“It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it.”
That one-liner made famous by absurdist comedian Steven Wright decades ago never anticipated the ultra fast-paced world we live in today. In the intervening years, quantum leaps forward in technology and communications have truly made the world a smaller place. And while the ability to literally paint it remains beyond our grasp, the global reach of innovative third party logistics (3PL) companies like TransGroup Worldwide Logistics makes it seem figuratively possible.
In the digital age, everything moves at the speed of bits. The constant stream of 1s and 0s has changed the world forever. This is especially true in business. Yesterday’s technology is antiquated today; tomorrow’s demands will be even greater. This insatiable need for speed oftentimes conflicts with another, unchangeable constant—the need for reliability. When these worlds collide, the results can be very bad for business.
TransGroup Worldwide Logistics is a modern global company designed and engineered to succeed in the modern global economy. With its vast network of 90 stations stretched across five continents, and with more than 100 additional alliance partner stations worldwide, the company is uniquely positioned to meet the demands of its clientele head-on.
The multinational freight forwarder offers a full complement of domestic and international services to companies of all different sizes. Complete A-to-Z transport logistics solutions are individually customized to meet each client’s needs, ranging from air and ocean charter services; to warehousing and distribution; to transportation of dangerous goods.
Specific Requirement Transportation (SRT) services are available for trade shows, museums and exhibitions; sensitive medical equipment and pharmaceuticals; government and military entities; and the furniture, garment and automotive industries, among others. The Seattle-based company carries hazmat and TSA certifications and U.S. Customs clearances. They are proud to have been the very first 3PL company to partner with the EPA’s SmartWay initiative for environmental sustainability.
“We are a multi-national freight forwarder offering international services, domestic services and all kinds of other services for customers importing or exporting their products,” says TransGroup’s Charlotte Branch Manager and local member partner Anita Sanders. “And we offer solutions for these customers to make this happen. We started from a small company and we’ve certainly grown as TransGroup—one single company—for 28 years.”
Success on a Global Scale
Co-founders Ron Lee and Greg Vernoy launched TransGroup in 1986. From the outset, their mission to innovatively engineer “The Future of Transport Logistics” was envisioned as a global endeavor. With stations today ranging from Anchorage to Auckland, Boston to Beijing, Bangladesh to Vietnam—and a network of international agents all over the globe—they have done just that.
“Ron and Greg had a vision that there was a need for a single freight forwarding company that could offer some solutions for their customers outside of the box, that could customize programs to fit their needs,” adds Sanders. “And they just built that business over the years with each individual customer, each individual need.”
That formula has proven to be highly lucrative. According to the company, TransGroup drives $800 million in revenue annually; $300 million in North American business and an additional $500 million internationally. It currently projects an organic growth rate of 10 to 15 percent over the next five years.
Much of TransGroup’s success over nearly three decades in the business can be attributed to its intense focus on innovation. The company supports eight distinct technology divisions: TransTMS (Transportation Management System); TranShipper (shipment initiation); TransTracker (worldwide shipment tracking and reporting); TranStatus (worldwide shipment status); TransAlert (automated shipment milestone alerts); TransWarehouse (inventory management); TransTech (in-house technology customization); and TransLogic (integrated logistics solutions).
“It’s a pretty sophisticated operation,” notes Sanders. “There are lots of different specialized groups under the TransGroup umbrella.”
The TransGroup Charlotte station opened for business in 2006 at 3200 International Airport Drive, just off West Boulevard near the southwest corner of Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Industry veteran Sanders has been at the helm since day one.
“I’ve been a freight forwarder in the Charlotte market for almost 30 years,” observes the native Charlottean. “When I started in the business I knew Ron Lee. I knew about TransGroup for many years and what they offered. The direction that they were going was very much of interest to me.
“I’d worked for several multinational freight forwarders over the years,” she continues. “I’ve learned a lot in terms of all kinds of phases of international transportation, from customs brokerage to documentation to supply chain; offering solutions and where to go with solutions for customers; directing them along the way.”
According to Sanders, Charlotte’s Southeastern location has been a boon for the company, even through some of the region’s most recent economic turbulence.
“In 2008-2009 there was a significant drop in terms of manufacturing, and we were not alone, a lot of freight forwarders felt that impact during those years,” Sanders recalls. “It was difficult. That’s when we really sharpened our pencils and put together a lot of programs to save money and offer the customer added value.”
As a result, TransGroup’s Charlotte office has been able to craft a complete range of one-stop shopping options, including door-to-door services for both domestic and international operations.
“A lot of other offices will only offer international services or maybe some domestic services. We offer both,” Sanders explains. “We have a projects team here that not many offices in the country have. And that’s a definite plus.”
The project group in Charlotte is part of the larger projects team based out of TransGroup’s Houston office.
“The projects team deals with more sophisticated cargo that requires a lot of special needs,” is how Sanders sees it. “Big cargo, usually defined as over 30 metric tons, that doesn’t fit in a container, is out of gauge and that really requires specialized skills. They travel to job sites around the world, supervising loading, taking pictures, making sure that things are coordinated properly with permits and specialized equipment. It’s a pretty sophisticated operation that has to have blue prints, coordination and engineers on site.”
The six-person team in Charlotte has amassed an impressive 150 years of collective experience in the freight forwarding industry. That level of 3PL expertise helps TransGroup attract clients new to the area, as well as existing companies headquartered here and medium-sized companies that sometimes feel like they’re getting lost in the market.
Sanders and her staff thoroughly engage each customer, listening carefully to their plans, taking great care to understand their business operation and really studying their agendas in order to craft personalized solutions.
“We work very closely with these medium-sized customers to offer them ways they can develop their business internationally,” offers Sanders. “We know how to identify these people and we really take them in under our wing.
“If they’re nervous about sending thousands and thousands of dollars’ worth of orders to some international customer that they don’t have a relationship with, we talk to them a little about that. We can help them open letters of credit through our partners that do legalized documents.
“If they’re not big enough, if they don’t have a warehouse for example, but they want to bring in some products from China or from Europe but they’re small, we have partners here in the area that have warehousing we can coordinate for them through our own local databases. So we can do warehousing and distribution for them and help them grow their business. And they’re very interested in that because it’s a very cost-effective way for them to grow.”
Efficient, sustainable growth is the name of the game. Through its relationships with the major air carriers, TransGroup has the ability to strategically route flights and get its clients’ goods from point of origin to final destination at the best possible cost. These savings can then be passed along to the client, boosting both bottom lines and customer satisfaction.
In order to keep operating costs low, TransGroup maintains a network of partnerships with trusted third party vendors such as local trucking companies and warehouse operators. One such entity is International Express, a large independent warehouse in a nearby industrial park that leases space to TransGroup.
“We’re all about efficiencies,” reports Sanders. “To operate our own warehouse costs a lot of money, so if we work with these partners that have their own warehouses, we can save a lot of money for our customers. We work with a lot of independent people who make this whole logistics package come together. That’s what we do. We all kind of collectively operate that way to keep our operating overhead down.”
The Allure of the Queen City
Charlotte’s strategic location in the Carolinas offers tremendous geographic and business opportunities for TransGroup. With its ready access to three major ports—Savannah, Wilmington and Norfolk—as well as three international airports—Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, Charlotte Douglas and Washington Dulles—and expansion of the Norfolk Southern rail facility, prospects for economic development of the region have rarely looked better, particularly for the third party logistics industry. As an important hub for import and export of manufactured goods via air, sea and land, Charlotte finds itself in an enviable position.
With the expansion of the transportation hub with Norfolk Southern, Sanders says, “We’re looking at all of the possibilities that they’re going to offer in terms of moving cargo to and from ports. And it’s a block away from my office—it’s right here!”
The ability to expand its radius of operations is hugely appealing. The Charlotte station predominantly handles shipments in and out of North and South Carolina, along with some business from Virginia. As infrastructure in the market improves, so does the market itself. And a rising tide raises all ships.
“The market in Charlotte is growing,” confirms Sanders. “You’ve got a lot of interest in terms of multinational companies looking at Charlotte. We’ve got an active Chamber of Commerce, we’ve got a lot of companies coming here, and with the growth of the city we’re very happy to be anchored here and to be a part of that development.”
TransGroup Worldwide thinks globally and acts locally. The corporate office is bullish on the Charlotte market and is heavily invested in the future success of the region.
“We’re very interested in what the city is doing in terms of bringing in multinational companies,” Sanders affirms. “We think there’ll be phenomenal growth. We’re real optimistic about this.”
Along with growth come challenges. While Sanders expects the Charlotte station will experience a robust growth rate of about 20 percent this year, she knows that complacency is the enemy.
“The biggest challenge is always to keep the customers happy and to build their business and to keep the pricing structure in place and provide the services,” comments Sanders. “There are always competitors that are going after your business, so you have to be one step ahead in terms of customer service and pricing. We have to stay on our game just to stay in business and do what we do well.”
From its local station here in Charlotte to points all around the planet, TransGroup Worldwide Logistics is helping to make our global village a little smaller every day. Yet one thing remains unchanged.
We still wouldn’t want to paint it, even if we could.