Managing most supply chains is about how we bring visibility to what’s happening with the movement of our goods. And despite the ups and downs of the ever-changing recycling market, Mid America Paper Recycling, Chicago, knows that dealing with the logistics in moving pre-consumer recyclable wastepaper plays an integral role in maximizing its value and boosting revenue. Equipped with its own trucking fleet of 150 trailers, the family owned company transports tons of high-grade paper, production trim, corrugated and containerboard each week, and partners with preferred third-party freight and logistics companies that understand the need for exceptional service that’s also cost effective.
“Logistics is the heart of our business,” says Mid America’s President, Paul Pirkle. “Our suppliers require us to impeccably service them. That means we need to be able to pick up and deliver on time. But this is challenging if we don’t have a good logistics partner.”
Like most brokers involved in the current freight environment and the tight trucking market, Mid America has experienced challenges, which can sometimes drive even the most effective logistics programs off the beaten path. To face the mounting supply chain pressures head-on, Mid America recently began exploring new avenues in logistics and transport management systems (TMS) with the help of C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc.
Based in Eden Prairie, Minn., C.H. Robinson is considered one of the country’s largest, most sophisticated multimodal transportation service third-party logistic providers. Examining costs and technologies over the past year, the two companies collaborated on a customizable TMS incorporating C.H. Robinson’s proprietary Navisphere® 2.0 global technology platform that will further automate Mid America’s operations in terms of scheduling and tracking shipments. Using Navisphere’s activity dashboard, the Mid America team will be able to gain insights into daily operations and improve shipping efficiencies of inbound and outbound loads and manage cost effectiveness in real time. Access to such data will provide more agility, accuracy and decision-making enhancements to keep Mid America’s team of customer service representatives a step ahead of the competition.
The full-service TMS platform will help manage processes ranging from setting up orders and collecting shipping data to creating necessary paperwork such as bill of ladings and packing slips, notes Brendan McTigue, Director of Commercial Development at C.H. Robinson. “The system’s track-and-trace capabilities can be performed in real time using the dashboards, which gives visibility on transportation performance to vendors and customers. We will support Mid America with our own account team, which will provide any help needed to improve spend and overall supply chain performance.”
“That means less down time, faster speed to market and better maneuverability,” Pirkle adds. “In the past, we didn’t have a way to see how shipments were progressing. With the Navisphere 2.0 dashboard, we have that transparency, which will be a great help. C.H. Robinson also takes the time to understand areas where we can improve.”
Equipped with the business intelligence to organize everything in one place, the self-service Navisphere is an easy-to-use web-driven tool that gives the CSRs access to a centralized network of more than 100,000 supply chain partners.
The CSRs can view or modify data and perform quickly over large data sets and complex supply chains without the need to integrate with each provider individually. All the supply chain information the CSRs need is housed in a centralized location, so the reps can intuitively better manage logistics spend and leverage competitive reporting solutions.
“With Navisphere 2.0, we can learn about a prospective recycling supplier’s business before meeting with them, Pirkle says.
“This will allow us to effectively maximize revenue contributions and differentiate our offerings from a position of knowledge. We are currently testing C.H. Robinson’s processes to what we’ve used in the past and training the team on scheduling loads. We’re also testing the dashboard information’s effectiveness. From here, we will create key performance indicators (KPIs) for our business with C.H. Robinson and how we will service our suppliers.”
Navisphere can also help streamline quoting, load entry and POD [point of delivery] retrieval. “Our reporting suite, Navisphere Insight, will also give Mid America visibility into cost and service metrics, and they will be able to pull all types of data sets around transportation,” McTigue continues. “They will be able to drill down to the vendor or customer level.”
Pirkle says as Mid America grows, it needs a TMS that can grow with it, expediting tracking functions and checking shipping costs. “We needed a system from a company with superior experience that could help us leverage that experience with carriers. C.H. Robinson is a 3PL leader. We will be able to piggyback their expertise and knowledge of the trends and challenges facing logistics companies. Before, only working with spot loads and various carriers, we were not able to track trends. We were only working toward a rate, not a logistics proficiency that creates better experiences for our team and our customers. Loads must be picked up and delivered on time; it’s a top priority. Being able to scorecard these metrics in real time holistically, by vendor or customer, we will be able to identify opportunities and make recommendations to improve.”
The transportation business is experiencing a seismic shift in terms of digital transformation and disruption. Recycled materials brokers like Mid America that used to manage their own transport needs must now rethink their options, from adopting emerging technologies to automating fleet and carrier strategies.
In the business for 90-plus years, forming additional strategic partnerships with paper packaging firms, material recovery facilities (MRF)s and recycling plants to ensure continuous movement of material loads and high market values, Mid America has been moving the needle in the recycling space throughout the Central U.S. using its robust, continuous improvement process. Flexibility and agility are crucial. Thus, its procedures and strategies will continue to evolve.
“The speed of change has never been faster in the transportation industry,” McTigue affirms. “Our base of over 76,000 contract carriers is adopting new technologies that allow customers like Mid America to get near real-time visibility on where their products are at a moment’s notice and create solutions to mitigate transportation issues before they occur.
Talking to Paul, I get excited about the opportunity to turn transportation into a competitive advantage for Mid America.”
Pirkle says Navisphere will streamline Mid America’s access to business-critical data and help reduce freight rates without the need to check and recheck order status and inventory levels. “Already, our response times have improved,” he says. “Our CSRs are responding well to the improvements and will have more time to focus on customer needs.”
Processing waste materials is more complex every day. But these upgrades will allow Mid America to exceed customer and supplier requirements more quickly and effectively. “If we learn what our customers and colleagues need up front, we’ll be that much more ahead,” Pirkle says.