Syngenta Makes the Right Moves for
A nationwide truck and driver shortage has required shippers to pay a premium in bonuses and prioritize shipments, resulting in higher prices and a need for advance planning. Meanwhile, the freshly implemented Electronic Logging Device mandate is increasing transit times by requiring drivers to log all hours they spend behind the wheel, even when loading and unloading. And, despite tough circumstances, shipments could increase across industries by approximately 36 million tons by 2020, a total that would equate to 1.8 million shipments.
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Under current ag market conditions, growers and resellers face a unique set of challenges, including low commodity prices, rising operational costs and rampant market uncertainty. Fortunately, they don’t need to add the timely delivery of products to their list of concerns, if they partner with the right supplier.
To overcome the logistical challenges presented by the freight market, growers and retailers typically turn to crop-protection suppliers that understand the complexities of the transportation industry. They look for suppliers with a knack for delivering products to the right place at the right time. According to Lisa Sizemore, manager of logistics strategy and support operations at Syngenta, comprehensive planning is the key to meeting these needs. “The minute we finish one season, we start planning for the next,” she says.
Syngenta maintains strong communication lines with retail partners throughout the season to inform this planning and be responsive to current market trends. The planning process isn’t just reserved for one part of the year; it’s a critical part of the company’s daily operations.
“We are always aiming for that perfect order; but even more than that, we’re looking at future planning and market predictions,” says Mandy Johnson, transportation manager with Syngenta. “We’re analyzing what we expect to happen in the industry over the coming years—and strategizing about how to mitigate some of the impact that we might incur.”
Building a Network
Over the years, Syngenta has built an extensive distribution network that allows the company to adapt to changing market conditions and provide customers with efficient and reliable product delivery. Syngenta uses rail cars and has partnerships with trucking companies. It also makes use of bulk terminals placed throughout the country, enabling Syngenta to move products to carriers with maximum efficiency. In turn, the carriers are able to deliver the products into the hands of customers in a timely manner.
To ensure timely delivery, Syngenta targets partnerships with trucking companies that share its commitment to long-term strategic planning. Fort Transfer, one such partner, has a comprehensive plan in place for growth in the years to come.
“Our plan is strategic growth, focusing on driver retention and shippers who share in those values,” says Brad Kahler, CEO of Fort Transfer. “We’re not going to overcommit. We’re going to do what we’re capable of, but we’re going to grow as much as we can.”
“We [Syngenta] are always aiming for that perfect order; but even more than that, we’re looking at future planning and market predictions.”
The driver shortage figures into Fort Transfer’s planning. Expansion in the middle of a shortage is no simple task, but Kahler and his team take a proactive approach that counteracts the prevailing market conditions. They pour substantial resources into driver satisfaction; they offer health and wellness coaches and a chaplaincy program to drivers. They also emphasize safety as a core value in an effort to protect the drivers and the products they carry.
“We’re a small company, and we’re trying to invest in those things that may be beyond what a normal large company can offer,” Kahler says. “We want to give our drivers a sense that this is the best place to work. That’s our ultimate goal—to be the best liquid-bulk chemical company to work for in the industry.”
Syngenta recognizes that Fort Transfer’s commitment to driver satisfaction and safety aids in retention and recruitment—two factors that exert a positive influence throughout the value chain.
“At Syngenta, we want drivers to enjoy being part of our supply chain,” Johnson says. “We try to be easy to do business with, and we listen to what drivers are telling us. We want them to know that we value what they do for us.”
With an increase in shipments on the horizon, Syngenta is already developing a strategy to ensure timely deliveries. Understanding the needs of retailers and bulk carriers is essential to the planning process.
“We’ve been working strategically with our bulk carriers to make sure they’re able to deliver what we’re planning,” Sizemore says. “We’re collaborating with them right now on how we can share more in advance, so they can plan accordingly.”
This commitment to collaborative planning makes Syngenta especially responsive to the demands of the market. Sizemore believes the company’s responsiveness will be crucial to future success, especially in an uncertain market.
“We feel that the tight driver market will continue to stay the same or potentially get a little bit tighter over the next few years,” she says. “We’re planning and thinking ahead now, so we’ll be prepared to handle any scenario that might come along later.”