Upstream Focus is Sourcing Journal’s series of conversations with suppliers, associations and sourcing professionals to get their insights on the state of sourcing, innovations in manufacturing and how to improve operations. In this Q&A, Jackie Gonsalez, vice president, supply chain business development at Crowley Logistics, speaks about the factors shifting sourcing closer to the U.S. and how her company is building capacity in the Western Hemisphere.
Name: Jackie Gonsalez
Title: Vice president, supply chain business development
Company: Crowley Logistics
What’s the number one question you get from your apparel clients now that was never really a consideration before?
Are you able to now and in the future support my apparel manufacturing operations with equipment availability, a total portfolio of logistics services and reliable vessel capacity throughout the Western Hemisphere as apparel bases are aggressively moving to nearshoring for the manufacturing of their finished goods?
What are the main thing brands and retailers could do (or stop doing) right now that would immediately improve logistics?
Provide accurate forecasts while being open-minded to a blended approach to transportation that combines a mix of asset and non-asset solutions. If we, as a supply chain solutions provider, can use all our resources to manage the movement of goods, we have a better chance of meeting expectations.
Given the rollercoaster of demand and shipment volumes during the pandemic, how are you adapting your operations to better prepare for and react to uncertainty?
We are committed to using all available resources to provide more flexible solutions. We’ve enhanced our blended solutions capabilities and continue to make significant investments in our equipment and vessel fleets while additionally growing our relationships with partner carriers. We are buying new containers to relieve some pressure for today’s demand and considering new vessels to handle future state capacity needs in the nearshoring regions, such as Central America and the Caribbean.
Since 2014, Crowley has invested roughly $160 million in new cargo equipment for our fleet, including increasing the container fleet to provide apparel manufacturers, brands, consumer product makers, healthcare customers and retailers the supply chain capacity they need. Today, our company operates just under 50,000 pieces of owned and leased intermodal equipment. The diverse sizes and strategic locations of equipment throughout the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean provide customers a variety of solutions to meet demands.
Which piece of technology or innovation have you found most useful during this time?
We’ve made substantial investments in technology to undertake a digital transformation to leverage tools and data that provide customers the visibility they need for their modern supply chains to move swiftly and responsively. We are enhancing our platform to improve the customer experience by leveraging real-time information from one end of the supply chain to the other. Crowley’s move to a modern, singular user-friendly platform will provide customers transparency of cargo movements, documentation exchange, pricing and service requests, all in a single, integrated source to increase operational effectiveness. Essentially, it improves the customer experience through simplification and standardizes information, making the customer experience easier and confidence higher.
Our higher level of data integrity and security means better visibility for customers and partners using performance dashboards with key performance indicators front and center. This digital transformation brings all our foundational operating systems together in one resource with service quality that customers rely on already. It’s a multi-million-dollar investment to simplify the way we help shippers, while delivering repeatable, issue-free customer experiences across our operating footprint.
Resiliency has become a buzzword since the disruption caused by the pandemic. What could brands and retailers do right now to immediately start preparing for the next unforeseen event?
Partner with flexible supply chain solutions providers that offer blended, innovative solutions and do not rely solely on the generally accepted, way-they’ve-always-done-it approach.
What should be brands and retailers’ top lesson from Covid-19? How can they address this in their operations?
Diversify your manufacturing regions and look closely at the benefits and flexibility that nearshoring introduces.
What’s one piece of pending legislation that should be on fashion firms’ radar? How can companies proactively prepare for this potential policy?
The MADE in the Americas Act (HR 3309) was introduced by Reps. Jason Crow, D-Colo. and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., this year and would provide incentives for companies bringing jobs back to the United States and the Western Hemisphere. Through grants, government policy changes and expedited free trade agreements, the bill aims to secure supply chains and return jobs to the United States and other nations in our region. If passed into law, this could make real progress in nearshoring important industries.
The Trump administration’s trade policies tended toward protectionism. What tone do you expect the Biden administration to strike when it comes to trade?
While the Biden trade agenda is still developing, it appears President Biden will strike a more cooperative and collaborative tone with partner nations, particularly in Europe and in the WTO [World Trade Organization]. His administration will, however, continue to focus on the American worker while it seeks to increase domestic content and bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. Climate and environmental issues will also likely come into play in trade negotiations.
What keeps you up at night?
How this pandemic continues to alter the supply chain universe, impacting every piece in some way, shape or form. Tomorrow’s unknown is still very real, yet we have to continue to push and find different ways to protect the integrity of our supply chains.
What makes you most optimistic?
Our relationships have solidified. We no longer simply have customers, we have partners. We collaborate, help each other, try new things and employ all our resources to do what we say we are going to do when we say we are going to do it.
Crowley is actively and aggressively investing to be a leader in the nearshoring markets as growth continues over the next five years. The Latin America region has the ability, capacity and lending to manage the expanding needs of apparel manufacturers. We are here to support all our partners in any way they need, whether it be consulting on where and how they grow or stand up operations, overall supply chain execution or introductions to other needed parties such as lending, vendors, or in-country business or political groups.