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Case Study: Thurston, Inc.

The Client

“I didn’t realize how easy it could be. Night and day difference,” raved Amanda with Thurston, Inc., a leading hybrid seed brokerage, while speaking of the difference in their freight shipping from one year to the next. And she gives full credit for the change to Ingrid. 

You see, Ingrid is one of our logistics experts, and after she and Amanda met, Ingrid promised Amanda she would never have to worry about what was happening with her freight again. Ingrid has been making good on that promise ever since. 

Opportunity for Improvement

Before Agforce and Ingrid, Amanda was working with multiple sources to move her truckload and LTL freight. The general nature of Thurston’s business means there is sensitivity around blind shipping. So, they need good communication and affirmation for peace of mind. They need to know the shipper and consignee will stay unknown to each other. Their previous resources didn’t give them much reassurance around shipments being picked up, let alone confidence the paperwork would be handled correctly. 

Amanda wears a lot of different hats at Thurston. There is simply not enough time in the day for her to get everything done if she’s constantly checking on the state of their freight. Plus, she knew that if she didn’t receive communication from the 3PLs and carriers she tendered freight to, her customers weren’t receiving any updates either. They couldn’t allow their freight shipping to leave a sour taste in their client’s mouths. 

Solution Design

Ingrid’s goal: Give Amanda the confidence to know her freight is handled. Ingrid and the team laid out a communication plan that prioritized immediate response when Amanda submits a load for pickup, and they reach out with updates so she can know things are on track. Ingrid wanted to ensure Amanda could work on the other things that keep Thurston running, and doesn’t have to worry about follow up with her freight. 

Today’s Processes 

Amanda shared, “It’s been a big weight off my shoulders. Agforce just makes freight easier.” She went on to tell us the amount of time she has to spend dealing with freight has been cut down due to the good service and communication from Ingrid. During their heavy truckload season, they used to wait up to two and a half weeks between loads while their 3PL sourced equipment. Ingrid put processes in place and found carriers that appreciated the regularity of Thurston’s freight with multiple loads in the same lane to secure the best service. Thurston made it through their busy shipping season in record time! 

Amanda knows she’s not alone in her appreciation of Ingrid. Their customers even remark on how great Ingrid is to work with and appreciate the quality drivers she sends to their facilities. 

If your freight shipping could use someone like Ingrid, let’s talk. Wouldn’t you like some time back to focus on the other stuff? Together, we can move your business forward. Give us a call at 877.367.2324 or email us at inquiry@agforcets.com.

Sip, Sip, Hooray! Agforce and Fastbreak Collaborate on Warehouse Expansion

Agforce has doubled down on its longstanding partnership with Fastbreak Consolidators, Inc, the leader in Northern California wine consolidation, to increase warehouse space by 10,000 square feet. This extra space, plus investments in additional drivers and tracking technology, means we can pass our unique experience and understanding along to more customers who need us. 

Fastbreak Warehouse

“This is the first foray into warehouse space for Agforce,” says Andy Tuley, Vice President of Business Development. “It not only signals the growth and evolution of our business, but the lockstep relationship we have with Fastbreak. No other consolidators in the industry have honed in on their expertise like Fastbreak, and they’ve done it intentionally so that makes it easy for us to treat our customers right.”

Distributors across the United States rely on the Fastbreak and Agforce partnership for quick, efficient wine deliveries no matter the situation. “Let’s say your sales rep has a wine vendor coming next week that nobody told you about. Or someone scheduled a wine dinner for next week, and you don’t have the product. You can call us in a panic at 3 p.m. on a Friday, and we’ll make it happen,” says Chris Stranckmeyer, Manager Business Development Wine & Spirits. “We’re not even going to argue. We’re going to get off the phone as quickly as possible so we can send a driver to get the product you need and get it to you on time. We get it, and that’s why we get it done.” 

The Agforce and Fastbreak partnership eliminates partially-filled truckloads, maximizes the use of all capacity and includes access to proprietary technology that provides visibility into all aspects of an order. In short, it’s airtight. 

“Together, Fastbreak and Agforce are able to show customers exactly who is taking care of their product, its status and its estimated delivery time, from our warehouse door to the customer’s door,” says Kathy Edwards, Fastbreak Office Manager.

Fastbreak Warehouse

“We pass the baton back and forth so quickly that our customers don’t even notice it happening,” says Tuley. “All they notice is that we can meet their needs – no matter how crazy, last-minute or specific, in a way no other 3PL can.”

Both companies are committed to customer service, customer retention, growth and laser-focus on what we do best. As the wine consolidation industry grows and shifts, Fastbreak remains the leader, even amid other companies’ mergers and acquisitions. And it appreciates Agforce’s contribution to its growth, viewing us as an extension of its company that it can trust to treat customers in the same way it would. 

“Fastbreak has been committed to its core values for more than 30 years. While others change, try to diversify, or get bought out, we continue to stay true to ourselves and what we do. We’ve found a true partner in Agforce – they support and complement our firm foundation,” says Edwards.

We’re so confident in our continued growth that increasing our warehouse capacity by 25% was a no-brainer.

“In 2018, Fastbreak and Agforce consolidated more than 3.5 million cases of wine, a number that will only increase this year and into the future,” says Brett Eckinger, Director of Sales at Agforce. “We are thrilled at the additional volume our new warehouse space will allow us, and the additional value we will be able to offer our customers based on this investment. We are proud to celebrate our continued growth as a Fastbreak partner.” 

A toast to Fastbreak, Agforce and our customers!

Want in on the amazing agility Agforce and Fastbreak provide? Give us a call at 877.367.2324 or email us at inquiry@agforcets.com.

Case Study: Major Brands

The Client

Major Brands is a leading Missouri distributor of premium spirits, wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages, and the largest distributor that remains Missouri-owned and operated.

With offices in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Columbia and Cape Girardeau, Major Brands employs more than 600 people and serves more than 9,000 retail customers throughout the state.

Opportunity for Improvement

We were moving Major Brands inbound freight through a system of multi-pickup truckloads. Their shipments consisted of a variation of wine, spirits and beer shipping from ports, distilleries and manufacturers across the U.S. But, it wasn’t perfect.   

The multi-pick solution started to create a hassle with missed pickups and late deliveries on Major Brands’ purchase orders. “We had planned ship dates and our sales people worked off of delivery targets. With the fluid market for spirits, slipups started to impact our pricing, bottom line and overall customer experience,” shared Erin Evans, Inventory and Transportation Manager.

They needed to consider different options for their freight in order to operate with more efficiency and dependable timelines.

Solution Design

Our team members Michelle and Chris were on it. The short-term goal was a solution we could implement to solve the inconsistency of Major Brands freight shipping. Long term, we wanted to create a relationship that would provide value to Major Brands.

To do so, Chris, Michelle and the rest of our team worked together to design a tailored plan. We developed a plan with a mixture of LTL and multi-pick loads that focused primarily on the per case cost to the customer. Not only did this provide a lower transportation cost to the customer, it also allowed us to work within the confines and time restraints of Major Brands wide array of vendors. The result is a cost effective, time sensitive and economical approach to moving orders of all sizes.

Today’s Processes

Fast forward to the present and Major Brands doesn’t give their freight a second thought. They put their deliverables in our hands. That’s the part they like best. They just know things are going to happen as planned — the way a true partnership should work.

The new processes have allowed Major Brands to evolve and we have been in lockstep with them the entire way. They now work with less quantity and more brands. It’s all possible because we listened and leaned in. Technology is great, but we gave them so much more: personal attention and the freedom to concentrate on their business.

Today, they generate a purchase order, indicate Agforce for routing and copy us on the email. From there, it is just handled. The vendor reaches out when the freight is ready for pickup and Major Brands doesn’t have to think about it again.

“It is truly amazing. Agforce has removed the burden of our freight shipping unknowns. We can confidently make purchasing projections, a key in the retention of our business, and know things will deliver the way they are supposed to,” stated Erin. “And if there is a hiccup, Michelle and Chris are on it. They are always looking out for our best interests. The partnership is invaluable to us.”

If your freight shipping could use a personal touch, let’s talk. As an extension of your business, your objectives are ours too. Together, we can customize the right plan for you. Give us a call at 877.367.2324 or email us at inquiry@agforcets.com.

Prepare for an RFP in 4 Steps

As a large-scale shipper, you use a request for proposal (RFP) to put freight out for bid, typically on an annual basis, correct? You are smart. This process helps keep your current freight providers on their game and gives you the opportunity to evaluate the capability of newcomers. Here are four steps that will have you well-prepared for your RFP process:

1. Get Organized

Details. And lots of them. That is the basis of a good RFP. The homework you need to do is not only for the sake of line items in the RFP but also for the alignment of your internal team. You need to work together to define the ideal outcome of the process. Once you are in lockstep regarding what a successful RFP looks like, there will be numerous facts to gather and decisions to make. You should get a jump start on these:

  • Know your annual freight spend and volume
    • When you can, break your spend out by mode. This will help pinpoint your savings potential and give you data to measure against.
  • Profile your freight in detail
    • The particulars will help freight providers create tailored solutions for you. Document your freight’s handling requirements, load time, standard weights, pickup and delivery times. Providers will also want to know if you have driver-friendly facilities and how quickly you pay. It is also beneficial to document the efficiency of your check-in and check-out process.
  • Outline the full objectives of your RFP in your clear and concise bid package
    • This is where you define your expectations for the RFP. What do you hope to achieve? Freight services want to provide the information you are looking for. This will help both your organization and those invited to bid to act with intention throughout the process.  
  • Set the number of bid rounds
    • The number of rounds in the RFP process helps those bidding understand your communication cadence and informs their own strategy in regard to winning your business.

Pro tip! Gather visuals of the products you ship. Part of your job is to make your freight attractive to the service provider. They need to want to move your freight.

2. Determine the Participants

Your carrier strategy likely includes a mix of carriers and third-party logistics companies (3PLs) — small, large, national, regional. The tender percentage awarded to each is deliberate and likely based on the requirements of your freight. Bring this same thought process as you determine the invite list of your RFP. You want a good mix to help you thrive in a changing logistics landscape. Balance this group based on fit with your supply chain operations.

The RFP process is the perfect opportunity to evaluate your incumbent shipping services against potential new providers — how they compare on rates as well as overall fit in your strategy. Remember, these partners can make a large impact on how customers view your reliability. So, once you have your carrier mix determined, go ahead and prepare your list of hard-hitting questions:

  • How does our freight fit into your network?
  • Where will we rank among your clients in freight spend?
  • Are we aligned on KPIs?
  • Have you done X before?
    • Whatever your freight requires, make sure they have handled that situation in the past.

3. Establish a Benchmark

To determine your RFPs success, you have to know if it helped you hit your established goals. So, you need a baseline for comparison. There are a few ways you can accomplish this:

  • Gather historical data from your company
  • Reach out to industry trade associations that may share their knowledge
  • Work with an outside consultant

As you are compiling this data, be on the lookout for opportunities to optimize your transportation program. Maybe your RFP should consider modal conversion or the opportunities for lane aggregation.  

After a set time, once your new RFP is in place, look at the numbers in comparison to your baseline. Are they trending in the manner you had hoped? Preparing for measurement and analysis is a plan for success.

4. Outline RFP Administration

You will need to create a system of checks and balances for the RFP process to help secure the best outcome for your business. Define the communication pattern so you have a game plan to reach out to the participants after each round. We also advise an open line of communication with carriers and providers throughout the course of the RFP.

Pro tip! Do not provide target rates in your initial RFP. It could adversely impact the results and cause you to overlook providers that are a great fit with your operations.

After the RFP Process

You prepared and administered your RFP. Now what? Once your freight has been awarded, there is still more to do to get the trucks rolling. Onboarding calls are very important to make sure you are on the same page with each provider regarding service levels and volume commitments. You put a significant amount of your time and energy into the RFP, work to make sure it was worth the investment.

3PLs are a vital part of success in most supply chains. Your carrier strategy likely endorses a mix of 3PLs and asset-based carriers. We provide the value of strategy and solution that only a 3PL can. If our networks compliment one another, we will be a trusted resource to help your company succeed in hitting the goals of your RFP and beyond.

Submit your RFP to inquiry@agforcets.com.

LTL Rate Increases and Market Saturation

High demand and favorable market conditions mean most LTL carriers find themselves firmly in the driver’s seat when it comes to pricing and choice of freight as we enter the second half of 2018. Peak shipping season occurs during the third and fourth quarters along with contract negotiation between many shippers and carriers. With LTL companies already operating at full capacity and the undeniable impact of freight rates on profitability for most companies, shippers will be better prepared for what’s ahead when you understand the why behind the current state of the LTL market.

  • LTL Capacity
    While the economy is certainly a catalyst of LTL demand, there are other contributing factors. Tight LTL capacity also stems from the changing retail landscape (brick-and-mortar to ecommerce), spillover from full truckload demand, available equipment, and competition for available drivers.
  • Retail
    The “middle mile” of ecommerce shipments are often handled by LTL carriers. With a 16 percent growth in online retail purchases in 2017, and little sign of slow-down in 2018, ecommerce will continue to impact LTL capacity. Some carriers have adjusted operations by adding hubs and service centers to accommodate the industry, including their more rigid on-time delivery expectations.
  • Truckload Demand Spillover
    The overly saturated truckload market has some shippers looking to LTL carriers. That being said, heavy partial truckload shipments are not always ideal in LTL carrier operations. This has many carriers weeding out the freight that does not complement their network.
  • Available Equipment
    According to an article from Supply Chain 24/7, LTL carriers have not added much equipment to their fleets in the past few years. They speculate, however, that even a surge in available trucks would not have much impact due to the driver shortage.
  • Available Drivers
    Several growth sectors, including construction and manufacturing, share a workforce with LTL carriers. Competition within other industries that may offer more lucrative opportunity is a challenge for LTL carriers. The driver shortage of the truckload sector has not yet had a large impact on LTL.

Unexpected Consequences of High Demand

The benefit of high demand for LTL carriers is revenue growth — which is up 10% or more through volume or yield gains. It is not all roses though. There are challenges for carriers operating over capacity, and shippers are likely to feel it.

Carriers are maximizing profits, in part by weeding out freight that is less profitable — not a good fit for their network or operations. They are using pricing initiatives that make the shipments costly and ultimately leave shippers disinclined to tender freight that carriers find unattractive.

The freight that is moving through the overly saturated LTL operations may experience inconsistent service levels. Some terminals are already running weeks behind. The holiday surge will likely bring more missed pickups and transit delays for shippers. Without enough employees or equipment to handle such high shipment volume, some carriers have embargoed their guaranteed transit services. YRC Worldwide has suspended reimbursement of their Time-Critical service due to their struggle to keep up with demand. A note on their website indicates they may reinstate the practice, but are still facing difficulties, “We are currently working on a re-launch of our time critical services. While our service is improving, we continue to face industry challenges including peak shipping volumes, driver shortages and capacity constraints.”

Summary

With carriers’ eyes on profits and high demand in the market, freight shipping rates are likely to continue increasing during shipper-carrier contract negotiation the remainder of the year. Prices will go up, but do not expect service levels to do the same. Most LTL carriers are not operationally equipped to handle this surge in demand. Shippers will need to prepare for inconsistent transit days and allow time in their supply chain for things like missed pickups and late shipments.

Together, we can simplify logistics. Contact us today for a free consultation. Give us a call at 844.713.6723 or email us at inquiry@agforcets.com.