LEADERS: Wes Armour on shipper expectations and the need for flexibility

by Canadian Shipper

Part II of our exclusive interview with Armour Transportation Systems Wes Wermour.

Q: What do shippers expect from their carrier partners during the current economic growth phase?

Armour: Shippers are demanding on-time delivery, real time access to information on the location of their freight and more input and ideas on how together we can become more efficient. They also want enhanced IT systems that are compatible with their systems and other information they didn’t have access to before.

Q: You believe that in order to be a successful provider of transportation services you need to be flexible. Can you elaborate on how flexibility can drive success?

Armour: Our customers are definitely looking for flexibility with their carrier of choice. Many of our customers want more than just a trucker. They want you to be a total supplier of transportation, logistics and warehousing services. In many cases customers want short and long term storage, a variety of trailers – 5-axle, 6-axle, 7-axle to LCVs, reefers, heaters, pup trailers for delivery and many want specialized trailers for delivery of some of their products. This becomes very costly to the carrier for the variety of equipment that the customer is now demanding. Therefore, it is becoming more difficult to be a 5-axle dry-van carrier today as customers require more value-added services.

Q: Armour Transportation Systems provides a very wide range of services. How do you ensure these services are well integrated and complement each other so that customers are provided with a seamless solution to their logistics and transportation needs?

Armour: We started offering logistics and transportation services over 15 years ago. It is a seamless solution, which compliments all of the services we offer. Although we have separate divisions, all of our divisions work together as a team and support one another. Our logistics division has been extremely successful for us. All of our people, regardless of the division they work in, have a role to play in the big picture of Armour Transportation Systems, which is the umbrella company of all of our companies.

Q: Armour is one of the large carriers who has an impressive footprint in warehousing. Your Moncton facility offers both cross dock and rail side capabilities. What kind of savings can be realized by employing a cross docking strategy? Are you finding shippers receptive to such innovation?

Armour: Absolutely – shippers are very receptive to these innovations. In many cases today we are seeing such things as the box car being re-introduced for heavy, dense products that are being shipped long distance to be distributed in Atlantic Canada. The box car is coming back in some industries as the transportation costs are reduced by rail (a box car can transport 180,000 pounds of freight, which is the equivalent of 4 tractor trailer loads). At our Moncton and Halifax facilities we have rail sidings where we not only do box cars, but tank cars as well for distribution throughout the Maritimes. We also do a great deal of ocean going container stuffing and de-stuffing and warehousing.

Q: Your LTL division provides service throughout Canada, the US and Mexico through strategic alliance with interline partners. Why have you chosen this route as opposed to doing it on your own and how do you ensure your partners meet your standards of quality?

Armour: Forming strategic alliances with other major carriers has allowed us, as a regional carrier, to participate in long haul shipping. It gives us the flexibility for our customers to provide services throughout North America and beyond. These partnerships allow us an opportunity to grow our LTL freight business both to and from Atlantic Canada. We only do business with the companies who meet our service and quality standards. These partnerships have been built on trust and mutual respect.

Q: What do you see as the major challenges facing large carriers such as Armour Transportation Services in the coming years?

Armour: One of the major challenges facing large carriers is attracting and retaining qualified people in all areas of transportation, including technicians, dispatchers, administration, safety personnel and transport operators. While transportation is an exciting, dynamic and ever-changing industry to work in, it is also a 24 hour/day, 7 day a week operation.

The hours of operation create major challenges for attracting qualified people, so as a company we are addressing these work-life balance issues by offering for example 4 days on, 4 days off for our employees. The issue really isn’t all wages, which are very competitive in this industry, but the working hours themselves.

Q: How do you see Armour Transportation Systems evolving over the next 5 years in response to market trends and demands?

Armour: Over the next 5 years our company will continue the steady and prosperous growth we have experienced since 1955 when my father, Gordon, started the business. We will continue to take advantage of opportunities as they become available. I am very optimistic about the next 5 years in all aspects of our company.

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