A key factor in Crowley’s successful support of U.S. warfighters under the federal Defense Freight Transportation Services (DFTS) contract is building successful partnerships with small businesses.
By working together, Crowley and those businesses leverage and maximize transportation management services for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).
Case in point: the strong growth of Virginia Transport of Chicago, a broker and certified U.S. HUB Zone small business that focuses on both shippers' and carriers' needs. The HUB Zone designation means the company operates in “historically underutilized business” areas by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
President Dean Norris credits Crowley’s support for helping the company succeed. Founded 2 1/2 years ago, Virginia Transport had five employees before beginning work with Crowley. Now, the company has grown to 15 employees. In the process, Virginia Transport’s load volume has increased from 30-40 orders each month to 300-400 monthly.
The success has allowed the company to ensure employees have health care benefits and business training opportunities – many of whom never had health insurance before, Norris said. Employees have told him that the experience has prompted them to pursue more career development and education to continue enhancing their own lives.
“When Crowley got involved, it opened a whole new realm of possibilities. Crowley created an environment for us where we felt like we had a mentor, a support team, someone who held us accountable, which is important,” Norris said. “We probably needed our feet held to the fire. Knowing that Crowley was behind us was what enabled us to move forward as a small business.”
Encouraging Small Business Logistics
The vast network of dozens of defense logistics locations served under DFTS stretches across North America and needs to be flexible and responsive to manage complex schedules and inventory needs. That requires transportation management that is integrated - and that maximizes the efficiency of partners, often small businesses, that serve as brokers or carriers. Those small businesses play a key role under Crowley’s government services team, ensuring cargo arrives at scheduled time for customers.
In fact, Crowley has exceeded DFTS contract requirements for small business engagement. It’s part of a carrier development strategy that focuses on engagement and relationship building, so Crowley and partners both succeed in a program that handles 1,800 moves daily.
“We don’t concentrate on working with transactional, ‘one-time only‘ shipment carriers. We focus on working with strategic carriers, and we build long-term, best-in-class relationships that benefit our customer, carriers and Crowley,” said Jerome Thomas, manager, carrier development, for Crowley. “We mentor small business carriers and help them navigate the challenges of military freight because we know their success translates into success for the DoD and agencies that depend on our supply chain management services. This value-added process allows Crowley and small business carriers to provide a high-performance solution that supports our warfighters.”
To achieve growth with higher load volume under Crowley, Norris realized Virginia Transport needed to develop and segment its capabilities to manage transportation services for freight. This “dynamic change,” he said, meant enhancing track-and-trace capabilities, dispatch, fulfillment and rate management. Working with Thomas and Crowley’s freight transportation professionals, Norris said they had a partner that is unusually strong at providing teamwork and support.
“It’s one thing for a company to tell you what they need you to do,” Norris said. “It’s another thing to be as patient and as understanding where they have the people in place to support your work while holding you accountable. There were times I would be told the performance had to be at a different level. I never felt that I didn’t have Crowley’s support. There was an understanding and a patience.”
Crowley has combined its elite culture with innovative transportation management technology that enables the most efficient execution of moves for small businesses. For DFTS, that means using 3Gtms transportation management system (TMS) technology to deliver full and less-than-truckload (FTL/LTL) optimization. The multi-modal TMS serves as the backbone for all defense surface transportation activities at vendor facilities and military installations. It ensures volume is carried out efficiently by carriers and brokers.
That, paired with Crowley’s teamwork, has enabled Virginia Transport and other small businesses to develop and support warfighter needs – whether they involve pallet loads, specialized moves, large-scale unit moves and access to all equipment types. Crowley’s management gave them the support – and the DoD gets the supply chain speed it needs under the DFTS contract.
“That’s what Crowley does – I really can’t believe there’s any other company that does that,” Norris said.