FREIGHT BROKERAGE SERVICES have been in the middle of the spotlight, more so in the past two years than ever before. The supply chain is being stressed in new ways every week whether it be at the ports, as natural disasters or as labor strikes.
It’s at these times when the efforts of TIA are needed most. Who has the carriers back? Who is looking out for the shippers that need to get their cargo from point A to point B? Bringing to light the efforts of the third-party logistics companies that are working day and night to connect raw goods suppliers with manufacturers and retailers is critical now more than ever.
To get a first-hand understanding of the challenges facing the supply chain today, we reached out to some of our carriers, shippers, and broker colleagues to hear what they say they are doing to overcome these historic challenges.
Ryan Viessman, Cliff Viessman, Inc.
We asked Ryan Viessman of Cliff Viessman, Inc. to tell us about the challenges the company has experienced over the last couple of years and what he sees as the key to moving forward through 2022 and beyond.
“The last couple years obviously has been a challenge for everyone. It seems it may have leveled off a little bit. As far as [our company], we’re just trying to handle our regular freight for our regular customers, because it seems like they continue to gain more customers. I think some of the other shippers are having difficulty getting trucks out of Chicago into Wisconsin, and we’re able to cover those loads out of our location in Minnesota.”
Has the past couple of years changed the way you do business? “We’ve probably concentrated a little bit more on taking on business that is local, where drivers are home daily. We’re also working with other shippers on rail to truck transfer in the upper Midwest and the south.”
Ryan’s thoughts on how to move forward are like those shared by other carriers and brokers we’ve spoken with recently, “We need to be friendly competitors. We’re all in the same boat. We don’t have enough help. We need to work together to utilize the assets we do have.”
Carla Davis, Marketing Director, Sweet Additions
To gain the perspective of a shipping customer, we spoke with Carla Davis, Marketing Director at Sweet Additions, a manufacturer of natural and organic sweeteners.
“Starting back in 2020 with the pandemic, it was an unprecedented disruption in the supply chain, and I don’t think anyone initially understood how this was going to affect demand forecasting for food ingredients. So, it was interesting to see in some of the articles that oat milk, hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes were the leading items people were looking for. When all these items started to surge, one being shelf stable items like oat milk, candy, and snack foods, we had to react.
Some of our biggest challenges were from the raw materials standpoint. We have this huge demand for oat milk now and we’re seeing record commodity prices for oats at the same time there are shortages of materials. The things we learned from that was to stay informed. We had to get alongside some of our key customers and figure out how to keep our materials flowing with increased port congestion and rising freight costs. What we learned was how to keep our relationships really strong with our customers. Open communication. I do think the food ingredients supply chain is going to be volatile for quite some time, due to some economic factors right now that we’re all aware of. What we really found out is that we had to keep our relationships strong and transparent with our key providers.”
Randy Niemeyer: Niemeyer Logistics, Inc.
And finally, we spoke with Randy Niemeyer of Niemeyer Logistics and Niemeyer Milk Transfer, Inc. to gain his perspectives as both a broker and a carrier in the liquid food and dairy industry.
“The first part of this is the marketplace volatility. That’s one of the challenges—just how quickly cost structures are changing. That is what I think is the biggest change we’ve seen, and a challenge is how quickly everything is changing, almost sometimes on a daily basis.
We are trying to find ways in this supply and demand business of food, to give people the home time they want. Adjustments in mentality, adjustments in the entire chain is going to be paramount for us to keep the capacity that we have; to be able to supply the customers whether they’re on the production or processing side.
The other part of the supply chain that’s still the most important is people. How do we start as an industry in food, to connect people with the types of employment opportunities that are becoming more commonplace in the modern marketplace?
We have to figure out how to shift our workplaces to give people more workplace flexibility. How do we create connecting points somewhere in between that allows for us to have lifestyle with productivity, because traditionally in trucking you can either have a lifestyle or you can have productivity. Today’s young people, men, and women both, when they’re looking for careers, one of the main things they look for is not money, they look for time off and opportunities to pursue things of their liking. Work is more of a conduit to enjoyment in other parts of life, rather than a conduit to being a part of a bigger picture of an economy. How do we create a model that an 18-year-old, looking at their career choices says, ‘you know what, that career choice provides me a good living and a good life.’ For so long in trucking, shipping, and manufacturing it’s been one or the other. You either make a good living or you have a good life. Therein lies the million dollar question: ‘How do we do that?’”
I think as we go forward, some of the answers to this lie in paying attention to what the human trends are in the job place right now. What are people looking for? They’re looking for more flexibility too. They want to be able to make sure that they’re present for life events, that for generations, especially men, have missed. I think as we go forward we need to focus on what human beings are doing today, and we need to close those gaps.
People want the American standard of life and income without the historical American standard of work. If you wrap up everything in a nutshell in the supply chain, there’s your disconnect.
“I think there’s a way to find a blend to where we can still kick butt in the marketplace, and Dad can still be at Johnny’s T-ball game. That’s going to be the trick. The industries that have found that don’t have a problem with employees or that part of their supply chain.
Start with the people side of this, the rest of it will fall into place.”
The path toward improving our industry and solving the various supply chain problems is becoming clear. Turn our focus to better understand how to evolve through the utilization of technology and workplace innovation to create a better work experience for the people that make up the backbone of the food supply industry. We all play a part to help each other challenge ourselves to reinvent how we care for each other.