By Tom Burfield, Newsflash Editor
Article Appearing in Red Book Credit Services June edition of Newsflash the Produce Industry Business Journal
If you're a produce shipper looking to get a load of melons berries, potatoes or just about any other commodity from Point A to Point B, you can't go wrong if you select a good third-party logistics company.
At least that's the opinion of Joe Stevens, director of national sales, and Adam Sanders, director of full truckload brokerage for Salt Lake City-based England Logistics.
Asset-based carriers have their place in the industry, Stevens concedes, but third-party logistics firms - or 3PLs - offer enough diversity and flexibility in the services they offer that they can ask a shipping organization not what it needs, but what it wants.
"A 3PL can actually customize a solution for a particular customer, whether it be full truckload, less-than-truckload, flatbed, container, warehousing or an international presence," Stevens said.
England Logistics stands out among 3PLs because the company has a specific division and service set for each of those modes, Sanders said. Some companies don't, and have to outsource services that shipper may need.
"There's a multitude of different service sets that a 3PL can provide to enhance the overall partnership," Stevens said.
For example, a 3PL can offer flexibility in capacity, since it may have thousands of carriers within its network, all of which are prescreened and adhere not only to industry key performance indicators but also to those of the 3PL they are affiliated with, he said.
It's important for shippers to verify with a 3PL what modes they specialize in and handle in-house, Sanders said.
This time of year can be especially challenging for growers, shippers and logistics providers because summer is peak season for dozens of domestically grown fruits and vegetables, which means a lot of product needs to get where it's going in a hurry.
Summer can pose a capacity, availability and diversity challenge even for the 3PL market, Stevens said.
However, "We have a lot more flexibility to adhere to those seasonal changes, given the ebb and flow of the 3PL environment," he said. "It's an easier fix than it would be for an asset-based company."
"We're kind of numbers geeks," Sanders added. "We have a great analytics group that helps us be ready and nimble for the different seasons."
Similarly, a period of bad weather could sideline a grower-shipper for awhile, who then comes back with pent up supplies that need to be moved - quickly.
That's not a problem for a 3PL like England Logistics, he said, since, "We focus heavily on that and ensure that we have good relationships with our carrier network, and that they are dedicated to us."
A 3PL must be able to rely on the quality of its companies as well as the service, he said.
"Ultimately, our service to the customer is only as good as the carriers that we are working with," he said.
Carriers, too, can benefit from a 3PL like England Logistics.
"We have a division - England Carrier Services - that specifically caters to the carriers," Sanders said.
Thanks to the size of its parent company, C.R. England Inc., the company can purchase fuel, tires and other necessities at a lower price than most carriers would pay on their own. The company passes along the additional savings to the smaller carriers with which it is allied, he said.
This is an advantage for the carrier and for England Logistics, since it offers an incentive for carriers to maintain a relationship with the company, he said.
Established in 1997, England Logistics services the U.S., Mexico, and Canada and has three offices in China.