Going from a small family business that serviced one company to becoming one of the most important and biggest freight service companies in Mexico, Fletes Mexico Chihuahua is also setting the standards for what clients can expect from their transportation carriers. Gilbran Haq reports.
In 1952, Gustavo Lazeri started a small transportation firm that serviced a beer company based in Obisaba, Veracruz. After years of doing business and earning a good reputation, Lazeri got more clients and relocated to Puebla and decided it was time to expand his transportation business throughout all of Mexico. In 1988, Lazeri and his children acquired a company called Fletes Mexico Chihuahua and merged their own company within it, retaining the name of the newly acquired business. They started out with 20 freightliners that moved around and across various destinations in Mexico. Their first major client was Packard Electric.
In recent years, Fletes Mexico Chihuahua has seen exponential growth reflected in both its assets and the opening of new locations. “Right now our logistics network comprises Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Torreon, Monterrey, Laredo, Mexico City, Toluca, Queretaro and Tijuana, which totals nine branches across Mexico. We have 625 employees at this stage, about 400 foreign units, 100 local units and we have about 900 trailers of 48 to 53 feet long. Then we also have full-box trucks that are 40 feet each, and those are especially and solely devoted for servicing Wal-Mart,” says Regional Manager Daniel Guadarrama.
Fletes Mexico Chihuahua’s administrative board is comprised of the President and General Director, Octavio Espinoza, and four other principals. From there the company breaks down into two big regions. Region One encompasses the North Pacific, including Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Monterrey and Torreon. Region Two covers the Northwest: Laredo, Mexico City, Queretaro and Toluca. There also is a third zone in the Southeast that primarily services Wal-Mart, for whom Fletes Mexico Chihuahua transports goods from Mexico City to the Yucatan Peninsula, Villa Hermosa, Tabasco, Quintana Ro, Yucatan Campeche and Chiapas.
THE BENEFITS OF TRACKING
The concept of managing the flow of transportation began to gain acceptance in the early 1980s, when leading companies sought greater control over their transportation costs. The main problem was that until then, the functional aspect of control was decentralized and shared among the companies and their suppliers. Having a holistic view of the administration of transportation required somewhat of a strategic vision, and although Fletes Mexico Chihuahua had that vision, advances in technology propelled it further. It is now able to offer to clients, via Intranet, centralized tracking of their cargos.
“All of our units include a GPS device that allows us to do satellite tracking and monitor the positioning of our units 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As one of our main goals is to always try to service our clients to the best of our capabilities – keeping in mind the importance of meeting the deadlines that they specify to us – this system is an asset that has brought much satisfaction to our clients,” says Guadarrama.
The global positioning system is especially effective and works well for the company, because according to Guadarrama, “in the case that anything happens on the road, we can communicate directly with our clients in a time span that does not go beyond 120 minutes after the event has taken place, to let them know about the whereabouts of their merchandise. We can provide them a modified itinerary, so this way, despite the occurrence of some unfortunate event, they know that we will always be doing our best to get them their freight as promptly as possible, and most important of all, it gives them a sense of control and security about their goods that is almost invaluable. It is almost as though the goods were always within their reach.”
The real-time availability of information for both shippers and consignees “has elevated the game for all,” says Guadarrama. “These days, the partners are more honest with each other and taking into consideration that the information is available immediately, both the entry and exit can see what is happening at the other end, something that has pretty much forced everyone in the industry to step up to the game and push their standards, which means more competitiveness. So seeing that we continue to grow and expand in a more competitive market, is a sign that we are doing things right.”
Another great benefit the company offers is its nine strategic locations across Aztec country, which enables it to service some of its clients at local and/or interstate levels, and if there is a need, across the border into and out of the United States. According to Guadarrama, this is another facet of Fletes Mexico Chihuahua that is very convenient for some of its clients, mainly because they are able to consolidate all of their needs for freight services into just one company.
“The fact that we have 900 trailers is also a very big benefit for our clients and it allows us to manage and administrate a truck pool that our clients can make use of whenever they need to. The only thing they have to do is submit a request form and the requested truck will be on its way to the destination within the specified timeframe.” In other words, the somewhat tedious process of having to get on the phone, calculate costs and timeframes for pick-up and delivery has been dramatically cut short thanks to the automated process Fletes Mexico Chihuahua has put in place.
“One of the most important factors in this business – if not the most important one of them all – is being able to comply with the specific timeframe requested by your client, and in that aspect, we have been very successful,” says Guadarrama. “Our latest report shows that we have a 95 percent rate of success in achieving the preset arrival time we have agreed upon with our clients, and that number is not an easy one to achieve.”
To illustrate the level of accomplishment achieved by Fletes Mexico Chihuahua, Yellow Freight, which is one of the biggest multinational freight companies in the world, chose to make FMC its main carrier in Mexico. The association is 13 years old, and entitles FMC to handle Yellow’s local pickup and deliveries.
“We service a vast array of sectors, such as private, or small-scale businesses oriented towards consumers, or bigger and larger companies dedicated to consolidated production, especially in the electronics and automotive industries. Although our main focus is the transportation of automotive units and consumption goods,” says Guadarrma.
The good name the company has built for itself is also underscored by its high-profile clients, some of which have been in business with FMC for more than a decade, and include Chrysler, Freightliner, Liverpool, Soriana, Sumitomo, Mercedes Benz and Wal-Mart, just to name a few. Forty-two percent of FMC’s business is devoted to the automotive sector.
“Our company is ISO: 9000-certified and we comply with all the regulations requested by governments of both Mexico and the United States, mainly because many of our ongoing assignments are cross-border, and they require us to go through Laredo and Ciudad Juarez. We have also established partnerships with other companies in the domestic market and we continue to work with some railway providers that are in charge of transporting containers from seaports to warehouses.”
An objective for 2008 is to update equipment to new 2007 and 2008 models. Guadamarra explains, “Our plan is to make available between 60 and 70 new freightliner trucks. We are about to acquire between 50-100 towers that have been required by our clients, with specific characteristics. There is also a project to have GPS in every single one of our units.”
The company also intends to expand into the Southeast region, and more specifically, to open a 10th branch in Cancun and eventually in Chiapas.
“The truth is that we manage the transport according to the need of our customers. That comes down to being able to satisfy their expectations. In that sense, Fletes Mexico Chihuahua uses its experience to provide its customers with transportation options so they can choose the service and cost that best suits their needs,” concludes Guadamarra.