- Food Logistics
- Manufacturing Support Services
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.
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!
Jim Gadziemski, vice president of warehouse operations, was interviewed by Trucks.com regarding futuristic technology in the logistics industry, including driverless trucks and automated loading docks. The author, like many industry experts, believes there is a long way to go in driverless technology, and drivers will never be obsolete.
“…Rather their duties will change as the industry works out man-machine partnerships,” says the author, Erik Sherman.
Beyond robots behind the wheel, new technology in the warehouse has also made conversation. Trucks.com reached out to Gadziesmki for an expert’s opinion on the automatic truck loading systems (ATLS).
The author argues that automation requires predictable loads, which is uncommon in the warehousing business. Similar items can cause confusion on the dock as well.
“I was supposed to get some kind of organic product and they sent me regular product,” said Jim Gadziemski, vice president of warehouse operations at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based logistics and warehousing firm Columbian Logistics Network. “How can a conveyor system notice that?”
In addition to those problems, deliveries won’t be easy either.
Many destinations require the truck driver to unload, Gadziemski said. “He has to have a pallet jack, [a fork lift like tool used to lift and move within a warehouse].”
Just because the truck leaves the loading dock, does not mean that the problems will stop.
“What happens when there’s a mechanical issue?” Gadziemski said. “An air line breaks or a trailer is dirty with some kind of contaminate and you have to reject it. How would [automation] handle those things?”
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food is now final. This rule is in place to advance the FDA’s efforts to protect foods from farm to table by making sure the food is safe during transportation. The rule institutes sanitary requirements for shippers, loaders, carriers by motor or rail vehicle, and receivers included in transporting human and animal food. The FSMA rule authenticates requirements for vehicles and transportation equipment, transportation operations, records, training, and waivers.
Since 2013, seven rules have been proposed regarding a modern, risk-based framework for food safety. This rule is intended to prevent practices during transportation that create food safety risks. There have been concerns about the need for new regulations to ensure that food is being transported in a safe manner since 2005 when there was an outbreak of illness due to human and animal food contamination. Some of these risks could be the failure to properly refrigerate food, inadequate cleaning of vehicles in between loads, and failure to properly protect food.
Who is covered?
The Sanitary Food Transportation Act (SFTA) allows the agency to waive the requirements of this FSMA rule if it determines that the waiver will not result in the transportation of food under conditions that would be unsafe for human or animal health, or contrary to the public interest (FDA, 2017).
According to the FDA website, the FDA has published three waivers for businesses whose transportation operations are subject to Federal-State or local controls. They include:
Recognizing that businesses, especially small businesses may need more time to comply with the requirements, the compliance dates are adjusted accordingly.
Exempt from the Rule
At Columbian, safety is our number one value. That being said, it is our highest priority to make sure that not only our employees are safe, but our customers and their products are safe as well. We specialize in food safety at Columbian and want to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to perform at the safest level.
At the warehouse level, Columbian’s role in the Sanitary Transportation Act is a small piece of the process, but vital to ensure that the food safety supply line is safe and suitable for further food processing at the manufacturing plants and distribution centers for finished products. Columbian does not transport bulk/open food. Temperature control in trailers is typically not an issue due to Columbian’s average length of haul.
Columbian’s primary role in the Sanitary Transportation Rule is to identify potential food safety risk at the point of receipt and in our trailer inspection processes. This is done by obtaining regulatory standards, and customer requirements relating to refrigeration loads in the warehouse process product flow. At this point, we know that we need clean trailers that are suitable for receiving and shipping of food grade materials from customer suppliers and to our customer designation sources.
Trailers that come into Columbian facilities must abide by our clean trailer rules. This process has been developed by Columbian’s food safety experts to ensure that trailers are clean before coming in contact with our facilities. Drivers are notified that their trailer will be rejected if it has any of the following:
A refrigerated trailer (sometimes referred to as a reefer), on the other hand, is a different process because it involves handling sensitive perishable goods that require controlled temperatures. Refrigerated transportation is usually driven by our customer requirements, which coincide with national and international standards. Once we have this information, we do the following:
Columbian always considers new rules and laws when creating new safety procedures. Columbian continues to strive for the safest environment for employees, customers, and product.