Volume 8 | Issue 1 | Year 2005

Being a multi-tasker is essential to workplace success. In the shipping business, it’s being multi-modal – using a combination of rail, truck and vessel carriers to go where no one mode of transportation can go alone. Jacksonville, Fla.-headquartered TRANSFLO is somewhat unique in that its “rail-centric” approach links ships and truck transport to a national railroad network.”A rail-centric approach to transporting products is what TRANSFLO is striving to achieve,” notes Glen Soliah, president. “It is more cost-effective to ship the equivalent of four truckloads in one railcar from an origin to a destination point. Fewer long-haul trucks on our highways reduces highway congestion and reduces the shipper’s overall costs.”

TRANSFLO is a subsidiary of CSX Corporation and the largest switch customer of CSX Transportation. “Our terminal network provides shippers the opportunity to use rail and ultimately get their products closer to their final destination where the product is transloaded from a railcar to a truck for short-haul delivery,” Soliah explains. “Our network consists of 75 terminals in the eastern states served by CSX, nine terminals in Mexico and four terminals in the western states served by UP.”

The TRANSFLO Experience
TRANSFLO has 32 employees and works closely with its terminal operators. A late 1990s branding effort, in conjunction with the high quality of standards, ensures a noticeable identity to the TRANSFLO name that in effect says, “You’re in a TRANSFLO facility.”

“We want anyone from anywhere in the country to walk into one of our terminals and immediately recognize it as one of ours,” John Orr, director of sales, points out. “We’re ISO 9001:2000 certified so our customers are assured of receiving the same quality service experience at all of our locations. Our bulk transloading capabilities are ISO 9001:2000 registered and we achieve near Six Sigma performance in our performance metrics. In fact, we transload over 500 commodities within our network of terminals.” He adds, “This is the largest terminal network of its kind. No other logistics supplier is rail-centric like we are, reaching into every major eastern shipping port to handle imports and exports as easily and expeditiously as this interstate transport.”

John Scheeter, director of operations, adds that, “For many of our customers, the only way they can be served is by rail transportation. And for those who have access to other options, the fact is that the railways offer the best means for bulk transportation. Our job is to make it easy for our customers to do business with the rail system.”

Logistical Solutions
Towards this end, Belinda Hess, director of marketing and logistics, emphasizes that TRANSFLO is not simply offering trucks on tracks. “We’re a solutions provider, whether it is to develop an approach for a customer to improve supply chain efficiency using multiple transportation modes, or to manage the entire logistical process within customer warehouse and distribution facilities on their behalf. We can improve a customer’s personnel productivity, increase equipment utilization, and lower transportation costs with cost-effective and customized solutions that add value by streamlining and optimizing logistics activities. We don’t just manage a customer’s supply chain. We make it stronger.”

Indeed, TRANSFLO fills a gaping void resulting from the general trend in business to concentrate on core competencies and outsource other functions. “A lot of traffic departments have been downsized or eliminated. Even in situations where a company still has a traffic management department, they’re mostly familiar with the trucking business,” Hess notes. “So we can help improve their supply chain management by offering rail-based solutions that they otherwise wouldn’t know much about.”

She adds that trucking companies are both an ingredient of TRANSFLO’s solutions, as well as a competitor. “We’re in a unique situation in that we depend on the truckers to load and offload shipments from our rail terminals for short-hauls, while competing with them for the long-haul. But while we don’t represent any competition to the small inner city carrier, where rail is not a factor, we are competing against national truckers across North America.”

Key to doing it better and faster isn’t just the quantity of cars you can attach to a single rail line, it’s employing sophisticated inventory management and tracking systems to know exactly where product is and ensure it gets there. With its proprietary TRANSCEND system, an Internet-based package that combines logistics planning, supply chain and service management, customers can submit shipment notices and transfer orders directly online on a real-time 24/7 basis for TRANSFLO affiliated terminals. TRANSCEND also provides a myriad of ordering and inventory report information systems. In addition, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) solutions are offered which can integrate into a customer’s SAP system to allow for secure, fast and direct computer-to-computer communication.

Rail Demand
Says Gary Sease, CSX media relations and corporate communications, “There is an incredible demand today for rail services. However, the infrastructure of the rail system itself isn’t going to expand because it’s simply too expensive – it costs about $2 million for every new mile of track. That’s obviously not cost-effective. So it becomes our job to manage the process of how the rail network is used, to more effectively schedule, to ramp up capacity for equipment and locomotives, and to apply our resources to get the most accomplished most efficiently.”

Further adding to the complexity of this undertaking is the need for increased security. “Even before 9/11, CSX always had strict and effective security processes and procedures,” Sease points out. “Now, as is the case with TRANSFLO, we’ve taken it to an even higher level to manage elevated concerns and ensure the safe and responsible handling of customer’s products.”

While TRANSFLO is in the business of helping other businesses operate more efficiently, Soliah notes that the company has to run its own affairs more efficiently. “The rising awareness of and demand for rail services, coupled with the ability to apply IT and good management practice to maximize rail utilization, should see TRANSFLO’s continued growth in the future.”