A Ready-Mix Transport Solution

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Chemical manufacturer Degussa cements its partnership with a bulk transport provider so it can focus on its core business, meet safety requirements, reduce billing cycle time, and improve customer service.

Manufacturers are particular about the carriers they associate with, for good reason. Successful customer relationships often hinge as much on timely and reliable shipments as they do on the quality of the product being delivered.

Such is the case with the successful partnership between Degussa Construction Chemicals Operations Inc., Cleveland, Ohio, and bulk freight carrier DistTech, Newberry, Ohio.

Degussa, which manufactures and distributes high-performance chemicals used in manufacturing concrete, has relied on the due course of time rather than due diligence to settle on a bulk transportation partner.

For its part, DistTech has had more than 40 years to make an impression and lay the foundation for an innovative and dependable partnership with Degussa.

Degussa and Manfredi Motor Transit Co.—which changed its name to DistTech in 2004 to reflect its marriage of transportation and technology capabilities—came of age together, growing up and out of the Midwest in the mid 1960s. Manfredi earned a reputation for hauling milk regionally in Ohio following World War II; Degussa evolved as the North American admixture branch of its German forebear.

A Concrete Partnership

"We came to market with the idea of delivering bulk concrete chemicals to our customers," says John Casto, distribution manager for Degussa. "Manfredi dedicated a few trucks to our business and made deliveries in Ohio. As we moved across the country, it built terminals where we built plants."

"We were two companies looking at growth initiatives—one to grow its market, the other to grow its business—and our partnership has evolved from there," adds Mike Maloney, DistTech's program manager for Degussa.

Because of the nature of Degussa's bulk chemical shipments, safety and security are essential. So is taking special care to properly prepare equipment and shipments, educate drivers, and track shipments through to delivery.

Degussa sells to producers of ready-mixed and precast concrete, and manufactured concrete products such as pipe, roof tile, block, segmental retaining wall, and pavers. It also serves contractors engaged in concrete paving, mining, and underground construction. With nearly all its bulk shipments transported via tanker truck, Degussa employs DistTech's dedicated fleet to meet its market challenges.

Degussa uses the carrier's specialized multi-compartment trailers to transport 30 different liquid admixtures from nine plants and two distribution centers to end users throughout North America. It currently contracts approximately 100 trucks as well as drivers from DistTech.

"As businesses contract, fuel prices rise, and supply chain partners change the way they do business, the only way to guarantee capacity is through using a dedicated fleet," says Casto. "Also, in the post-Sept. 11 world, tanker trucks and their drivers are looked at through a microscope."

Balancing the Business

The onus placed on specialty manufacturers to hire drivers, maintain fleets, and navigate federal rules and regulations ultimately detracts from focusing on the core business. Having previously owned and operated a fleet in its early days, Degussa was acutely aware of the challenges of balancing both responsibilities, says Casto.

"We couldn't manage transportation ourselves—we needed a professional company to help us. A concrete admixture company should not be running a trucking company," he says.

Degussa relies on DistTech to hire qualified drivers, and to keep track of its tractors and trailers to prevent theft.

"DistTech owns the fleet, but we support it," Casto explains. "DistTech drivers wear our uniforms, and some of the trucks carry our logo. Everybody works toward the common goal of getting products to our customers."

DistTech provides a full array of liquid and dry bulk logistics services, with more than 25 locations in North America strategically placed to meet the needs of companies such as Degussa. But most importantly, DistTech is a ready and willing partner that meets Degussa's transportation demands, and invests in technology and equipment to make its business more effective.

Degussa's dedicated fleet, for example, is outfitted with a Global Positioning System (GPS) that allows the manufacturer to track its trucks' movements and communicate in real time with its drivers. Drivers relay information to Degussa's main office quickly and efficiently, creating an environment that can swiftly manage exceptions and reroute shipments when problems occur.

"We are looking to expand these capabilities so Degussa's drivers can immediately bill customers from the cab after a delivery," says Maloney. It is also working on giving drivers the ability, in the event of a theft, to shut trucks down using a satellite system.

Over the past few years, DistTech has helped reduce Degussa's billing cycle by 60 percent, using satellite technology and driver interaction.

"After drivers make a delivery, they can input data into the computer in their trucks, and Degussa initiates billing right away," explains Maloney.

This real-time interface goes beyond technology. DistTech staff has been on site at Degussa's headquarters for the past 15 years to coordinate and manage shipments from the heart of its operation.

DistTech's on-site presence provides Degussa visibility of information coming from trucks and trailers, and lets it know when problems occur at the border with customs, or with customers.

"We can coordinate with DistTech's staff, contact the sales office, come up with a solution, and get back to drivers within minutes of a call," says Casto.

DistTech's on-site presence is particularly important because it handles both outbound and inbound product shipments for Degussa.

"We have expanded DistTech's presence at the home office to handle 90 percent of inbound shipments. This gives us a competitive edge in the marketplace," says Casto. "It also allows us to look at the big picture and identify backhaul opportunities so we don't run deadhead miles all the time. We can do that more easily with both companies in one place operating in real time."

Continued Growth

With fuel costs, emissions regulations, and safety issues threatening sustainable growth, DistTech continues to explore ways it can help Degussa mitigate transportation costs while fostering greater environmental awareness and safety in the supply chain.

"We are using new trucks with automatic transmission to see if we can drive fuel efficiency in our fleets, especially with younger, less-experienced drivers," says Maloney.

"We depend on DistTech to make sure its equipment and drivers comply with federal environmental regulations," adds Casto. "Because we have dedicated drivers who deliver the same products on the same routes, we have few contamination issues. We also have monthly safety meetings with DistTech and our drivers to communicate policies and address potential concerns."

But the creation of a mutually inclusive environment that thrives on both companies' respective strengths is the greatest asset of this partnership. It, in turn, helps Degussa better meet customer demands.

"Degussa's customers understand that our system helps serve their needs," explains Maloney.

That, and a 40-year partnership cemented in trust, should keep both companies going strong.

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