Tame The Global Food Supply Chain

Food companies are turning to 3PLs who offer significant value by providing control and visibility throughout the extensive origin-to-destination chain.


Armstrong adds that 3PLs can be more effective at procuring and placing refrigerated containers at foreign ports precisely when the equipment is needed so the quality of perishable products is not compromised.

Doing It All

Crowley can provide clients with options allowing them to maintain costs while meeting differing delivery requirements, reports Weist. “We have expertise in all areas of the supply chain so we can suggest options that include air cargo, expedited cargo, and speed-to-market deliveries, for example.”

Following a shipment from beginning to end demonstrates the extensive range of a 3PL like Crowley. For instance, as fresh fruit or produce is ready for shipment out of Central or South America, Crowley can provide trucking and delivery to ports in those regions. “We can handle the forwarding requirements such as the new 10 + 2 Customs regulations for import entries,” explains Weist. “Then we can book the steamship line and negotiate competitive rates for our customers. When we receive the shipment at US ports, we can assist in USDA requirements and customs clearance.”

Once products are in the U.S., the biggest concern is speed to market, continues Weist. “Many of the products we receive are in the process of maturing and they are more valuable to our customers if they can get to market in the shortest period of time. This means the quicker we can bring those products off our vessels and guide them through inspections set up in our terminals, the better value we can provide to our customers. So it’s this kind of immediate expert handling and delivery of the products that makes the difference over someone without the knowledge or expertise who might take a day longer to complete all of these activities. This might mean the customer would net about two cents a pound less for a particular product.”

Once products arrive at a U.S. port, Crowley’s forwarding group arranges USDA inspection and any other necessary inspections. The group arranges the entry filing with U.S. Customs and then it hands off the products to trucking companies who stand ready to roll as soon as products are released from USDA. “Timing is very critical,” notes Weist. “Reefers deliver to the customer or to a customer’s DC, while some deliveries are made directly to market.”

An Emerging Model

Some experts noted that management of the entire origin-to-destination food supply chain by 3PLs is a new and emerging model. “Some of the bigger 3PLs are buying companies that enable them to have this global footprint allowing them to provide services required throughout the supply chain,” reports Simonson at Tompkins.

He adds that 3PLs are taking advantage of economies of scale in foreign markets. For instance, foreign producers and growers might be selling to a number of different clients in particular countries. Third-party logistics providers can consolidate all of these loads and bring them into one port—as opposed to handling separate small shipments. “So using this global 3PL model can save everyone money and the savings the 3PLs tout are derived from these kinds of consolidations.”

For example, Jacobson Cos. in Des Moines, IA, has been providing national 3PL services for the last 40 years. But just last year, the company hired Brian Lutt, president and CEO, to transform the company into a provider of global supply chain and logistics services. Lutt’s 26 years of experience in the global sphere is what Jacobson is counting on for that transformation to happen by June of this year. “Jacobson’s plan in hiring me was to help the company create an international business platform,” says Lutt.

In early April of 2010, Jacobson acquired a U.S.-based international logistics company specializing in forwarding, customs brokerage, and freight management services. The company also operates domestic transportation and warehousing.

“This acquisition also has airfreight and ocean freight capabilities, so it brings to the Jacobson portfolio additional capabilities of supply chain and logistics services that will allow us to control and manage the global supply chain,” reports Lutt. “They have an advanced IT system that provides the visibility requirements our customers request internationally.”

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