Logistics Leadership: The New Spirit of St. Louis

Logistics Leadership: The New Spirit of St. Louis

Site selection decision-makers choose the St. Louis area for its central location, outstanding transportation infrastructure, and dedication to pursuing economic growth.


Logistics & Educational Assets

Before Charles Lindbergh could even contemplate his solo flight across the Atlantic, he needed financial backers willing to take a risk on his idea. He found them in the city of St. Louis, and named his plane The Spirit of St. Louis in their honor.

Today, that same independent, yet cooperative vision can be found throughout the region surrounding St. Louis. Encompassing parts of Missouri and Illinois, the area has become a logistics hub. Call it the new Spirit of St. Louis.

Representing a broad community of business leaders united for economic prosperity throughout the entire St. Louis bi-state region, the St. Louis Regional Chamber is dedicated to making the area one of the top 10 most prosperous regions in the United States. And it has a lot of tools to work with, including a transportation and logistics infrastructure that is second to none.

“The St. Louis region has long been recognized as the key to the heartland, a leading center for trade and distribution,” says Louis Copilevitz, director of logistics and advanced manufacturing for the St. Louis Regional Chamber. “The region’s multimodal transportation network is globally connected. St. Louis offers unobstructed access to roads, water, rail, air, and pipeline—in all directions—positioning the region as a booming epicenter of commerce.”

Four relatively uncongested interstate highways connect the St. Louis area to locations north, south, east, and west. Trucks leaving the St. Louis area can reach 70 percent of the U.S. population within 48 hours.

The region offers access to the third-largest rail terminal in the United States, linking six Class I railroads with more than 4,000 miles of track. St. Louis is also home to the nation’s second-largest inland port, the Port of Metropolitan St. Louis.

The St. Louis region also has access to two airports—Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, serving FedEx and UPS hubs, and MidAmerica St. Louis Airport—both of which are located in designated foreign trade zones.

Combining the region’s easy-to-navigate, four-tiered transportation infrastructure with its central location creates a recipe for business success, affording local companies some of the lowest shipping costs anywhere in the country.

Prime Location

The St. Louis metropolitan region, which extends across the Mississippi River into Illinois, boasts a network of interstates, rail service, two airports, and an inland port, providing a wealth of intermodal shipping options.

Located within 500 miles of 30 percent of the U.S. population, the St. Louis region is the sixth-largest center for wholesale trade not located on a coastal port or international border crossing.

“The St. Louis region allows companies to bring their supply chains and products closer to customers by providing quick, efficient, and cost-effective transportation to the rest of the country,” says Copilevitz. “The area is, on average, less than a three-hour flight from nearly everywhere in the United States.”

Over-the-Road Reach

Items shipped by truck from the bi-state region reach 70 percent of the U.S. population within 48 hours.

United They Stand

Enhancing St. Louis’ appeal for site selection teams is the spirit of cooperation that exists among government entities, business groups, and private enterprise. Today, area governments and civic organizations are working together to attract businesses and investment dollars to grow the regional economy.

Those relationships often cross state lines. Illinois and Missouri have enjoyed a longstanding partnership that began in 1949 with the formation of the Bi-State Development Agency. Now known as Metro, this organization works to improve the region’s transportation resources.

In addition, the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, a transportation planning organization, provides a forum for local governments in the bi-state area to work together to address issues and opportunities that cross jurisdictional boundaries. The new $670-million bridge connecting downtown St. Louis with Southwestern Illinois represents a shining example of the cooperation between the two sides of the Mississippi.

Like so many civic organizations in the St. Louis area, Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois takes a regional approach to growth. The organization was formed in 1983 to promote growth in Madison and St. Clair counties, as well as surrounding counties in Southwestern Illinois.

“The Leadership Council was founded to address issues that might impede economic growth in the region,” says Ellen Krohne, executive director of the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois. “That mission still holds true today.”

For 31 years, Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois has served to create a united voice among its members and the many community-based organizations it works with, partnering on initiatives that have helped re-shape the business environment in Southwestern Illinois.

The Leadership Council is actively involved in helping to enhance the region’s logistics assets.

“A lot of land is available around both Scott Air Force Base and MidAmerica Airport,” says Krohne. “That represents a growth area for companies involved in air cargo. But this region’s access to highway transportation infrastructure, and the U.S. inland waterway system, are also major benefits.”

Big-Name Beneficiaries

The area is home to four major industrial parks, and supports logistics and manufacturing operations for leading companies and brands such as Procter & Gamble, Walgreens, Target, FedEx, and World Wide Technology.

“Companies of this caliber do their homework,” notes Krohne. “They locate in the St. Louis area because they know it is a great place to do business and grow.”

In addition to its location, Southwestern Illinois offers a qualified labor pool companies can access for logistics and manufacturing operations.

“Many people stationed at Scott Air Force Base stay in the area after they have completed their military service,” Krohne explains. “That gives us tremendous intellectual capital when it comes to people who have experience with logistics and understand supply chain operations.”

The Leadership Council’s role in addressing impediments to growth in the region is demonstrated in its response to FEMA’s efforts to remap the American Bottoms area in Southwestern Illinois and classify it as a special flood hazard area.

When FEMA made its plans known in 2006, the Leadership Council stepped in, working with the East-West Gateway Council of Governments on the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention initiative to rebuild the five levee systems in Madison, St. Clair, and Monroe counties that protect the American Bottoms.

“The area extends well beyond the river, and is home to more than 255 major companies,” says Krohne. “The FEMA designation would have killed growth in the area, and put a tremendous insurance burden on area businesses.”

Organized Action

The Leadership Council helped organize the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council to battle FEMA’s de-accreditation of the 74-mile levee system. The group was instrumental in passing legislation and creating a sales tax to help fix the levees protecting the American Bottoms.

“We worked together to repair the levees to the 100-year level, so we avoided the FEMA designation,” says Krohne. “The project is on schedule, and the work should be completed by 2015.”

Looking out for local businesses is a common goal in the St. Louis region. World Trade Center (WTC) St. Louis is a regional organization that helps companies throughout metropolitan St. Louis, Missouri, and Southern Illinois reach international markets.

Established in 1993 to develop a comprehensive international business agenda for the region, WTC St. Louis has helped its clients achieve nearly $250 million in new business globally.

In the Zone

That figure could grow dramatically over the next few years. Working through a partnership with the St. Louis Port Authority, WTC St. Louis manages a foreign trade zone (FTZ) that is paving the way for companies importing products from international markets.

“Through this new program, we can help companies take advantage of, and capitalize on, new and exciting markets worldwide,” says Ana Romero-Lizana, director of International Business Development for WTC St. Louis. “Now, companies can import raw materials without paying duty until those goods ship from the FTZ.”

While the FTZ program has existed since 1934, the U.S. Foreign Trade Board modified it in 2009 to be more business- and investment-friendly. The FTZ managed by WTC St. Louis, for example, allows companies to be approved under an initiative called the Alternative Site Framework (ASF).

“ASF allows companies to have part of their own warehouse—or even an entire manufacturing facility—designated as an FTZ,” Romero-Lizana says. “Under the old rules, to be part of an FTZ, businesses had to move imported goods to a certain area and operate there. Now, however, a facility can be designated as an FTZ as long as it is within a 60-mile radius of an approved FTZ area. In St. Louis, this includes Lambert St. Louis Airport.”

Adding Up the Benefits

Operating within an FTZ offers many distinct competitive advantages, including improved cash flow. “For example, a company importing $215,000 worth of goods requiring a six-percent duty immediately saves $15,000,” Romero-Lizana explains.

“Leading companies locate operations in the St. Louis region because they know it is a great place to do business and grow.” Ellen Krohne, Executive Director, Leadership Council of Southwestern Illinois

While companies must still pay duties on merchandise leaving an FTZ for a domestic location, the duties may be significantly less if the goods have been transformed through production processes that add value. And being approved under the ASF protocol means companies don’t have to invest heavily in new facilities, or operate separate facilities within a specified location, which can cause logistical and financial impediments.

“The benefit companies derive from FTZs depends on the commodities, raw materials, and components they use to make their products, and whether they do light assembly or advanced manufacturing,” says Sean Mullins, market research director for WTC St. Louis.

WTC St. Louis helps businesses assess these and other factors to determine whether they can take advantage of ASF designation.

Eastern Star

Located 45 minutes east of St. Louis on I-70, the City of Greenville, Ill., is another entity improving the major transportation modes serving the area, including the rail system linking east and west.

In 1979, roofing manufacturer Carlisle SynTec Systems chose Greenville as the location for its first membrane manufacturing plant outside its headquarters in Carlisle, Pa., largely because the area offered CSX rail service and access to Interstate 70.

“The area’s logistics assets—along with an outstanding workforce—have allowed the Carlisle facility to expand its original footprint of 190,000 square feet and 200 employees to more than 550,000 square feet and 300 employees,” says Andy Furman, director of membrane manufacturing for Carlisle.

CSX recently designated the 439-acre John W. Kelsey Business and Technology Park a CSX Select Site—one of only five U.S. sites to receive that certification. The park offers easy access to certified, rail-ready properties for a variety of industrial uses. The CSX Select Site designation indicates “green light” properties along the CSX network where projects can move forward rapidly because the rail carrier has identified all known risk factors, and resolved any potential issues.

Located less than one mile from Interstate 70, and 30 minutes from Interstates 55 and Interstate 64, the Kelsey Business and Technology Park is quickly becoming a destination for companies seeking a Midwest logistics hub that will enhance supply chain and transportation savings.

In addition to interstate access and service from two Class I railroads and the Illinois Western Railroad, the park’s location 45 minutes from downtown St. Louis provides quick access to barge and air cargo services—while still avoiding metropolitan traffic congestion.

“As an industrial developer, our goal is to connect with communities that are progressive with their economic development efforts, located in prominent tertiary markets, and whose leaders understand the long-term value of bringing industrial development to their community,” says R. Dean Bingham, president and COO of Effingham, Ill.-based Agracel Inc. “Greenville exemplifies the type of community we look for. It has been aggressive in establishing itself as an elite site, with ready-to-go infrastructure, located just outside the St. Louis metro area.

“The city’s location on I-70 and its CSX Select Site designation benefit companies looking to locate or relocate manufacturing or distribution operations,” he adds.

Plugged into Progress

Access to cost-effective and reliable energy resources is essential to any logistics equation. That’s how electric and natural gas provider Ameren helps the St. Louis region support business growth and expansion. An investor-owned utility, Ameren serves approximately 2.4 million electric and 900,000 natural gas customers across 64,000 square miles in Illinois and Missouri. Operating as Ameren Missouri in St. Louis and surrounding communities, and as Ameren Illinois in Southwestern Illinois, the region boasts a diverse economic base and unique development assets.

“As a fully regulated utility providing both energy supply and delivery, Ameren Missouri brings a balanced energy portfolio, reliable energy delivery, energy efficiency programs, and competitive pricing to the table for business development,” says Cheryl Welge, senior business development executive with Ameren Services.

“In Illinois, Ameren is leading the way to a secure energy delivery future by implementing a five-year modernization program, investing $15.4 million in infrastructure improvement to better serve the needs of our customers,” she adds.

Ameren Illinois is deploying advanced metering infrastructure to improve service, reduce outage time, and provide timely energy usage information to customers. These upgrades will allow the utility to expand future programs, pricing options, and energy tools to help users control energy consumption and costs.

“Providing safe, abundant, reliable, and affordable energy helps protect the economic future and viability of the bi-state region,” Welge says. “It is a competitive advantage both for attracting new investment and jobs, and retaining the businesses already here. Ameren partners with local and regional economic development officials to accomplish this goal.”

While Ameren supports St. Louis area companies by delivering energy resources, business-to-business solutions provider Cass Information Systems, headquartered in St. Louis, helps them effectively manage their transportation expenses. With total assets of $1.3 billion, Cass offers enterprise grade solutions including freight audit and payment, and facilities expense management. These services ease the administrative tasks of invoice processing, create cost savings through invoice audits, and deliver actionable business intelligence.

Although many aspects of Cass’ solution are tactical and task-oriented, the ability to deliver complex solutions and powerful business intelligence is not. After more than 50 years, the world’s largest shippers continue to choose Cass for its expertise in all logistics modes, including ocean, rail, parcel, and multimodal shipping.

Cass also provides processing and reporting for all move types, including outbound, inbound, third party, and intercompany. For companies operating in St. Louis, access to Cass Information Systems’ services provides an economic advantage.

The Confluence of Rivers

From its beginnings as a fur-trading center more than 200 years ago, the St. Louis region has made use of its natural assets, which include the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

Traversing 70 miles along both sides of the Mississippi River, the Port of Metropolitan St. Louis (PMSL)—the northernmost ice-free port without a lock on the Mississippi River—moved more than 35 million short tons in 2012 alone.

Located on the Missouri side of the river along 19 miles of riverfront, the St. Louis Port Authority’s Port District—part of PMSL—moves 16 million tons of freight through its facilities annually.

“The majority of tonnage moved through the entire Port of Metropolitan St. Louis comes through this facility,” says Otis Williams, executive director of the St. Louis Development Corporation, which manages the St. Louis Port Authority under its umbrella. “The PMSL is the 18th-largest port of any kind in the United States, and it offers more river crossings than any other city along the Mississippi.”

In 2013, the St. Louis Port Authority completed a $19.8-million reconstruction and expansion of the docks at its Municipal River Terminal. The 27-acre facility includes a 2,000-foot dock and 43,000 feet of river frontage. The terminal can handle bulk commodities such as grain, salt, sand, coal, and scrap metal, as well as project cargo.

While much of the cargo moved through the port is shipped domestically, the international component is a growing portion of the business.

“The steel mills in our region use the ports, but we also move a lot of scrap metal to foreign markets,” Williams says.

In addition to the port’s two FTZs, more than 130 terminals of varying sizes along both sides of the river give companies access to one of the most cost-effective ways of moving cargo in the nation. The PMSL also offers access to the six Class I railroads serving the St. Louis region, as well as the area’s well-connected interstate highway system.

Central Perk

Ports and facilities on both sides of the river work well together to create an environment conducive to business development.

“Several years ago, the Port Working Group was formed to discuss various issues that confront the area’s ports,” says Williams. “Group members share the common goal of trying to increase volume, and market their ports globally.”

For businesses choosing a site in the St. Louis area, America’s Central Port —a 1,200-acre multimodal port located just north of downtown St. Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River—represents a great asset, thanks to the region’s airports, highways, and rail connectivity.

“St. Louis’ location in the heart of the country, and its solid transportation infrastructure, make the city a great place to do business,” says Dennis Wilmsmeyer, executive director of America’s Central Port. “Companies that use multiple transportation modes to move freight reduce transportation costs significantly as a result of locating in the St. Louis area.”

Foreign Trade Zone 31, granted to America’s Central Port, was expanded in 2003 by nearly 5,000 acres to include nearby Gateway Commerce Center and St. Louis MidAmerica Airport. Companies using the FTZ can import products duty free within the zone, where they can be handled, assembled, packaged, or even destroyed.

America’s Central Port is investing heavily in both transportation and infrastructure. Since 2009, the organization has spent $2 million on new roads, and $5 million on new rail lines. By the end of 2014, it will complete a new $45-million harbor on the Mississippi River.

“Manufacturing and distribution companies understand that time is money, and the better the access, the better they will do,” adds Wilmsmeyer. “Our role is simple: provide a world-class transportation center. Companies will find a way to access us—and they do.”

Two If By Air

Located in the geographic center of the United States, Lambert-St. Louis International Airport is within 500 miles of one-third of the U.S. population. The airport provides a 24/7/365 operation, without imposing curfews or parking fees on all-cargo aircraft.

With four operational runways providing landing, the facility is capable of handling all types of cargo aircraft. Its two existing cargo facilities—one on the north side and one on the south side—provide sufficient capacity for immediate growth. For long-term growth, the airport has allocated an 80-acre site with ramp parking for cargo aircraft to be developed as needed.

The airport—the largest in the region—is located within FTZ 102, and serves 11 passenger and cargo airlines. Ground handlers manage full-service facilities, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture operate on-site.

The City of St. Louis owns and operates the airport, which ensures the facility works closely with all regional stakeholders. It is a leading member of the Midwest Cargo Hub Commission, charged with supporting the expansion and growth of cargo activity at the airport.

Working closely with public and private organizations such as The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, World Trade Center, St. Louis Regional Chamber, and Civic Progress, the airport plays an active role in promoting the region’s logistics advantages and attracting new business to the area. It offers a generous incentive program to new airlines, providing an 18-month waiver of landing fees and terminal rentals based on a two-year service agreement. In addition, the region supplies marketing support to assist airlines establishing themselves in the St. Louis market.

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport isn’t alone in serving the region’s air cargo needs. MidAmerica St. Louis Airport—one of only 22 joint-use airports in the United States—is uniquely positioned to serve the St. Louis area. Located across the river from St. Louis in Mascoutah, Ill., MidAmerica shares its landing strips and facilities with neighboring Scott Air Force Base (AFB).

Scott AFB is home to the United States Transportation Command, United States Army Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, and the Air Force Global Logistics Support Center. In addition to supporting these military logistics operations, MidAmerica St. Louis Airport is taking a four-pillar approach to building its base of civilian air transport and ground-based businesses.

“The first pillar is to be the best joint-use airport in the nation,” says Tim Cantwell, director of MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, and a former F-16 and F-15E Combat Unit Commander in the Air Force.

“The second is to be a trade route for the Midwest to deliver goods and services to the world,” he says. “This initially involves linking Latin America to Asia through MidAmerica.

“The third is to host domestic leisure and national passenger service that offers travelers less hassle and more convenience. The fourth is to host all those other businesses that naturally migrate to airports,” Cantwell adds.

MidAmerica St. Louis Airport gained a distinct logistics advantage in 2003 when the U.S. government expanded Foreign Trade Zone 31—which also includes America’s Central Port—to encompass MidAmerica. “The area is unique in that FTZ 31 includes both an airport and a river port,” says Cantwell.

In 2006, the airport was also designated to operate as U.S. Port of Entry 4581. This development allowed the facility to process seed and produce imports from Chile, a business that has grown substantially thanks to clients and tenants such as North Bay Produce, an international, grower-owned, year-round, fresh produce and distribution cooperative operating at MidAmerica.

North Bay uses MidAmerica’s warehousing services, and distributes its imported and domestic fresh produce across the globe via air freight.

“The Midwest’s greatest value is its food resources, so providing perishable food distribution services is a strategic way to enhance air commerce in the region,” says Cantwell. “North Bay Produce is proving that business model works. We are able to import fresh produce in winter, while exporting fresh produce grown in the United States to markets around the globe.

“Some companies don’t consider a Midwest airport as a point of entry to the United States, but it certainly can be from the air,” Cantwell adds.

A Longstanding Relationship

Many businesses that locate manufacturing and distribution facilities in the St. Louis region rely on transportation and logistics providers to bring their products to market. As a third-party management company focused on helping businesses develop creative, efficient, and cost-effective logistics solutions, Hogan Logistics knows the need for efficient cargo transport has never been greater.

With four different transportation companies that include Hogan Logistics, the Hogan family of companies has been an integral part of the St. Louis logistics community since 1918. Now in its third generation, Hogan has a rich and deep logistics history in the region.

“St. Louis is a hub for complex domestic and international distribution processes,” says Benjamin Strickler, vice president of logistics for Hogan Logistics. “Geographically, we are able to meet businesses’ supply chain demands throughout the United States, and provide a centralized infrastructure for servicing Mexico’s emerging presence.

“Corporate initiatives to bring product manufacturing closer to the U.S. market has created demand for intermodal services,” he adds.

With neighboring cities and resources such as Kansas City and the Kansas City Southern Railway, St. Louis provides an excellent place for corporate residence, and a direct connection to south-of-the-border commerce.

“Hogan is constantly engaged in providing multimodal service offerings through the use of our company-owned assets, as well as outside vendor relationships,” Strickler continues. “Being part of the ‘Gateway to the Midwest’ allows us to provide truckload, dedicated, LTL, intermodal, logistics, and leasing services. We work to meet the supply chain demands of our customers, and St. Louis provides the platform for offering a complete supply chain solution.”

With almost 100 years of experience, Hogan has been very successful in developing a complete supply chain solution. The company’s four divisions provide over-the-road transportation, third-party logistics management, dedicated contract carriage, and equipment leasing and rental services. A sophisticated internal infrastructure between operating entities allows the company to fulfill customers’ supply chain needs, while maintaining a seamless one-stop shop.

To promote local economic growth, Hogan supports and partners with federal, state, and local government agencies throughout Missouri and the St. Louis region. Starting in 2008, and throughout the development of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category program, Hogan represented a handful of qualified test carriers in Missouri committed to ensuring a fair safety-based regulations process.

Through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Smartway Transport Partnership, Hogan works continuously to reduce greenhouse gas emission and air pollution throughout the St. Louis region and nationwide.

Operating Online

The growth of e-commerce and online retail is complicating the business of getting purchased goods into consumers’ hands. Fulfillment companies must be able to ship one-off orders to individual consumers, but also handle sophisticated multi-channel retail operations.

Using the skill set, technology, systems, and infrastructure developed for a wholesale distributor of IT supplies and equipment, one St. Louis area company is changing how retail works with e-commerce—from the way products are delivered, to the way companies bring innovations to market.

With offices in St. Charles and Hazelwood, Mo., DM Fulfillment—which operates under its parent company, Distribution Management—is using the infrastructure developed by its sister company Supplies Network to transform e-commerce.

Powerful Positioning

Distribution Management started in the 1970s as a distributor of typewriters and typewriter supplies. In the early 1990s, Supplies Network launched, and it is now one of the country’s largest independently held wholesale distributors of IT supplies, equipment, and managed print services, surpassing $500 million in annual revenue.

“As a leading wholesaler, Supplies Network leverages one of the best U.S. distribution networks in the industry to deliver more than 8,000 SKUs from 70 leading manufacturers,” explains Sean Fleming, CEO of Distribution Management. “Today, Distribution Management and its divisions—Supplies Network and DM Fulfillment—maintain an extremely advanced and efficient fulfillment and distribution model, with expertise in small packaged goods.

“With DM Fulfillment, the company is expanding into businesses that are completely unrelated to its core,” he notes.

Using the company’s four distribution centers in Dallas; Fresno, Calif.; Carlisle, Pa.; and St. Louis, DM Fulfillment has developed an innovative logistics model.

“We are uniquely positioned to handle small to mid-sized e-commerce shippers,” says Bob Klunk, managing director of DM Fulfillment. “Today, companies don’t require abundant resources to function on a large scale. They can take advantage of our existing infrastructure, and—without a lot of investment and integration—expand into mainstream commerce.”

While smaller boutique retailers can be more flexible and adept at bringing new products to market, larger retailers often want a new vendor to break in a new product through an e-commerce suite before they give up valuable real estate inside a brick-and-mortar store. DM Fulfillment is uniquely positioned to handle both ends of the spectrum.

“Some customers ship one-off orders through shopping cart integration, while others implement true e-commerce through sophisticated multi-channel retail, where we send a product out under multiple brand names and through multiple channels,” says Klunk. “Traditionally, 3PLs serve retail needs well, but may not be able to handle single-unit orders or shopping cart integration. They aren’t equipped to serve smaller e-commerce businesses.”

Optimizing Order Fulfillment

DM Fulfillment handles orders received through a retailer’s website—whether small mom-and-pop boutiques or major mass market accounts—often using labels and bar codes specific to the individual retailer. Its distributed order management system evaluates every order to suggest the optimal shipping point, allowing the retailer to tailor distribution to reduce delivery time and shipping costs.

“We may run a company’s orders out of St. Louis for three or four months, finding that 40 percent of the orders are coming from the West Coast. We can move the company’s inventory to our Fresno distribution center so 40 percent of the orders ship from California,” Klunk explains. “We can constantly reposition inventory to put it closer to the end consumer, which is essential in e-commerce.”

These operations are coordinated out of DM Fulfillment’s headquarters in St. Charles, Mo.

Flat is Where It’s At

Another company serving the St. Louis region’s logistics needs is Flat World Supply Chain, a third-party logistics company providing transportation management services, including both truckload and less-than-truckload shipments.

“We help businesses manage their transportation, and select the right carriers to meet their specific shipping needs,” explains Kirk Ferrell, managing partner of Flat World Supply Chain. “We deliver these transportation management services through proprietary software we developed several years ago.”

Flat World Supply Chain serves myriad companies in diverse industries ranging from the oil and lubricant business to office products.

“We also operate Flat World Hospitality Services, which helps companies in the hospitality industry manage upgrades to their furniture, fixtures, and equipment at properties across the United States,” says Ferrell. “Our portfolio includes everything from warehousing to installation work.”

St. Louis’ central location helps Flat World Supply Chain’s hospitality clients service their many properties across the country. The region’s easy access to major transportation modes keeps shipping and service costs on the low end.

“St. Louis also offers a low cost of living, and excellent access to working capital,” adds Ferrell. “And the local workforce is high-quality, especially for logistics operations.”

Working the System

Flat World Supply Chain worked with St. Louis-based Anvil Technology Partners to develop transportation software that integrates with almost any enterprise resource planning or operating system, enabling its customers to make quick and informed decisions throughout the business process.

The system handles purchase order management, optimized carrier selection, transportation execution tasks, and freight bill audit and payment.

Flat World’s technology provides yet one more example of how the St. Louis area has long been a gateway for trading and commerce, linking east and west.

With its central location, transportation infrastructure, and the spirit of cooperation between business and industry, St. Louis is a gateway for commerce—now and into the future.

For information on featuring your region in an Economic Development Supplement, contact James O. Armstrong at 314-984-9007.

Logistics & Educational Assets

“Located in the middle of the country, the St. Louis region is an attractive place for a logistics cluster of warehousing and transshipment operations linked to the East and West Coasts,” says Professor Sergio Chayet, academic director of the Master’s Degree in Supply Chain Management Program, and director of the Operations and Supply Chain Management MBA Platform, at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

“The St. Louis region provides excellent access to major transportation resources, such as rail, interstate and state highways, two airports with ample freight capacity, and the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers,” notes Chayet.

“Several local and non-local manufacturers and third-party logistics providers have taken advantage of these transportation and intermodal assets by locating production or distribution facilities in the region,” he adds. “They also benefit from the research, education, and business consulting from local universities. Faculty in Washington University’s operations and manufacturing management group, for example, conduct fundamental research on supply chain management, and are recognized as thought leaders in that field.”

The university’s faculty conducts much of this research in close collaboration with the school’s corporate partners. That collaboration allows supply chain executives to see their supply chain and logistics challenges from new perspectives, and consider novel approaches.

“Faculty directs these projects—often staffed by graduate students pursuing an MS in supply chain management, MBA, or PhD in the field—to provide valuable, actionable solutions to the clients’ operational and management challenges,” says Chayet.

The relationship also provides faculty members both a source of challenges for relevant research, and an opportunity to validate their ideas in the real world.

As an additional component of the partnership, Washington University’s Boeing Center for Technology, Information, and Manufacturing organizes conferences, during which speakers from the center’s corporate partners discuss supply chain topics, and share challenges and best practices.

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