallet actually on the retail floor. And when it’s finished, we pick up, clean, and return in the circle. It’s about having less miles, less empty miles, using backhaul, and finding what is useful.

                                           One of the things that we have done in the IBC, intermediate bulk containers, which we do liquids and dry bulk, is you might see a wooden pallet with a corrugated box and a top to it. Or you might see tomato paste on a wooden pallet, which has then got four metal drums. Well, Tosca’s solution is, if you have plastic foldable bins, that when you’ve used them once you collapse them down. And on the return journey they might be 14 or six high, but they’re not metal stillages or throwaway corrugated or cardboard. So you evade splinters or more space in fact.

                                           And I think the intelligence of Tosca and all of us in the supply chain needs to look towards, what can be saving … Can you be sustainable, yet save on cost and look at the total cost of operations. It may be the throwaway wooden pallet, or sweeping the splinters off the floor, or the damage [inaudible 00:07:22] with a nail. Or the safety, where someone hurts their back by not having a light enough material. By throwing away the corrugated underneath your product to keep it dry. The good thing about plastic and reusables is it’s not hygroscopic, so our plastic pallets don’t absorb moisture and then release moisture to your product and packaging. And we have over 300 molds that we can use in our business, and we have in excess of half a billion assets.

Patrick Daly:                     It’s interesting to see some of the obstacles that companies perceive in the use of reusable packaging. I’ve got a couple of examples where companies are developing automated order picking solutions, and they’ve got to put their products into plastic totes to go into the automated storage retrieval system. And those companies that are faced with supply from multiple suppliers, they say, “It’s going to come. It’s going to come in multiple cases, and we’re going to have to split them down and put them into the totes here ourselves.” But there’s another company where their own plant can put the product into totes that goes to the distribution center, goes straight into the storage retrieval system.

                                           How do we get around that fragmentation of the supply chain? This where Tosca can take charge of the assets and maybe have a rental model or use as a service model? Is that how that’s going to work in the future?

Andrew Wilson:              Yeah, I mean, we like to give the customer choice. We have just a simple internal rental offer where someone could say, “Look, I’m spinning 8,000 pallets around in a warehouse,” and we can rent them a pallet for three years or five years. But you are talking about this multiple, maybe 15 different pallet types from 15 different suppliers, some plastic, some virgin, some recycled, some with nails, an EPAL, a new EPAL, a kiln dried EPAL, ISTMP approved.

                                           And what Tosca can do, we call it a value stream analysis, which is basically free of charge we would come into your factory. We would do a walkabout and say, “Okay, let’s look at every single product coming in. Where’s it come from, on what load carrier? What’s it costing you today, and can we simplify this?” And I did this with one company when they said, “Andrew,” this was 10 years ago, “we want to standardize on plastic and have some cost benefit.” They said, “Can you do it in three months?”

                                           And what we did is we understood their problem, understood their need. We communicated with 16 suppliers to that factory in 10 different countries. We could standardize with two different pallets. And then, with looking at all of that, we could make a fixed cost benefit and collections because we’re collecting from the same factory. Let’s say it was 100,000 pallets. Well, we could pick up on three or four times a week, we could give those savings to the customer. So they delegated the management with their suppliers and within their factory for us to pick, collect and issue. The one good thing about that is we were in charge of 100% availability, 100% quality, 100% hygiene and sustainability.

                                           And we’ve had many examples where, with costs going up of wood today, availability problems, microbiological infection risks, we have food grade plastics that we can look at and put into the supply chain. I mean, I did mention we had half a billion units, but those units, some of them are going eight times, some 12 times a year. So if you could buy 4,000 pallets and actually do 20,000 trips with them, you don’t need 20,000 pallets. We can do it with 4,000 if you spun it six or seven times a year.

Patrick Daly:                     I noted in your profile you stress the importance of effective communication. And I guess that this effectiveness is even more important when you have international responsibilities as you do. How important I do you think is effective communication in creating and sustaining all of those supply chain relationships that you need to be successful in an international business like yours?

Andrew Wilson:              Communication is the key to any business and any relationship. And I think the key here is, if you talk to Tosca or you talk to me, I would be as passionate to get your business as I would to solve the problem. And we tend to put all the energy into the front end of a relationship to win a business. But true sales, true service, is where you look after the customer.

                                           Our customer service team was changed the name in Europe to customer success. So what’s that mean? Every day they wake up and they say, “What’s my job?” It’s to give customers success. In my case, it’s to be available 24/7 and never to let a call or a text, an email, go unanswered. And to really realize that, I mean, I’m only one person in a team of 1,550 across the States and Europe. And when I talk and communicate, I don’t feel it’s me talking, I feel I represent every one of those 1,550 team members. Why? Because you’re not getting me, you’re getting the 1,550 people that I can coordinate, collaborate with. And it’s only through teamwork and communication that we give customers satisfaction.

                                           I would also say that even if you speak a language or English, it’s not enough to speak the language. It’s how you communicate, the manner in which you do that, and to resolve conflicts, everyone is under pressure with COVID, with Brexit, with cost challenges, but if you are honest and transparent and communicate regularly in the same format, I think you get respect and you get trust. And let’s face it, supply chain is about trust. Is it going to be delivered? Can I trust you? Will you cover my back? And I think Tosca does all those things.

Speaker 3:                        93.9 Dublin South FM.

Patrick Daly:                     What kind of recruitment, development, incentivization is needed to create that kind of virtuous circle, where you’ve got good communication, strong relationships, customer success, and then repeat or expanded business opportunities.

Andrew Wilson:              I think all leadership comes from the top, but if you reverse that pyramid of everyone looks up to the leader. We were very lucky in having leaders within Tosca, Eric Frank, who’s our chief executive across globally. But from my experience, Jesse Sels, who is our European vice president, he gets stuck in and supports every single person, and there is no layer. And we respect Tim and his leadership because he gives every individual the opportunity to shine and find their own solutions. And it’s about speed and teamwork.

                                           Yeah, it’s incredibly important, this leadership concept. And in terms of recruitment, we don’t really have people leave Tosca. As I say, I’m extremely happy after 12 years, and I hope have many more years. It’s because it’s fun. It’s a family kind of patriarchal relationship, matriarchal relationship. It’s open opportunity for every single person in every culture. And I think that’s why the business is growing double digit and why we’re attracting long-term customers, who maybe use us in one factory and then end up using us in 50 factories across Europe, which is an actually a case in point.

Patrick Daly:                     And our priority then, what kind of individuals and base skills are needed for this kind of environment that you were talking about there, to fulfill those types of roles into the future?

Andrew Wilson:              I think a self-starter, intelligence, initiative, integrity, trust, stamina, energy, and a sense of can do and fun, and a team player.

Patrick Daly:                     Almost everybody I ask to come on this show, I ask this question about globalization and the current position of globalization. Not presupposing necessarily that they’re experts in the field of global affairs, but just to get their layman’s perspective.

                                           So what’s your view on where we’re headed with the whole process of economic globalization? As we saw it grew very rapidly through our career, the decades that you and I have been working, all through the ’90s to 2000s, up to 2010. And then it’s slowed, maybe flat-lined since then. We’ve had COVID, we’ve had Brexit, now we have war in Europe. I wonder, what do you think, is this all just a blip? Is the thing fundamentally changing in form, or are we actually in reversal? What do you think, what’s your take on it?

Andrew Wilson:              I think if you look at the globalization, I think the huge acceleration of communication with, used to be telexes and mail, then became email, then you now get WhatsApp, and it’s the availability of people is 24/7. In the old days, you said, “I’ll get to my office and open my computer to check my messages.” Well, now you just look at your iPhone and you see a WhatsApp that says, “Andrew, I’ve sent you an email, but can I get X many pallets. I’m in a rush.” And you can go, “Yes.” WhatsApp the guy in Belgium, to production, to delivery, and come back and say, “Yeah, here’s your order number.”

                                           Does that help globalization? Yes, it does because you’re not waiting on communication blocks. I also see in Europe it’s changed, because with the UK, we’re worried about Brexit and rules and regulations, and people move their production to Poland or different sites, and people have production in Asia. And we’re looking for the lowest cost denomination to be the most efficient producers for all our products and where we buy. And I think globalization won’t stop. I think people demand more choice. They demand availability at a cracking cost. I mean, if you look at supermarkets today in England, I mean, I enjoy some of the new ones that have come in. And I have to say, they give incredible quality, supply availability, and with a smile.

                                           You’d never think it would happen in the past, but it does. I’m a great fan of globalization, and I like being in a business where it’s globalized. And there’s some fantastic products around the world that people want in their homes. Be it a kiwi from New Zealand, or a wine from California or Rioja, you want them. And people’s desire for more and the ability to pay, as long as they have that desire, they will create a pool for people to globalize and find products that people like. It’s not to say that the local, buying from your local farm during COVID, which has happened, won’t change. You’ll mix and match, I believe.

Patrick Daly:                     As we come into the last few minutes of the interview, maybe I’ll change tack a bit and leave the business side behind a little, and maybe just ask you a little bit about yourself. When you’re not working and you’re not thinking about business, what kind of things do you like to do in your spare time?

Andrew Wilson:              Well, I love sport. I play hockey, tennis, squash. In fact, in two hours, I’ll be playing tennis in the rain, but I’ll still be playing. I love photography. I love travel. And I have a rather huge dog that I need to walk and two rescue cats. And my wife and I like trying to help people, so I think being a positive energy and light wherever you are. And the joy of being able to live in today’s world, I’m ever so grateful for any opportunity. And I try and spread goodwill, a smile and a sense of humor. And life is for living, so that’s my motto really.

Patrick Daly:                     Are you reading or listening to anything, like audio books or podcasts that have inspired you that you’d like to share with listeners?

Andrew Wilson:              There’s a guy called Brendan Burchard that I quite like for some … He does a daily planner, which I like using. And it’s very good, you start the day with a diary about what you want to achieve. And in the end of the day, have you achieved it. It helps you not forget things and keeps you online. It is a book, it’s on paper. It’s not on my phone, but it’s old fashioned, good, common sense.

                                           And then I read and look at eclectic things. There’s The Four Agreements, which is actually a Mexican, Central American man. One of the four agreements is be impeccable with your word. And you can read as many books as you want, business, development, self-help, but you come back to the basics, which is be impeccable with your word. Live your life and be true to yourself. Help others, and be treated as you would like to treat others. So it’s maybe simple, from out to the Mexican jungles where these historical quotations have come from.

Patrick Daly:                     Where can people find out more about Tosca and the products and services that you have available?

Andrew Wilson:              We’re on the internet. I think it’s they can look. I’m on LinkedIn, Andrew R.G. Wilson. Delighted to point people in the right direction. My hobby is probably more of a catalyst. I don’t do everything, but I know someone who can and I know where to get it.

Patrick Daly:                     Excellent, excellent. You’re a connector.

Andrew Wilson:              I’m a connector, like you, Patrick. I think where we’re cut from the same tree, which is, I really enjoy my time talking to you and your energy. And we have several other things in common, which is nice.

Patrick Daly:                     Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to talk to you today, Andrew, and wish you the very best for the future, both personally and professionally.

Andrew Wilson:              Good. Thank you ever so much, Patrick. And as I say, I’m available and Tosca, just a loving, trying to bring sustainability to the business, and end-to-end supply chain solutions. So thank you very much for this opportunity and you have a wonderful day.

Patrick Daly:  Excellent. Thanks also to our listeners for tuning in. Any comments or questions, just drop me a line on That’s pdaly, .keep well and stay safe until next time.

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Patrick Daly Interlinks Podcast

Interlinks is a programme about the connections, relationships and supply chains, that underpin the globalisation of our modern world.

In each programme, we interview people from around the world including entrepreneurs, executives, academics, diplomats and politicians to get their unique perspective on globalisation as it has affected them both personally and professionally.

There is a little bit of history, a dash of economics, a sprinkling of business and an overlay of personal experience both from me and from my interviewees from around the world.

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