Chemical Logistics: Critical Challenges Spark Creativity

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Chemical shippers and their partners keep critical shipments moving safely and efficiently—refining their strategies and getting creative despite considerable challenges. Here's how leading providers formulate solutions for the chemical industry.

The chemicals that make their way across the country and around the world are critical to multiple essential industries—agriculture, healthcare, and manufacturing, to name a few. Chemical logistics companies take to heart their role in ensuring the products they move arrive at their destinations safely, accurately, and as timely as possible. "Many chemical shipments go to key pieces of business in America," says Jennifer Braun, vice president of Kansas City operations with Trinity Logistics. "They cannot be delayed."

Yet chemical logistics companies are confronting the same challenges—capacity and labor shortages, geopolitical upheaval, port congestion, and factory slowdowns—impacting supply chain and logistics functions in all industries. On top of the supply chain challenges most companies face, chemical logistics companies face additional challenges. The total number of licensed truck drivers able to carry hazardous materials makes for an even smaller pool to hire from, says Dustin Miles, vice president of global transportation with Rinchem Company, Inc., a provider of chemical management solutions.

Many drivers currently can earn more by driving crude fuel oil, says Randy Strutz, president of Quality Carriers, Inc., which operates the largest liquid bulk chemical trucking network in North America. "It's a boom-and-bust business. Right now, oil prices are up, and business is booming."

In addition, some of the chemical plants taken offline when a mammoth winter storm struck Texas in February 2021 are still recovering. While companies are generally able to access products from other plants, they're often located farther away. "All our customers are scrambling," Strutz says.

Another challenge is that "rates for hazardous material or tanker endorsed shipments skyrocketed 60 to 70% during much of 2021 and early 2022," Braun says. "Supply chain volatility continues, and recently costs on the spot market have declined."

The fragmentation of the U.S. trucking sector became even more pronounced during the pandemic, as many drivers left their fleets to start their own small businesses.

However, if diesel prices remain high while spot rates fall, the newer entrants likely will struggle. "If small owner-operators don't know how to handle these shifts, there may be a bigger swath of bankruptcies," Braun says. That could mean even less capacity.

Indeed, the rate of loads tendered and then rejected reached as high as 25% during 2021 and early 2022, Braun estimates. Some shippers are charged detention fees because their containers are stalled at the ports, even though they have little control over the delays.

Shippers are not the only ones penalized. "Drivers make money only when their wheels are turning," says Curt Gonya, senior vice president, chemical and specialty products logistics with KAG Logistics. Drivers who suspect they might be delayed with one load are increasingly willing to find other loads to move.

Leveraging Technology

Challenges notwithstanding, the market for chemical logistics providers is forecast to grow by nearly 4% annually between 2020 and 2027, when it's estimated to top $322 billion, according to Allied Market Research.

Technology is proving key in chemical logistics. "Capacity management and visibility solutions are critical," Gonya says. Chemical logistics providers increasingly need to offer technical tools that boost shippers' ability to access capacity and monitor their shipments throughout their order lifecycles.

Through features such as collision avoidance and lane control, technology also has helped improve safety. "While not unique to chemical logistics, it's one of the biggest positive impacts of technology," Strutz says.

Over the next several years, artificial intelligence solutions that can track goods coming from outside a country at the container level and provide live updates will become more mainstream, says Scott Buber, director, operations and chemical division with WSI Supply Chain Solutions.

Restructuring jobs through technology also is proving key to attracting and retaining employees. For instance, in addition to boosting pay scales and offering hiring incentives and bonuses, WSI has largely automated how it schedules trucks, Buber says. Carriers and other logistics partners can log in and edit their schedules if, say, a driver is delayed.

"The providers can manage this themselves versus coordinating through someone else," he adds.

Intermodal as a Solution

Another tool to blunt the impact of the driver and capacity shortage is greater use of intermodal transportation.

"Moving products on domestic rail versus over-the-road allows shippers to reduce their dependence on drivers and other non-controllable factors," says Robert Boyle, business unit leader with Odyssey Enterprise Managed Services, a unit of Odyssey Logistics.

During Q1 2022, railroads moved more chemicals than in any other quarter in history, according to the American Association of Railroads.

This is particularly true with long-haul shipments, as more drivers leverage high demand for their services to choose routes that allow them to return home most evenings, says Diane Lyons, vice president, sales, with Odyssey Tank Intermodal. Shifting portions of trips to intermodal helps address this, as rail transportation generally requires fewer employees.

Along with potentially moving to more intermodal tanks versus traditional drums or totes, some suppliers and end users source more regionally as opposed to globally, Miles says.

This approach requires rationalizing a company's logistics networks, reevaluating just-in-time inventory strategies, and placing even more emphasis on real-time shipment tracking to understand delivery risks. "At the same time, this creates a ton of benefit by avoiding trans-Pacific logistics challenges," Boyle says.

Becoming a Shipper of Choice

Shippers looking for ways to secure capacity will want to take steps to become shippers of choice. "For the first time we see situations where money does not buy a shipper's way out of the situation," Boyle says.

While rates remain important, solid forecasting; the reliability and/or repeatability of lanes; good site behavior, such as few or no delays; and predictable shipper behaviors are all essential to enabling shippers to address capacity challenges.

Another development—driverless trucks—has generated a great deal of buzz over the past few years. While it may be a way to expand final-mile capacity, it's unlikely to make a dent in the hazardous chemical world.

"Driverless trucks are not something that will be on the forefront of solutions in the next four to five years," says Joe Hassenfratz, sales and marketing manager with The Logistix Company.

What's more likely is a continued shift to alternative fuel trucks, such as fuel cells and electric vehicles. Most companies, no matter where they're located, face pressure to reduce carbon emissions in quantifiable numbers. "Everyone wants to get ahead of this before any sort of fees, taxes, or regulations are levied," Hassenfratz says.

Longer term, all decision makers who can make a positive impact on the U.S. supply chain must work together to make it easier to do business by improving the responsiveness and resiliency of the entire transportation network, Gonya says.

While many reasons account for the poor condition of much of the U.S. infrastructure, a key one is the gap between election cycles and investments.

"Election cycles are short, and infrastructure investments are long-term," says David Viera, chief executive officer with CLX Logistics, LLC. "Untangling the current logistics challenges isn't simple."

Many logistics providers, however, are taking steps to meet these challenges and ensure their clients' products move safely, securely, and on time. "There's great demand for creative solutions," Viera adds.

The chemical logistics providers highlighted here offer a range of creative solutions.

CLX LOGISTICS: Configurable Solutions

Quality people, processes, and technology are key to the success of CLX Logistics. "With these three elements, we make solutions happen," Viera says.

CLX's technology stack is focused on chemical shippers. "It's configured for chemical shippers and can handle the constraints they face," Viera says.

For example, the CLX TMS (transportation management system) is the only globally deployed, enterprise-scale, software-as-a-service TMS with a focus on chemical products.

The TMS covers all regions and modes, and allows chemical shippers to plan, execute, and optimize their transportation operations, ensure delivery performance, and comply with regulations. Deployed in more than 60 chemical industry implementations, the CLX TMS offers shippers visibility and control over their day-to-day transportation operations.

Shippers can identify outliers and potential problems that require attention, and more easily manage and optimize logistics operations on any mode and region. With the TMS, shippers also can calculate the carbon impact of their shipments.

Another solution, CLX Gravity, offers advanced analytic management capabilities that can help shippers gain supply chain visibility to drive improvement, optimize spend, and reduce risk. The tool accomplishes this by pulling data from the TMS as well as other information systems.

For example, with this solution, a vice president of supply chain can access a dashboard that identifies all sites that have shipped products, and also monitor the progress of those shipments. "It's infinitely configurable," Viera says.

Focus on Intermodal

CLX's focus on and experience with intermodal transportation is another way it stands apart. The company is the largest intermodal transport company and provider of domestic, door-to-door, intermodal transportation service for the bulk liquid chemical market.

Not only does this help shippers mitigate the truck driver shortage, but it also can slash transportation costs by up to 30%, when compared to domestic tank truck shipments of hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals.

The Managed Transportation solution CLX offers is a robust suite of à la carte solutions that chemical shippers can customize and adjust on demand, according to their requirements. The solutions include capacity management, brokerage, intermodal services, Gartner-recognized freight rate benchmarks and bids, carrier negotiation, rail fleet management, and detailed reporting.

By leveraging these solutions, shippers can lower costs, improve service, and fill in any gaps in their knowledge with a proven team specializing in the chemical industry.

As an example, CLX worked with a company that produces chemical pigments in Mississippi and ships them via rail to transload locations in the northeastern United States, where they're moved to trucks and delivered to customers. CLX and the company collaborated to help book, schedule, and manage bulk tanker operations in the Northeast. The result? Streamlined, more efficient processes and reduced costs.

While technology is key, so are the people that make up CLX, Viera says. Their industry expertise and knowledge of the myriad regulations that govern the transportation of chemicals set them apart. They can help shippers optimize their spending on chemical shipments, while also ensuring they comply with the relevant regulations.

"Our employees know how to handle the freight, they know the opportunities, and they can maximize cost and performance," Viera says.

KAG LOGISTICS: Purpose-Built Technology

A subsidiary of The Kenan Advantage Group, Inc., KAG Logistics is a leading tank truck transporter and logistics provider across North America. KAG Logistics provides industry-leading transportation management solutions and value-added logistics services designed for the chemicals, energy, specialty products, food, and merchant gas supply chains across North America.

"We were one of the first managed transportation and logistics providers in the chemical space," says Curt Gonya, senior vice president, chemical and specialty products logistics with KAG Logistics. Supported by KAG's resources, KAG Logistics has the capacity to grow, invest in infrastructure, and remain a leader, he adds.

Among other services, KAG Logistics offers multimodal transportation, carrier management, procurement, emergency fuels delivery, enhanced tracking and alerts, fuel management with best-buy sourcing, and inventory optimization and management.

When working with its customers, no matter their size, KAG Logistics can scale to meet their needs. "Because of our size and growth, we've been able to invest in technology and build a strong stable of logistics experts with a deep understanding of the chemical industry," Gonya says.

KAG Logistics has also established a robust carrier management team with deep experience in multiple modes, Gonya says. Ongoing communication strengthens the commitment between KAG Logistics and its carrier partners, allowing the carriers to operate with maximum performance and efficiency within their desired network. A dedicated logistics team and a 24/7/365 logistics operations center offer additional support.

"Best-in-class technology solutions are core to the KAG Logistics solution set," Gonya says. One such solution is KAG Logistics Optimate TMS, which offers both capacity management and visibility, selecting the best mode, equipment, and contract to safely and cost-effectively transport shipments.

KAG Logistics' shipment execution technology enables optimal routing and contract compliance while meeting customers' business rules and contract requirements.

Recognizing each customer has a unique set of transportation needs and requirements, KAG Logistics ensures its technology "is purpose built to every customer's specifications," Gonya says. Because the technology is based on a cloud computing architecture, it delivers exceptional performance and simplicity that allow straightforward and rapid implementations.

Enabling Improvements

When working with a large chemical shipper, KAG Logistics leveraged its solution set to view the sales and operations-planning side of the company's supply chain and react quickly to potential challenges. The customer drastically improved its transportation cycle time and KAG Logistics earned a global supplier award for its technology, proactive communication, and capacity management ability.

Looking ahead, data and technology will remain core to KAG Logistics' support of its chemical customers. "Data allows a deeper understanding of events, so customers can proactively confront the continuing pressures they face throughout their supply chains," Gonya says. "Our data and technology enable chemical shippers to pivot and make better decisions."

ODYSSEY LOGISTICS & TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION: Empowering Agility

With its origin in chemical logistics, Odyssey's team has developed a level of expertise that sets it apart.

"Our customers can tap into the knowledge base we've developed over our decades of experience," says Diane Lyons, vice president, sales, with Odyssey Tank Intermodal.

Odyssey, a multimodal logistics provider, has worked through numerous and wide-ranging challenges. It continually monitors the laws governing the transportation of hazardous and non-hazardous products, and can rely on its extensive infrastructure and ability to ship products across transport modes. These resources allow it to help chemical shippers tackle whatever challenges they may confront.

Among other services, Odyssey offers 3PL, 4PL, domestic ISO, intermodal, asset and brokerage bulk tank transport, and international transportation management. Odyssey is certified by the American Chemistry Council as a Responsible Care partner company.

Through its fully outsourced solutions, Odyssey provides the ability to manage global chemical supply chains.

"We essentially take over the logistics function for a chemical manufacturer," says Robert Boyle, business unit leader with Odyssey Enterprise Managed Services, a unit of Odyssey Logistics.

Along with handling the basic blocking and tackling of chemical logistics, Odyssey can tap into its multiple divisions to leverage a range of synergies. "We have the capacity to craft end-to-end logistics solutions," Boyle adds.

The company's logistics experts can apply their analytical skills to identify opportunities for greater efficiency and effectiveness and provide increased visibility and control.

Among other initiatives, the at Odyssey team is dedicated to developing technology that allows shippers to quickly and automatically access capacity, and carriers to bid on lanes.

Leveraging the Network

As a leading provider of bulk intermodal services across North America, Odyssey's chemical ISO tanks utilize an extensive rail network for the long-haul portions of domestic shipments. This helps address the cost, capacity, and sustainability challenges of shipping bulk over long distances.

Odyssey's leadership team is evaluating a new service to use rail farther into Mexico. Currently, Odyssey typically rails to Laredo, Texas, and then trucks shipments from there. "Intermodal allows the existing driver pool to be more efficient by shifting the long-haul portion of the move to rail," Lyons says.

On top of that, intermodal offers the unique ability to turn long-haul freight into more appealing local work for many truck drivers. "Intermodal can help play a part in attracting more drivers to the industry by changing the parameters of the shipments," she adds.

Through its Cloverleaf Program, Odyssey helps clients address their Scope 3 sustainability reporting challenges and measure and optimize sustainability, service, and cost, Boyle says. The Cloverleaf Program, has also helped Odyssey to optimize nearly 1.2 billion miles to more sustainable modes and reduce yearly carbon dioxide emissions by more than 489,000 tons in 2021, among other achievements.

Moving forward, Odyssey's initiatives will be centered around two core aspects: market awareness and technology. Quick changes in market dynamics are to be expected in the future, Boyle notes.

Odyssey's ability to respond to these changes in real time will be critical. To that end, Odyssey devotes a great deal of resources to helping customers determine how to spend their transportation budgets most effectively, while meeting their business requirements.

"Combining multimodal services with the ability to be technology-forward allows us to focus on our customers' specific needs," Lyons says. "We help them navigate current and future market challenges, while empowering a more agile supply chain."

QUALITY CARRIERS: Experience and Scale

Quality Carriers, a division of leading transportation supplier CSX Corporation, has designed new domestic intermodal ISO tanks that can offer a safe, efficient rail option for chemical shipments. Randy Strutz, president, notes that bulk chemical intermodal shipments haven't gained much traction in the chemical industry in the United States.

"We designed the equipment to U.S. standards with U.S. fittings, ground level vapor recovery, and other features to make it easier for customers to switch to intermodal from over-the-road," Strutz says.

The newly designed tank, for which a patent is pending, is scheduled to hit the market in summer 2022. For deliveries, among other advances, it uses a slider chassis so that the rear valves are flush with the bumper, allowing for safer unloading.

"The tank provides a simple, safe, environmentally friendly conversion option for customers," Strutz says.

Long-Term Expertise

This advance is just one benefit of Quality's long history in the chemical transportation industry. The company has been transporting goods and materials since 1913, when founder B. F. Leaman began delivering lime and milk in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, from a single Pierce Arrow truck.

From that modest start, Quality Carriers, now based in Tampa, Florida, operates more than 2,500 trucks and 7,400 trailers, making it North America's largest bulk tank trucking fleet. A network of more than 100 company-owned and affiliate terminals and facilities across the United States, Canada, and Mexico supports Quality's drivers. "We have the scale to handle all business anywhere in North America," Strutz says.

Quality Carriers and its employees bring to each customer and shipment the experience they've gained from more than one century of delivering freight. That experience, along with Quality's size, means it can handle almost every customer's requirements and meet even extended surges in demand.

"We provide a lot of custom equipment solutions that other companies won't touch," Strutz says.

Another point of differentiation is the volume of chemical shipments Quality Carriers handles that require crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. "When transporting chemicals, these trips can be difficult to navigate, but we have the experience to handle them," Strutz says.

Quality Carriers is a registered SmartWay Transport Partner. Through this program, it's committed to reducing its environmental footprint and advancing supply chain sustainability by measuring, benchmarking, and improving freight transportation efficiency.

RINCHEM COMPANY: End-to-End Solutions

A global provider of chemical management solutions, Rinchem thrives when applying its expertise against the fiercest obstacles to create and manage safe and efficient supply chains for high-purity, pre-packaged chemicals, and gases.

"We want the most demanding and challenging customers and supply chains," says Dustin Miles, vice president of global transportation. "We thrive on building end-to-end, custom solutions that tackle these challenges."

Through its global network, Rinchem safely handles more than 4 billion pounds of chemicals and gases each year. It is a leader in end-to-end, cold-chain chemical management with operations in the United States, Israel, Ireland, South Korea, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Rinchem works to manage the entire supply chain process with full visibility, while many other companies must involve several partners to execute, Miles says.

Rinchem's diverse network of warehouses are temperature-controlled and comply with relevant hazardous materials regulations. In conjunction, its global fleet of more than 300 hazmat-trained drivers operates temperature-controlled trucks and trailers customized to handle hazardous materials.

As an owner of three trucking companies, Rinchem offers industry-leading pay and numerous regional, "pony express" routes so drivers can get home more often. This has been helpful in addressing some of the driver shortages, Miles says.

Chem-Star®, a proprietary web-enabled warehousing and transportation management system, provides inventory visibility across Rinchem's network of warehouses. "Our customers expressed the desire to track their freight," Miles says. "We listened to them and soon made technology advancements to develop our 'glass pipeline.'"

Chem-Star is available to Rinchem customers at any time and offers an expansive range of real-time inventory queries and reports.

Within its warehouses, Rinchem leverages radio frequency barcoding technology to improve receiving, picking speed, and accuracy. It also offers direct customer web access and eliminates human error caused by keystroke entries or misplaced documents.

Increasing Capacity

In response to current supply chain challenges, Rinchem leverages its buying power with its preferred carriers and even chartered vessels to capture space and minimize the supply chain risk to its clients. "We've become more proactive and creative in adjusting to this new normal," Miles says.

Rinchem expanded its service capabilities by growing its asset fleet and acquiring two strategic trucking companies. Carolina Tank Lines specializes in refrigerated, dry van, hazmat, and pharmaceutical freight. Rinchem also purchased JS Transportation in Taiwan, the market leader for spec gas transport in the semiconductor industry.

These additions, plus Rinchem's established U.S.-based CGL Transportation and its global Rinchem Trucking fleets, provide increased capacity in full-truckload, less-than-truckload, final mile, temp-control LTL, refrigeration, hazardous, and bulk offerings.

Rinchem continues to enhance its service offerings, including intermodal tank yards in the United States, Asia, and Israel; it's also planning to offer these in Europe. Among other steps, and following customer requests for the service, it's evaluating the purchase of ISO tanks for chemical suppliers or semiconductor manufacturers. This would free them from the capital outlay and the maintenance these tanks require.

"We continue to expand through organic growth and acquisitions, and we're looking to increase our service offerings to best meet our customers' needs," Miles says.

THE LOGISTICS COMPANY: From Soup to Nuts

The members of The Logistix Company's (TLC) leadership team each bring at least 15 to 20 years of experience, says Joe Hassenfratz, sales and marketing manager. Their experience, along with the company's national network of carriers and service providers, enable TLC to provide a diverse suite of offerings.

Among other capabilities, TLC offers steaming and anti-freeze facilities, liquid bulk and less-than-truckload shipments, warehousing, international freight forwarding, customs clearing, and rail transit.

In addition to standard dry van shipments, TLC can arrange refrigerated, temperature-controlled shipments, international shipments, and blind/double-blind options.

"There's not a transportation lane or need with which we haven't had some partnership," Hassenfratz says. "We offer diverse capabilities paired with excellent customer service."

Asking the Right Questions

TLC's expertise also means it knows the questions to ask to ensure it can properly handle complex chemical shipments. "We've dealt with a range of scenarios and lean on that experience to ask the right questions," Hassenfratz says.

For instance, before drivers can legally handle some shipments, they need specific documentation or classification. Similarly, transporting some liquid bulk chemicals requires specific equipment. TLC checks for all this, boosting safety and helping to avoid delays and potential fines.

For example, TLC had been working with a company that was importing ISO tanks. However, the company lacked the customs approval and documentation needed to move the tanks into the United States. TLC's legal team worked with the company to help it properly obtain the documents needed to gain customs approval.

That wasn't the end of TLC's role, however. Once the tanks made it to the United States, the company's customer couldn't accept them because it lacked the necessary equipment. TLC arranged drayage so the tanks could be moved from the Port of New York & New Jersey, transloaded into totes, and efficiently distributed to the end user. "From soup to nuts, we can provide solutions," Hassenfratz says.

When it comes to transporting goods via ocean vessel or intermodal shipment (railroad), TLC's decades of experience managing ISO and 20- or 40-foot shipping containers come into play.

Along with managing the movement of physical freight, TLC understands import/export processes, customs brokerage, shipment tracking, how to move goods in and around ports, and transloading, among other functions.

Through its years of logistics experience, TLC has been able to build a private fleet of carriers to transport freight across the nation and around the globe. These carriers are experienced and eager to grow and develop with TLC's customer base.

As a result of the range of solutions it offers, its network of carriers and other business partners, and the quality service it provides, TLC has enjoyed outstanding growth over the past two years.

"We are looking to continue that," Hassenfratz says. "Customers want to solve their supply chain needs and we can provide those solutions."

TRINITY LOGISTICS: Ongoing Quality Service

Trinity Logistics is one of a few companies in the logistics arena with a largely female leadership team, many of whom started at entry-level jobs and then worked their way up. This approach, along with focus on its employees and business partners, helped Trinity recently reach $1 billion in rolling 12-month revenue.

"That was a huge benchmark," says Jennifer Braun, vice president of Kansas City operations with Trinity Logistics.

To celebrate and reward the employees who made this milestone possible, the company held several giveaways; among them were two cars.

As a unit of Burris Logistics Company, Trinity, which has been a Responsible Care Partner since 2009, can provide the resources and solutions required to meet the needs of any size customer and working in any transportation mode.

Among the services it offers are drayage, ISO, access to C-TPAT providers, pollution liability coverage, business intelligence and reporting, cybersecurity and emergency preparedness, and the technology to track and measure shipments.

"We take a customized approach to working with customers, and provide each one with a single point of contact," Braun says.

Trinity brings more than 40 years of experience in shipping hazardous materials and complies with the Department of Transportation's HM-232 Hazmat security plan regulations. Its industry-leading operating procedures help ensure safety, and the Trinity compliance team monitors carrier certificates to ensure its trucking companies and driver partners also comply with regulations.

Shippers benefit from Trinity's market knowledge and ability to be nimble, quickly pivoting to ensure their costs decline when the market fluctuates downward, Braun notes.

Optimizing Via Technology

Technology is a core element of Trinity's services. The Managed Services solution handles clients' logistics functions, enabling these companies to gain control and visibility of their shipments. This solution can integrate with customers' operating systems, minimizing the need for calls and emails to check the status of their shipments, no matter the mode.

The Managed Services solution also tracks every piece of information, such as package size and weight, on each shipment. It can even calculate the price per gallon to ship, for instance, from California to Texas, and then show how this varies by month.

The solution can provide this information in a continual feed. By leveraging this data, shippers can determine information such as their most frequently used lanes, while identifying ways to contain costs and enhance service. "With this information, we can help customers make optimal moves," Braun says.

In one case, a global agricultural company leveraged Trinity's Managed Services solution to improve on-time performance and cut costs. Based on several independent analyses, Trinity's Managed Services solution consistently helps lower the company's total freight expenditures to about 15% below prevailing market rates.

In addition, all customers, including those that aren't using Managed Services, can leverage Trinity's online portal to access information on shipments, quotes, payments, and place and track shipments they've placed with Trinity.

Along with its technology, the team at Trinity Logistics helps differentiate it and ensure shippers benefit from ongoing, quality service. Trinity recently added a vice president of digital strategy and a director of user experience, with a goal of ensuring all customer interactions are positive and productive.

Trinity continues to improve and expand, most recently adding a location in Scottsdale, Arizona. It also offers a network of about 120 agents.

"Trinity is constantly looking to improve, update, and revamp," Braun says. In doing so, they're helping customers optimize their transportation spend and service.

WSI SUPPLY CHAIN SOLUTIONS: One-Stop Source

For more than 50 years, WSI has provided reliable, integrated third-party logistics. It is one of the largest privately held 3PL solutions providers in the country, with a family of companies that includes: Warehouse Specialists, LLC; Material Logistics & Services, LLC (MLS); Fulfillment Specialists of America, Inc. (FSA); American Warehouse, LLC; WSI Transportation, LLC; and WSI Freight Solutions.

WSI's Materials Logistics & Services (MLS) division offers a range of chemical logistics solutions, including transportation, warehousing and storage, distribution, sampling, blending, and packaging. The company can offer custom chemical packaging in virtually all forms and sizes, including drums, boxes, and bags. Its reliable and capable global transportation network includes intermodal shipping capabilities.

Because of the broad range of services it provides, chemical shippers can turn to WSI as a one-stop source for chemical logistics. In fact, WSI provides chemical logistics services for some of the top chemical companies worldwide. Its Material Logistics & Services, LLC division brings extensive experience in safely and efficiently handling hazardous and non-hazardous materials in accordance with environmental regulations.

WSI was one of the first 3PLs to earn Responsible Care Partner accreditation. "It's not just how we do things, but who we are," says Scott Buber, director, operations and chemical division. "In a specialized field, we planted our flag and said, 'This is who we are, and how we'll operate, communicate, document, ensure safety, and maintain our sites, day in and day out.'"

For instance, employees at all WSI sites know how to safely respond if they receive a leaking drum. They know the steps needed to eliminate the leak and ensure employees and nearby communities are safe.

In addition, WSI establishes partnerships with local regulatory agencies, like fire departments and planning commissions, and works with them to ensure safety across the communities in which they operate.

"That sets us apart," Buber says. WSI is working hard to dispel the sometimes inaccurate, often negative stereotypes around chemical warehouses and operations, he adds.

In addition to its emphasis on safety, WSI works closely with clients to help them manage their chemical transportation spending as effectively as possible. For instance, one client's manufacturing plant was located about one mile from a WSI distribution facility. Yet, the client had been shipping its product, a polymer, about 50 miles away for processing, before returning it to the WSI facility.

WSI invested in the equipment needed to process the polymer, and constructed a clean processing area within the warehouse, complete with air filters to contain the dust produced. This enabled WSI to process, package, store, and distribute the product, eliminating the need for the product to travel for processing.

As a result, the company saves hundreds of thousands of dollars in transportation costs annually, while also cutting lead times and inventory levels.

"We look outside our own box," Buber says. "We ask customers how we can partner with them to boost their performance."

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