All posts by Mandy VanHaitsma

Legendary Customer Service Award Winners

Columbian Logistics Network is proud announce the winners of our Legendary Customer Service Awards for the 4th quarter of 2019 and 1st quarter of 2020!






4th Quarter 2019 LCS Winners:
Internal – Marty Abbott (Shuttle/Switch Driver)
Nominated by Marshall McKenzie
Marty reported and fixed a design flaw with the new switchers by designing and fabricating parts for each switcher to reduce damages and costs. Marty’s repairs help to keep air lines from catching on other areas of the switchers.

External – Tiffani DeFrang (CDS Clerical)
Nominated by Customer
Tiffany was nominated by a customer for always being available to assist with any situation in a kind and patient manner. Her nominee notes “Tiffani portrays Legendary Customer Service by being open minded, patient, confident and reliable. She is a great asset to any company, Columbian Logistics is lucky to have her!”


1st Quarter 2020 LCS Winners:
Internal: Juanita Mahamud (GRDC Admin. Support)
Nominated by Derek Kent (Admin. Supervisor)
Juanita has been a tremendous asset to the Columbian Team. Her positive attitude has brought up the morale of those around her. She has taken all objectives and tasks assigned to her head on and excelled in providing the best service possible. Juanita’s actions and attitude embody Columbian’s Core Values.

External: Mohammad Motan (Shuttle/Switch Driver)
Nominated by 3 people at same customer
Mohammad was commended by his supervisor for his proactive attitude and actions, as well as his attention to detail and good communication skills. He was nominated by three customers, one of which noted ‘He is one of the switchers I can count on when I need a switch done quickly.’

Pandemic Response: One Team, One Mission

The past two months have been quite a wild ride. Sweeping regulations and recommendations to fight the virus have been instituted at breakneck speed and have altered almost every aspect of day to day life. Columbian Logistics has relied on its core values of agility, safety and respect to navigate the ‘new normal’.

Essential Work, Essential Communication

As a part of the American food supply chain, Columbian Logistics Network’s work is deemed essential. As the outbreak began, our customers immediately looked to us for assurance that we could and would continue uninterrupted operations. It is a tremendous responsibility to help support the continuous flow of food and essential goods throughout the country. We opened clear and formal lines of communication with our customers to help dispel any fear or speculation, working closely to fill any gaps or provide additional support.

One Team, One Mission

The Columbian Logistics team continues to be the bedrock of operations. Through times of uncertainty, our people continue to show up every day in the best possible ways. We are committed to providing our associates with the safest possible environment, and have made a whole lot of changes, including:

  • Increased Sanitation Protocols
  • PPE Supplies
  • Rearranging office areas to provide adequate opportunity for social distancing
  • Attendance bonuses

Planning for The Future

While operations continue uninterrupted, we are looking ahead to the changing business practices we all face. We understand that returning to normal will be a graduated process incorporating new safety and operating procedures. Inventories, facility layouts and fulfillment strategies will be reassessed, and we will do everything we can to support our customers as they keep up with those changes. Similarly, some business processes may continue to rely heavily on remote communications.

In the time of ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ and ‘flattening the curve’, Columbian Logistics has certainly altered operating patterns, and we continue to rely on our core values to provide the service and support that our customers expect and deserve. The agility we’re practicing today will set the table for providing legendary customer service for years to come.


local trucking

McCleod Transportation Software Q&A

Not to be outdone by the work that went into the WMS in 2018, Columbian’s transportation groups are still building on the foundation of expertise that began to build 2017. It was then that CLN’s transportation groups upgraded their TMS to a state of the art platform provided by McLeod. Blair Thomas recently sat down with Paul Laidler, the Divisional Manager for Columbian Logistics Management, for an overview of the system’s capabilities:

Blair Thomas: When did you go live on McLeod, and what did you leave behind?

Paul Laidler: About second quarter of 2017. We went through a search just like the organization did for he WMS, and selected McLeod from a group of capable providers. We had been running our asset business on an old system called Creative, and the logistics management group was running MercuryGate. MercuryGate was fine, but it didn’t have an asset-based module built in, and we really wanted to have both sides of the business operating in the same system. Creative was extremely old, unsupported, and actually represented an intolerable risk to the business if anything had gone wrong. It also caused a lot of manual processes and workarounds. With McLeod, we consolidated everything onto one platform.

Thomas: You say “everything”- describe the breadth of services you’re currently providing via McLeod.

Paul Laidler, Director Of Transportation Operations

Laidler: It’s a full range. We run traditional domestic truckload (TL) and less than truckload (LTL), international shipments to and from Mexico and Canada, Intermodal freight, drayage, and even our hyper-local switching and shuttling services are all on the platform.

Thomas: Describe for me some of the capabilities you have now, that you didn’t have before.

Laidler: First and foremost, we were being left behind without the ability to integrate via EDI and APIs, which was hurting our business. Another quick gain was the ability to provide a web portal for load and shipment visibility to customers, partner carriers, and even drivers. Those are pretty straightforward, but one of the biggest gains we made was in the ability to pass loads “across the fence” between our asset trucking business and our logistics management business. In the past, if the asset supervisor couldn’t cover a certain number of loads for a customer, we had to turn down revenue. Now, we can slide anything above our asset capacity over to the logistics side, cover all those loads for the customer, and grow our business overall. We call it “selling the blend,” and a lot of customers love it. Some like us to start with partner carriers, and then cover with assets, and some like it the other way, loading our assets first before we look outside. Either way, the customer wins with the best pricing we can find, and broader capacity. It’s been really exciting to see how our relationships with customer have improved.

Thomas: Awesome, is that it?

Laidler: Not at all. The ability to mine historical data across service profiles has been huge for customer satisfaction. Our status updates through McLeod’s Rapid Alerts feature are event driven, customized, and super user friendly. We’ve also made improvements to the clarity and structure of our billing to customers, including being able to ring the cash register on non-standard activities in an automated way.

Thomas: You mentioned that customer relationships have improved. Can you provide an example or two of how McLeod has helped you drive value for your customers?

Laidler: Of course. A quick one that comes to mind is that we recently provided a dual-factor authentication program for a client who makes a high value pharmaceutical nutrition product line. Our business rule is that the driver is never allowed to de-couple from the trailer. The customer embeds GPS trackers into the freight itself, and then we are using Macro-Point, an API-enabled software to constantly sync the driver’s location and the location of the freight. If those separate by more than 50 feet or so, red flags start flying fast. For another one, we’ve had a few customers love our imaging database. Every piece of documentation that gets generated with one of our load, like a Bill of Lading, packing list, lumper receipt, scale ticket, border documents, and others, get imaged, linked to the order and the load, and are available at a moment’s notice. We’ve helped our customers shut down a whole lot of arguments by providing clear, reliable documentation at the drop of a hat.

Thomas: Last question…what’s your favorite feature in the system?

Laidler: (laughs) Well, the rest of the crew will probably have a different opinion, but I love the “Performance” button. From any screen in the system, I can click one button and get to a real-time dashboard that shows me load counts, revenue, margin, and a whole bunch of other KPIs over variable time frames. It’s made me a better boss!

Thomas: Paul, thanks for your time today. Your enthusiasm comes through palpably, and it was great to learn about your systems and capabilities.

Laidler: Glad to help. If anyone wants to know more, just give me a call or reach out on our website, and I love seeing how we can help!


Pints With Peers is a Huge Success


Last week, for the 5th year in a row, Columbian hosted a happy hour for customers, prospects, and friends immediately following the Midwest Supply Chain Conference here in Grand Rapids. The 5th annual event, known as Pints With Peers, is a great opportunity to network with other logistics and supply chain professionals from around the area in a low stress, friendly atmosphere. And since Grand Rapids is dubbed “Beer City, USA,” it’s only natural that the event was held at Atwater Brewery’s downtown taphouse.

Many of the themes from the conference spilled over into Pints With Peers. Attendees shared a beer and a bite while discussing trends like economic growth and the Amazon effect, as well as more real-world issues like Diversity & Inclusion programs in the supply chain, or practical applications of new VR and AI technologies. Many thanks to everyone who came out this year, and be on the lookout for our 6th annual edition next Spring!