Editorial Director Lou Smyrlis discusses the challenges of serving Atlantic Canada with a complete transportation package in an exclusive interview with award-winning Armour Transportation’s Wes Armour.
TN: Congratulations on being selected to the prestigious 50 Best Managed Companies. In your view, what got you here and how will you have to continue to evolve your operations to stay at the top?
Armour: First, and most important, is the quality of our people. We all have a great deal of respect for each other and take pride in our work and our accomplishments. We treat our people like family but run the company like a business. Our company culture is built upon dignity and respect. This culture is defined throughout our entire company and evident within our employee turnover ratio, which is many magnitudes below the industry average. Second, our focus on customer service has enabled us to enjoy long-term relationships with many successful businesses. Our goal is to meet the customer’s needs by offering customized transportation solutions; we do not force the customer to fit our systems. We have an excellent customer base of both LTL and TL and have built our business around the carbonated beverage and grocery industries, which are very stable. Third, our IT systems are continually being modernized, our equipment constantly upgraded and our buildings improved. This enables us to be a leader in the industry.
TN: Can you outline the most significant developments over the past year within your company and how they are helping you better serve customer needs?
Armour: We have completely restructured our LTL transfer points. This has enabled us to improve service times to our customers in many areas as well as increase our productivity. We also installed Cancom satellite systems in our entire fleet, both TL and LTL. This allows both our customers and dispatch to have instant access to information on our shipments. The system is tied into GPS tracking and indicates exactly where our vehicles are at all times and thus we can measure productivity for both the customer and the company.
TN: Can you elaborate on the service capabilities of your warehousing and distribution facilities and how they are integrated with your trucking operations?
Armour: We operate public warehouses in three provinces and, through partnership arrangements, we offer LTL services throughout North America. Our warehouse facilities are located in Moncton, N.B., Halifax, N.S., and St. John’s, Nfld. These are full service public warehouses with order picking, consolidation, shipping and inventory management capabilities. Some customers are looking for long-term warehousing with all the frills and others are just looking for short-term storage, but they all require transportation services. The warehouse, trucking and logistics are totally integrated. This enables our customers to choose one supplier for all their distribution needs. There is no question that trucking and warehousing complement each other. Each business generates revenue for the other.
TN: Particularly unique about your company is its breadth of service offerings from warehousing to TL to courier services, with many different types of equipment. Why have you chosen to be so diversified?
Armour: We are diversified because Atlantic Canada, with a relatively small population, has all the same needs as a large population and we must meet these needs. Being diversified enables us to have a lower cost structure as we capitalize on the synergies of our complementary businesses. Offering a complete transportation package is necessary for future growth as customers continue to rationalize their distribution supply chain.
When I sit down and discuss our transportation structure with U.S. carriers, they think we are crazy to offer so much because most successful U.S. carriers not only specialize in one type of transportation and equipment, they even specialize in the type of freight they haul. However, our demographics are different. There are 300 million people in the U.S. while Atlantic Canada’s population is approximately 2 million people, forcing us to be different in order to be successful. Atlantic Canada is made up of small rural areas. The addition of courier services has allowed us to enter a new market as well as improve our service and costs in small LTL. Before we had a courier service, we were sending 26′ straight trucks to service these small areas. Now we utilize cube vans to deliver both courier and LTL freight at a significantly lower cost and increased service frequency.
Also, within the last year, we started a flat bed division. The results have been exceptional and, as with our other complementary services, have created LTL growth.
TN: I noted your leadership in IT investments you were the first to equip your entire fleet with Cancom’s Omni LTL satellite technology. What new advancements are you currently working on?
Armour: IT leadership is critical to our success. We are currently focused on projects to enhance our operational efficiency, including automated cross-dock, bar coding and scanning. In addition, we continually strive for process improvement and customer service enhancements through IT investment.
TN: What would you consider the two most important issues affecting the shipper-carrier relationship at the moment and how would you anticipate those issues changing the relationship?
Armour: Shippers and carriers must be prepared to form a solid, long-term partnership to work together to ensure the efficient movement of goods. There is quickly becoming a shortage of road transportation companies due to high costs such as insurance and fuel and a shortage of qualified drivers. Shippers should align themselves with a carrier to ensure they receive uninterrupted service and working together is necessary for both. Shippers today are looking for a carrier that is good at what it does, is stable and is a good size. Shippers want to deal with a small number of medium and large carriers who can supply the equipment and service when needed. I don’t see this changing in the future, making it very difficult for small carriers to compete in the retail business. Shippers also want a carrier with modern, easy-to-use, accurate information systems. As customers look to minimize costs, many are now depending on us for information they would have in the past prepared internally. Shippers need and want one of Canada’s best-managed transportation companies.
TN: Five years from now, how would you like your customers to view Armour Transportation Systems?
Armour: Five years from now, I would like our customers to see us as a company that is solid, prosperous and is a leader in the industry – the same way they view us now. By staying current with technology and adapting to our changing environment, we will continue to grow, expand services and provide total high-quality transportation services.
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