Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Load Warriors

" My rigs a little old but that don't mean she's slow. There's a flame from her stack and the smoke's rolling black as coal. My home town's coming in sight, if you think I'm happy your right. Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight" DAVE DUDLEY

As you sip coffee from your cup this morning, have you ever stopped to contemplate the full extent of how the mug itself wound up in front of yours?

In other words, the process by which your cup left some factory and wound up on a shelf at a business somewhere, where cash could be exchanged for that item.

This thrill ride usually begins with a phone call to a guy like Norm.

Norm is in the sales department and on the other end of the line is a mug manufacturer, needing to ensure sure those cups wind up on those store shelves near you. On time and on budget. Depending on how Norm handles that conversation, the person on the other end of the line will move from being a prospect to becoming a paying customer, with a newly-created account ready to move your mug to the next fifteen steps of this process.

Julie will calculate the rates.
Ruth will input the billing.
Heather will ensure the bill gets paid.
Rod will involve his customer service people.
Larry will allocate operational resources.
Mike will assign the drivers.
Gary will determine what's needed at the terminal.
Marie will enter and code the shipment.
Wayne will dispatch the load.
Brad will decide how the account is handled on the dock.
Joey will check off rigs going through the gate.
Dean will make sure forklift drivers are ready.
Brian will cross reference the waybill numbers.
Andrew will inspect the load to ensure proper packing.

and George will review the manifest, complete a pre-trip inspection of the tractor as well as the trailer and confirm the trip with dispatch before hauling your mug and other freight through hundreds of miles of constantly changing weather and traffic conditions.

This is but a mere snapshot of what unfolds behind-the-curtain, managing just one of the more than 6,000 accounts serviced each day by Armour Transportation Systems. Headquartered in Moncton, NB, there are at least sixteen major links in the Armour customer fulfillment chain, supporting more than 7,000 daily shipments, through 23 terminals, achieving an on-time performance rating of more than 95%.

Most business models have no more than 4 or 5 major links involved in completing a customer transaction. What makes Armour and many other companies in the trucking industry stand out is the quietly effective manner in which they get the job done.

Quietly winning far more battles than they lose each day.

Without any fanfare or hype.

They are the Load Warriors of our economy; always on the front lines, working silently under the cultural and business radar.

Completing that volume of customer transactions in such a seamless manner would see most companies placed on a corporate pedestal in much the same fashion as Apple, Oracle or Virgin. But when was the last time you saw a guy like Wes Armour or any other trucking magnate splashed on the cover of major business magazines and idolized the same way as a Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison or Richard Branson? Chances are that won’t happen anytime soon since there aren’t many people in the transportation sector beating their chests about how great they are and how the rest of the world needs to know it. As a group, folks with diesel in their DNA don't have time or inclination to boast. It's just not in their blue collar genes.

People in trucking - on and off the road – tend to let their work speak for itself.

Some quickly dismiss trucking industry types as "rough around the edges" sorts who wound up where they are more by accident than by design. This, from a recent conversation, overheard at Starbucks:

"Well, ya know Joey could always get a get a job drivin' a truck. It's not like you need to be educated or nothin' and he'd fit right in. It's not like what you would call a professional environment where ya need a degree. Just gotta know how to drive and move shit around".

Many "educated" business professionals would be hard-pressed to duplicate the track record of efficiency established at Armour and many other companies in the transportation industry. The white collar world would also find it difficult to match the unique mix of, systemic sophistication, understated excellence as well as salt-of-the-earth humility you will in people involved in the trucking business. What you will discover is otherwise ordinary, everyday people doing extraordinary work.

Take a moment and look around at the items surrounding you right now in your home or office. Whether it's that cup you are holding, that chair you are sitting on or that computer you are staring at, it's fair to say ..."If you bought it, a truck brought it".

Our entire economy depends on a network of logistical, mechanical and human systems far more complex than a bunch of red neck, beer-bellied guys just jamming gears, driving steel horses from Point-A to Point-B.

Next time you pass a road hammer moving one of those 53-foot billboards, think about the team behind that driver making it all possible. Consider, if you will, the many hidden links in the chain supporting that load and the often thankless, far from glamorous jobs people do, making sure the wheels of commerce keep turning.

How does your customer fulfillment track record match up with what trucking professionals accomplish each day?

Is there something your business could learn from these heroes of the highway?

"Please bless my husband while he's out on the road. Please protect him from the wind and rain and cold. Help him to keep that big rig between the white lines so he can make it to his destination on time. May he find his back-haul quickly and make it home soon. Please light his night on the road with your stars and moon. Let him rest peacefully in his sleeper's bed, and please let there be a good meal and fresh coffee at the truck stop ahead. Help me to keep the home fires burning while he's out there movin' on. And give me the strength and wisdom to take care of things while he's gone. May the road he travels be clear and dry, and may not temptation catch his eye. Help him remember when he's all alone that his loving wife and best friend is waiting for him here at home" LINDA SMITH


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