Competing with the Big Boys

an article in Frozen Food Digest, July 2009

"Competing with the big boys of the cold storage industry is nothing new for the one Midwest-focused COLDSTREAM Logistics, formerly know as Great Lakes Cold Storage and Great Lakes Cold Logistics -a pair of sister companies.

By taking smart risks to build an asset based operation and streamlining an efficient consolidation program, COLDSTREAM Logistics has put themselves in a position to truly listen and respond to customer needs. Doing so has allowed COLDSTREAM Logistics to develop a unique niche and level the playing field that has traditionally been dominated by long-established companies that have millions in assets under their management.

While focused on providing nationwide LTL and TL to all retail food service and specialty grocer operations, its recent partnership with Wal-Mart as an approved consolidation program has helped solidify its place at the table as legitimate players among frozen foods storage and trucking giants, referred to as “the big boys.” And in competing with these top nationally regarded distributors, COLDSTREAM refuses to abandon the values that have helped them rise to the top. In being innovative with decisions, they have carved out a place for themselves by capitalizing on bold corporate moves while keeping their operations customer focused.

Asset Based Operation

Originally founded by Patrick Gorbett, a veteran in the food distribution industry as a cold storage operator, an opportunity presented itself to further add value to customer who were already paying freight costs for their products to and from the COLDSTREAM facility.

The opportunity? To add an LTL logistics operation that could service customers from a cold storage and trucking standpoint that would be completely owned, operated and maintained by the same general management team. In an industry where the big boys traditionally shy away from this asset based approach CEO Gorbett saw the chance to find a place at the table. In partnership with COLDSTREAM President Daniel Palus and Executive Vice President Howard Schillinger the risk associated with building an asset based logistics company was eventually outweighed by the added value the team saw in assuring quality and control for the customer. In order to compete with the big boys, becoming asset based was a move that would pay dividends for COLDSTREAM and for its customers.

“We took a look at our operations, asked ourselves how we could become the best in the industry, and the answer became clear,” said Gorbett. “Where many competitors coordinate with other companies for their logistics operations, our asset based approach puts their management team in charge of the storage and logistics for our customers.”

Competing with Effective Consolidation

COLDSTREAMs’ approach to LTL consolidation has also allowed them to compete with the big boys. The flexibility and control by which COLDSTREAM brings together various customers’ LTL orders consolidates them and ships them out under one roof provides a higher level of service to customers in a number of ways.
First, efficiency in tracking orders for customers has been unified by dealing with one company who ships, stores, consolidates and ships again. Second, through the asset based approach all costs are more closely controlled compared to the bigger companies that mostly broker their freight costs with outside trucking companies.

These two benefits have kept customers coming back to COLDSTREAM time and time again. Not to mention the fact that COLDSTREAM center of operations I located in Solon, Ohio-just outside of Cleveland- and provides a centralized operation where a large percentage of the nation’s population is within a 500-mile reach of their facility.

Orders that require a week to fulfill for some warehousing and logistics operations are shipped in a day with COLDSTREAM to New England, to the South or just about anywhere in the Midwest.

Competing by Caring For the Customer

Though a good deal of its success can be attributed to being asset based, COLDSTREAMs’ intense focus on the customers’ needs has been the primary factor for steady growth and solid reputation. With a total operation of fewer than 200 employees, COLDSTREAM finds added success in creating personal and trustworthy relationships with its customers.

“Our approach to the business gives the customers better control over their products as they are being shipped and stored,” says Schillinger. “We’ve truly placed an emphasis on quality enhancements and customizing operations for the individual customer as best as possible.”

COLDSTREAM further cares for its customers by committing to cutting edge technological advancements and incorporating them into its day-to-day operations. Where most of the big boys cannot manage in transit temperatures, COLDSTREAM has adopted the technology with allows it to completely monitor and manage temperature throughout the supply chain. This benefit has been met with great satisfaction from the customer.

In all, the cold storage industry has long been dominated by warehousing corporation with hundreds of facilities and millions of dollars in assets. COLDSTREAM Logistics ahs chipped away at the advantage by blazing a trail of its own through calculated internal decisions about corporate operations and keeping the serviceability of the customer first in mind. The asset based approach, along with continued efficient in the consolidation program has left customers quite satisfied, and in doing so, has elevated COLDSTREAM and positioned them to compete with the big boys."