AIT Worldwide comes to Canada

by MM&D staff

ITASCA, Illinois—AIT Worldwide Logistics has just made its world a little bigger.

The 34-year old full service transportation management provider has opened its first Canadian office. The Toronto office (which is actually located in Mississauga, Ontario) is being run by general manager, Branko Burazin. It’s a 465sqm (5,000sqf) facility with one dock door, and while it’s a bit on the small side, AIT executive vice-president of global development Ray Fennelly, says, “We chose the building as it will support growth as additional space is readily available”.

And growth is something Fennelly expects to happen fairly quickly. He says the facility will be will be fully racked within one to two months and able to manage logistics and warehousing needs for customers.

“Initially the focus will be transportation, but very shortly and very quickly we will be up and running with full logistics services—warehousing, pick-and-pack, and distribution services, including inventory control, and purchase order management. We feel that will be moving very quickly.”

He adds the Canadian market is one that lends itself to growth.

“I’ve always admired what Canada has done over the last few years economically. Canada has weathered that global economic pushdown very, very well, and we have been very curious how to get our footprint there and establish a presence there.

“I’m not saying Canada doesn’t have difficulties from time to time, but certainly the country continues to show growth and discipline, including discipline in its banking. This is something important. And it’s important to US investors. Some of our clients, the retailers and the e-tailers are starting to find distribution in Canada is extremely important to them so I would put a high degree of importance on us to be there and to offer products and support our products more thoroughly north of the border, and for our transborder and global sales as well.”

AIT’s clients range from companies shipping goods to be used in the manufacturing process, to food processors, to retailers looking to stock stores, to merchants shipping directly to consumers.

“Last year approximately 20 percent of our transactions were delivered to homes. That can be anything from televisions to fitness equipment, to kitchen appliances. We also do distribution into retail stores, like H&M, Pier 1 Imports, Crate and Barrel: these are all stores we do business with directly for distribution purposes. It’s quite a diverse book of business.”

So far getting started in Canada has been relatively easy.

“Surprisingly, as our legal department got involved with Transport Canada, we found everything was actually quite similar to our work down here. While the laws are slightly different, some of the regulatory aspects were quite good. We were very encouraged how easy it was to work with the regulatory bodies and getting set up. It was a surprise. ”

The biggest challenge he sees isn’t one of legalities, but one of marketing.

“We know that going out there and promoting our name in a market where we haven’t been before, that will be a challenge. The challenges are we are new to the market and we’re not the only so-called player in town. We want to make sure we show people the integrity of the organization and build that reputation where people are willing and want to support us when we’re up and running.”

Fennelly says that once the company has had an opportunity to build its business in Ontario, he envisions AIT branching out to other parts of the country.

“I could see our future looking at other strategic locations in Canada. Certainly Montreal and Vancouver come to mind right away because of the major shipping ports,” he says.

“I can see other outlying markets like Calgary as well, but we want to get Toronto correct, and support what we are doing there from a distribution standpoint. Toronto has about 25 percent of the population right in the immediate area so we feel getting that right first is appropriate. I could see 2014 when we start to look at other locations, with our general manager’s help, with Branko’s help.”

Initially the Toronto team will consist of two people in operations and two in sales, but Fennelly says “we expect that number to easily double before our first anniversary in Toronto”.