Ascend Transport Group is building a predictable, robust, full truckload network to deliver the predictability e-commerce and high velocity industries demand
They are Ascend Transport Group, an assemblage of full truckload transportation and 3PL experts dedicated to futurizing the critical middle mile shipment sector that e-commerce providers depend on for their success.
After a storied career at UPS and a stint at Amazon, where he built out their middle mile truckload brokerage group, Michael McLary formed Ascend in 2019. Witnessing the marketplace shifting from long haul transportation to shorter length of haul movements, the CEO knew that the nascent holding company’s success would depend on synchronization in high quality, on time service. “I felt it was a trend we’d continue to see as we move into the future, especially as e-commerce continues to grow.”
McLary brought together industry colleagues specializing in sales, marketing, operations, safety, and maintenance, and brought the concept of the Ascend Group to a strong, supportive financial backer. “In February 2019, we hit the ground running and started looking for small to medium-sized truckload dry van carriers that could fit in our portfolio. We also wanted companies that would help us build density in very specific geographic markets.” The first acquisitions closed in October: Milan Supply Chain Solutions of Milan, Tenn,. and their sister provider J&B Services of Tupelo, Miss.
The middle mile piece of the supply chain requires a formidable amount of precision to meet promised delivery times, especially given the furious pace of e-commerce delivery turnarounds. McLary paints the nail-biting transportation scenario this way:
“If you’re working with a Fortune 100 or Fortune 50 company you need to be able to pick up trailers and get them into the distribution center in a sequenced manner that allows you to unload the dock. You can't be late. If they're scheduling a time window of two hours and you're late by six hours, it's a waste of time for the distributor, and a waste of money because they have people waiting for the truck and trailer to be positioned.”
Hitting the Mark
That quick inventory turn at the distribution center requires tight inbound synchronization with vendors. “There are lots of different movements coming out of a distribution center,” he said. “You may have 10,000 packages in a trailer, and if they're not delivered to the sort center in time you're not going to meet the final mile delivery commitment. It's a big requirement for shippers and retailers for making sure that you get your trailers position to the right time, fill the trailer, move it to the sort center in an expeditious fashion, and you're also meeting that scheduled pickup and delivery time window.”
“As last mile deliveries gain speed, we'll continue to see that proliferate into the future. All retailers will have the need to make sure that they're getting packages delivered to customers in a timely fashion.
“Having said that, the trailer carrying those 10,000 packages that needs to get to a sorting center to be mixed and put on smaller trucks for the final mile has to show up on time.
“If you're missing that delivery window and if your service is not consistent, you're going to miss that final mile pickup and drop-off at the customer. That’s a big shift as e-commerce continues to grow. To me, it's a mode shift. You'll have more and more volume being bifurcated away from brick-and-mortar stores and moved into a defined supply chain. Within that e-commerce supply chain you've got to have the right service offering, that synchronized high-quality, to make sure you get to the sortation centers, which gets us to the final mile.”
“What we see from a customer shipper perspective is increased complexity,” stressed Milan president Kevin Charlebois. “That complexity comes down to supply chains becoming tighter. There are shorter lead times and shorter lengths of haul to distribute products, and the demand for fast and reliable service is at a premium.” Supply chain regionalization is key to managing those abbreviated hauls and lead times.
”What's most important is to understand the challenges in the customer supply chain,” he said. “For example, we had a customer with distribution issues and major issues with damage and on-time delivery. Oversight was needed at a very high level that their former partner couldn’t provide.” Delving deep into their pain points, the group created an offering that covered their full distribution needs, aligned with their transportation needs, and then provided brokerage opportunities to better manage their capacity needs. “We provided a very flexible, scalable model and we're duplicating that across all our customers. First and foremost, it’s understanding where the opportunities are and then being able to provide solutions around them.”
Delivering for Employees
Ascend Transport Group offers full solutions in over-the-road, local deliveries, brokerage, yard management, and shuttle services, custom tailoring their offerings to meet customer needs. A sophisticated transportation management platform combines best in class and proprietary technology to create consistency for shippers, and predictability for drivers.
“Milan built a very predictable network and they have really satisfied drivers,” McLary noted. “You've got an industry that's getting hit with 100% churn rates from a driver perspective, and we are able to tell them, ‘You're going to be on a scheduled route, you know what you're going to drive every day, you'll get to know your pickup point and the people at the pickup side and the people at the delivery side, and by the way you can get home at night.’ It becomes very attractive. When you have your technology in place, having that vision and customer centricity, you end up with satisfied shippers and employees. I think that's really smart.” Also smart? Being in the top quartile of the industry’s best paying drivers.
“We are building solutions that fit the changing dynamics in supply chains with a focus on high-quality, highly consistent service that leverages technology. On the back end we’re building density that helps lower the cost for all of our customers,” McLary concluded. “Our solutions for drivers are predictable and very attractive, and we bring scale benefits for potential partners. We leverage our ability to buy in large increments to lower Insurance, maintenance, and asset procurement costs, and create shared service groups that really support potential operating companies. It’s very attractive when everyone benefits.” Pretty smart for a one year-old. We can’t wait to see what the terrific twos have in store for this rising new entity.
We are a 3PL, Truckload and Brokerage business providing shippers alternatives that balance always changing market dynamics and supply chain complexities. Our solutions leverage technology to increase network density and coverage driving efficiencies, lowering costs and improving service.
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