CANADIAN SHIPPER: What do you see as the top challenges and/or trends that will drive your courier and/or logistics division in 2016?
RALSTON ARMOUR: In courier, we continue to see a trend in small package delivery as the online shopping market grows. Through the online marketplace, consumers can now purchase anything at any time, driving service demands. Technological requirements around real-time delivery information, detailed shipment updates and electronic signature capture have pushed the industry into both a provider of freight and data delivery services and the challenge is providing these requirements at current pricing levels.
Logistics is a growing market as national companies look to build a faster delivery mousetrap for their product regionally. This is a trend that has developed as larger suppliers move regional offices back to larger city centers, but yet still want to keep inventory readily available locally. The Port of Halifax also presents a great opportunity in logistics as container traffic grows with a national and international distribution requirement.
CANADIAN SHIPPER: What are some of your key strategies for these divisions?
RALSTON ARMOUR: In both divisions, we must continue to find ways to be more efficient. In the courier market, customers are looking for high service levels and increased freight visibility as consumers have increased options when selecting both their product and their carrier. We must reduce our costs or do things smarter. We have invested heavily in our IT infrastructure in 2016 to help give us the tools to find these efficiencies.
Logistics is in a similar situation around finding efficiencies, but for a different reason. As the demand grows, limitations revolve around capacity and space. Finding efficient or innovative ways to add capacity without increasing costs by expanding the building or renting outside is key to being more efficient and reducing costs. This includes taking advantage of unique warehouse layouts, racking designs or new technologies to maximize storage capacities without increasing the physical size of your space.
CANADIAN SHIPPER: You were the first company in Canada to help design and go live with a full system solution (the new TMW Truckmate computer system). Can you discuss how you expect the solution will address or accommodate the requirements you have set out for it?
RALSTON ARMOUR: As customer demands increase for better service, greater visibility of freight and minimal pricing increases, we quickly realized this would be difficult to achieve with our 25-year-old system. As a result, we set out to find a solution that would provide us with the tools to meet customer demands, improve efficiencies, drive out redundant tasks, and allow for increased productivity.
Our operation is somewhat unique where our truckload, intermodal, LTL, and courier divisions are very integrated. Where the mix makes sense, a truck in the LTL environment could deliver a courier shipment and a truck in the courier fleet could deliver an LTL shipment, as an example. With that, TruckMate offered a system that was flexible enough for us to integrate this mix of services into one solution.
Because completely overhauling our systems was a huge undertaking, we allocated 22 months for the full implementation. A team of five key players representing various departments at Armour worked alongside a team from TruckMate throughout the project while leveraging subject matter experts from various areas in both organizations.
Like any large implementation, there were some initial challenges but we have a great team who worked through it with us. Certainly some takeaways to the success of any project this large would be thorough training and detailed process review.
Once fully optimized, we are excited for what the system will bring to our customers and do for our organization.
CANADIAN SHIPPER: As an instrumental player in the economy of the Atlantic region of Canada, can you discuss any specific issues you experience as a carrier with regard to the region’s economy, geography, politics, etc? What initiatives are you involved in to promote the region and strengthen business opportunities there?
RALSTON ARMOUR: Geography in Atlantic Canada is always a challenge, as we joke that we are like one large city that covers four provinces. Fortunately we have built an extensive terminal network throughout the region to support the necessary service requirements. Although our economy has lost most of our major exports, like the paper mills, and more regional offices have moved back to larger centers to be handled from afar, business still seems to thrive here. There are a variety of small local and regional businesses and entrepreneurs who support our economy and, in turn, support Armour.
CANADIAN SHIPPER: Any new products, services you hope to roll out in 2016 beyond what has been mentioned?
RALSTON ARMOUR: 2016 will be all about defining processes and leveraging the capabilities of our new system. We knew going into this change that there would be challenges presented as opportunities and we are working towards these opportunities.