Peter Worthington-Smith Award – And the winner is…

It is with great excitement that we can announce that the first winner of this prestigious award is Ivan Sutic of Chilleweni Cold Store in Johannesburg.

Attending the 2010 RWTA conference in Melbourne, I was intrigued by the Frank Vale Award.  One of Australia’s great innovators in the Cold Storage industry, and a product of Melbourne’s Working Man’s College, now RMIT, Frank Vale started his working life at a Dairy in South Gippsland, Victoria ending up as the Managing Director of Woodmasons, possibly the largest Cold Storage company in the Southern Hemisphere during the 1950s and 60s.

When Frank Vale became MD of Woodmasons, now Swire Cold Storage, in the early 1950’s the main focus of the business was still the production of ice for domestic cold boxes.  As ice works evolved into cold storage and freezing facilities, the emphasis changed to the storage and distribution of frozen foods for both domestic consumption and export.  Understanding the need to adapt, Frank Vale masterminded the construction of a new cold storage complex in Dandenong, Victoria, which was completed in 1962. The cold rooms were designed for forklifts, used forced draft refrigeration systems, and had polystyrene sandwich panels for insulation.  This represented a huge change from the old cork panelled cold rooms with piped refrigeration and small pedestrian doors.

Frank Vale finally retired in his 80’s and died in May 2006.  The first winner of the Frank Vale award was Sean Bignell in 1993 and there have been 20 winners since, the most recent being Jeffery Tusa of Polar Fresh.  I was privileged to attend the Frank Vale interviews at Cairns in 2014 and remember thinking that it would be difficult to find young cold storage achievers in South Africa who could equal the experience displayed by the finalists, Jeffery Tusa, Joel Chapman and Cherie Wassell.

Watching Matthew Lishman, Operations Manager of Austco Polar Cold Storage, win the award in 2010 followed by the South African born Louise Rhodes OH&S Manager from Metcash in 2011, I realised that the Frank Vale award acted as a focus for the RWTA and gave young Australian cold store managers a goal to strive for.  The winner had an incredible opportunity to broaden their understanding of global cold storage by attending the GCCA (Global Cold Chain Alliance) convention in the US.  I was encouraged by Martin Porter of Retracom who told me that sponsoring the Frank Vale Award was the most important contributions his company had made to the industry.  Additional shoves and inspiration was provided by Gabor Hilton, RWTA Life Member and Engineering Manager of Oxford Cold Storage who spent a week in South African cold stores during 2012, Paul Burn of Brisbane’s Chiasto and Corey Rosenbusch of the GCCA.

After discussions with John Ackermann of SARDA (Southern African Refrigerated Distribution Association) it was decided that the South African equivalent would follow the same rules and format as the Frank Vale award and to name it after Peter Worthington-Smith. Peter, who died in 2011, had been at the forefront of the South African refrigeration Industry since the early 1960’s and had been instrumental in the development of fruit cooling and controlled atmosphere fruit storage.

Of the initial 10 entries, the judges chose Behan Van Niekerk of Prosperita Cold Store in Windhoek, Namibia, and Ivan Sutic of Chilleweni Cold Store in City Deep, Johannesburg.  After presentations and interviews on Monday 8th December Ivan Sutic was declared the winner.  The judges were Willem Visagie, retired MD of Commercial Cold Storage, Nigel Amschwand of GEA and Giep Brouwer who worked with  Peter Worthington-Smith as partner at their refrigeration consultancy, Worthington-Smith & Brouwer.

Ivan Sutic, 28, started his working life in actuarial science and after a spell at an insurance company joined Chilleweni Cold Store as Financial Director in 2012.  Since that time he has been involved in all aspects of the business including energy efficiency improvements, Human resources and supply chain centralisation.  Ivan earned a trip to the Global Cold Chain Alliance 2015 Convention in Orlando, Florida to be held on from 25-29 April 2015 and will be proudly representing the South African cold storage industry.

PWS Award judges and Ivan Sutic (winner) and Behan Van Niekerk (runner up)
Back Row: Judges, Willem Visagie, Giep Brouwer and Nigel Amschwand with James Cunningham of Barpro who helped to plan the competition.
Front Row: Ivan Sutic (winner) and Behan Van Niekerk (runner up)