What new services are you offering your customers?
Ticknor: Manufacturing plants are looking for the consolidation of all their suppliers and vendors so all raw materials, including packaging, are brought into one central warehouse operated by one company. We can transport and warehouse raw materials to support our customers’ manufacturing plants. We are providing this Aspen plant support solution to a number of larger firms throughout the country. We found that requests for this service have expanded within the last few years and it has become a viable niche business unit for us. Some of our customers use one of our dedicated warehouses, while others share space in a contract warehousing situation.
Ampuja: Providers are expanding the services they offer, especially at the warehouse level. If all you do is warehousing, that leaves you in one paradigm. On the other hand, if you can run a freight consolidation program, provide trucking, help companies on the inbound, help them with inventory management, and handle returns, your value to your customers increases significantly. Manufacturers are telling me that they are looking for more services and the guy that can provide a range of services is certainly more attractive.
Finney: We are in development now centered around technology that will allow us to offer our customers to access their data. Most shippers just don’t have the technology and they look to their providers to find out things like how much they shipped, when they shipped, what are the service days, and what the lead times are. They look to us for this information because they don’t have the funds to implement this kind of technology, so this is where the value proposition comes in for them to use 3PLs.
Claassen: It used to be that companies offered a single service such as transportation, warehousing or packaging—and maybe they offered one additional secondary service as a sideline. That model just doesn’t work anymore because customers demand that you be the best-in-class in all services you offer. Our customers want a single contact and a single source so they don’t have to shop and deal with multiple suppliers. They can purchase these services less expensively when they are bundled with one provider.
Kitz: Our new service on the produce side offers greater control, cost containment, and predictable speed. In keeping with the new produce regulations with its inherent time requirement, we can deploy a fleet moving from a farm to a packaging plant or from a farm to a DC and it’s our responsibility to fill some of the backhaul involved to keep that as an economical solution for our customers.
This is something we were not doing a few years ago because there wasn’t a demand because produce was warehoused, capacity was abundant, and there was not the time requirement there is today. Customers come to us for guaranteed capacity and predictability. They might have been getting a great rate from a one-way truckload carrier last year, but if that carrier doesn’t show up on time this year, those companies may simply run out of hours between the field and the processing plant before the produce is no longer usable.