For logistics leader Universal Logistics, being on point is all part of the plan.
With earnings of $1 billion annually, Universal Logistics Holdings, Inc. (Universal) is one of the leading truckload transporters in North America. Universal operates some of the largest high-velocity materials handling operations in the industry.
This year, the company was once again added to the list of 100 3PL Providers compiled by Inbound Logistics.
According to the magazine in 2015, “Universal was selected because its solutions solve specific logistics challenges and improve processes, and create a ripple effect of efficiencies across the entire value chain.”
The common thread among all customers in each of the several markets served by Universal is the need for a supply chain partner that will give them a true competitive edge. The search for the right partner focuses on finding service providers that are experienced, demonstrate proven results, and can deliver the advantages they’re searching for, whether upstream or downstream in the supply chain.
“Customers want a winning cost model,” explains Mike Bautch, Universal’s Chief Customer Officer. “They’re trying to invest their time and capital where they can make or sell more units and get a higher return on that capital, so it quickly lends itself to working with a partner like Universal.”
Leveraging Agility and Scalability
Keeping assets to a minimum enables Universal to provide critical support in whatever way a customer might need, regardless of complexity.
Universal CEO, Jeff Rogers, described it this way: “We really like to call ourselves ‘asset right’, which means we take whatever the customer needs, whether it be assets or asset light or non-asset applications, to solve their supply chain problems. We turn our philosophy at Universal into ‘asset right’ versus ‘asset light’.”
The company’s technology, which is developed internally, is proprietary.
“We made the decision to do that a long time ago for all the right reasons. It allows us to customize our solutions based upon what the customer needs,” explained Joe Goryl, Universal’s VP of Sales and Marketing.
The choice allows Universal to deliver customized solutions that quickly integrate with the applications their customers use.
“In a lot of cases, we have to be joined at the hip with our customers from a data standpoint. We have the internal means in terms of development to accomplish that,” Goryl added.
Universal’s warehouse management system, AccuLinc, enables customers to see their inventory in real time as it is being handled.
“In terms of inventory accuracy, it’s an absolute industry leader and that’s something that’s really big for our customers,” said Goryl.
Rogers sums up the technology challenge for the logistics industry with good-natured candor.
“We are diverse and we want to be the warehousing, pure transportation, intermodal, and pure truckload brokerage partner of choice, and these roles are all at different places from a technology perspective,” he noted.
“At the end of the day, what customers are really looking for, especially in transportation, is ‘where’s my stuff?’”
Despite vociferous discussions in industry circles about supply chains becoming completely transparent, Rogers unmasked the reality of that future vision.
“That’s where everybody’s trying to get to but it’s much harder to do than everybody talks about,” he admitted. Difficulty notwithstanding, Universal is working toward that new reality with every technological and strategic innovation they deploy.
Talent Insights and the Importance of Results
One of the most frustrating challenges faced by logistics company C-suites is the search for great employees.
“We feel the talent challenge,” said Bautch. “If you’re going to grow in this business, you have to step back and look at it in a couple of ways. First, you have to ask how the marketplace overall can be growing at less than three percent year after year, but companies are having double-digit percentages of need in supply chain.
“So many jobs within companies that were placed elsewhere in the past find themselves mapped to a new organization called supply chain. You see that area growing in each and every company out there, so I think that’s part of that growth,” he suggested.
“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, supply chain positions will experience an employment increase of approximately 22 percent by 2022. We feel it, so it validates what we’re doing when it comes to hiring and attracting the talent of the future.”
CEO Rogers agreed.
“That, without a doubt, is the most critical thing today, and the most difficult because it’s so hard to find top-notch talent, so I spend a great deal of my time working with our company leadership to do that.”
Today’s struggles will soon be a thing of the past as more and more colleges and universities add supply chain programs into their curriculum. For now, Rogers is focusing on building a performance-based culture within the firm anchored to the mantra, “results matter.”
“People always equate that with financial results, and those are absolutely important and we want to drive financial reports because that’s ultimately what we’re measured on, but performance also means respect and treating each other with a high level of integrity,” he said.
Goryl has a theory about the interest in supply chain work.
“I think why supply chain jobs are growing so fast compared with other pieces is because businesses are understanding that, ‘if I’m a manufacturer of widgets, I don’t need to be a transportation expert. If I manufacture autos, I don’t necessarily have to be a logistics and transportation expert.’ That’s what Universal does. That’s what other 3PLs do.
“It gives companies a chance to focus on, prioritize, and optimize what they do best if they allow companies like Universal to do what we do best. And I think that’s when the partnership really works between a company and a 3PL logistics expert like Universal.”
Bautch added, “It’s a pretty exciting time to be in logistics.” Universal’s satisfied customers certainly think so.
Universal Logistics Holdings, Inc., is a leading asset-light provider of customized transportation and logistics solutions throughout the United States, Mexico, Colombia, and Canada. We provide our customers with supply chain solutions that can be scaled to meet their changing demands and volumes. We offer our customers a broad array of services across their entire supply chain, including transportation, value-added, intermodal, air, ocean, and customs brokerage.
Headquartered in Michigan, Universal is listed on the NASDAQ Global Market Exchange (NASDAQ: ULH), and generates revenues in excess of $1 billion annually.
Universal serves a wide variety of customers in wide-ranging industries, including: Aerospace, Automotive, Retail and Consumer Goods, Energy, Government, Industrial Manufacturing, Steel and Metals, and Healthcare.
Universal Logistics HQ
12755 E. 9 Mile Road
Warren, MI 48089