Armour's Company Fuel Mix: Tires, Technology, and On-Time

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If, as it is often promoted, that Moncton, is the "Hub of the Maritimes", then Armour [http://www.armour.ca/] Transportation Systems(ATS), is the rolling tire rubber around the hub's spokes, moving a significant portion of the region's freight in, through, and out of the region.

Armour Transportation Systems is adding a lot of information technology to that rubber tire hub image and integrating it with a commanding logistics presence in its recently expanded logistics warehouse on English Drive that, after expansion, is 250,000 square feet of cargo coordination capacity.

Careful use of tires and technology are integrated into a freight system which is today's Armour Transportation Systems, a company that manages and measures every step of the freight carry, forward, and delivery process. ATS is a family owned, major trucking conglomerate, which is just starting to have a third generation of Armour's playing a role in the company's future, under the cautious eye of Wes Armour, president of ATS.

Representative of that third generation of Armour is Ralston Armour who reels off real time statistics of the minute-by-minute status of trucks making deliveries as easily as previous generations reeled off gear ratios and cargo capacity of vans and reefers making up the fleet.

Today's ATS is taking the integration of technology, tires, trucks and freight hauling to an innovative and industry leading status.

All ATS trucks, including the recently acquired City Wide Courier, are linked by a satellite-based tracking system that now not only tracks the truck and driver, but has added a real time status report from inside the truck. This technology allows the driver to update the delivery status of their freight in-cab at time of delivery, which is transmitted back to a Web enables central database. Within seconds of a delivery, a customer can view the status of this delivery via the Armour web site.

Later in the delivery cycle, the signed physical waybill, or ibill in today's modern parlance of IT professionals, of which Ralston Armour is one, is imaged into the same customer database. Upon imaging, this waybill is also viewable on the Web, thus completing the cycle of providing the customer with information of their entire delivery electronically.

Self Serve Customer Delivery Information Online 24/7 with Armour

" We image record every ibill and this allows a customer to check their shipment information and determine who in the delivery chain accepted the freight, when it was accepted and what condition it was in when it was accepted. This has been a huge time and labour saving as well as a customer benefit, because it allows the customer over the Internet to personally look inside our process and answer there own questions on their own time".

"This Web access is immediate and timely to the customer at the moment that they want to know about their shipment's information as part of their invoicing or support for their customers" says Ralston, who assisted in the implementation of the new system after joining his father's company in early 2000.

"What our computerized inventory and communications system allows us to do is provide for our freight customers a customer-based system that allows them to enhance their relationship with their customer as part of the ATS service package," he adds.

Armour explains that the implementation of putting Proof of Delivery (POD) and Bill of Lading (BOL) into play using the Internet in addition to the traditional methods of Phone/Fax/Mail was going to involve some new application technology and chose SilverBlaze Solutions for the installation. At the time, this established ATS as one of the first trucking companies in Canada to implement such a complete integration of documentation proof, directly accessible by the customer.

"Customers can get any documentation they want at any time of the day or night, on a 7 over 24 hour basis. It has become a popular feature with customers", says Armour.

He adds that ATS will be adding the same type of advanced linking for the pick-up order side of the freight business in order to provide customers with even higher levels of convenience and service.

"There a real payback in terms of ROI to the company beyond enhanced customer service with timely scheduled pickups, because now we can use this data log database of real time information on pickup times to examine how to reduce wasted time for drivers and how to increase the efficiency factor in how we schedule our freight pick-up. All of this data tells a story that will help us to influence our direct sales process and pricing strategies too," he says.

"Everything about the freight business is about time and the better that we can manage the time to customer cycle with technology, then the better we can use the same technology to manage the time to truck cycle, which makes us a more efficient operator".

This relentless pursuit of efficiency in freight hauling is a common theme over three generations of Armour family executives.

Armour's Heritage of Delivering Anything That Customer Wants Delivered

Wes Armour, took over the company comprised of 12 trucks and 12 employees, from his father Gordon (http://www.armour.ca/about/history.html), in the 60's and he embraced technology early, especially when it added management control to his operations. By the 1960's the company had grown to 12 vehicles and 12 employees and during this period moved into the Moncton Industrial Park location, from which it has expanded and grown from both sides of Edinburgh Drive to now include operations on English Drive.

Armour Logistics Services now offers the largest warehousing facility in Atlantic Canada at their 350 English Drive location.

Today, the next generation of Armours is around the yard and office, learning the business from the wheel, tires, and keyboard up. The privately held company is estimated to enjoy annual sales well in excess of $150 Million and has some 1,400 employees spread among its 23 terminals in Atlantic Canada. ATS is currently ranked as the 14 th largest trucking firm in Canada and is a privately held company.

Armour Logistics Services was launched in the late 1990's in response to opportunities that developed with Armour's purchase of Transplex in February of 1997. The rapid growth in the logistics component of warehousing and trucking freight developed as Livingston, Kheuen and Nagel, and Barker's were merged into what has become one of Atlantic Canada's major freight management systems, as ALS. A concept of taking care of a producer or manufacturer's product delivery that began with apples and hay and today includes hair spray, shampoo and thousands of items that are consumed by Atlantic Canadians in major retail outlets across the region, which are delivered by ALS.

For all intents and purposes, Atlantic Canada has become Armour's backyard and its loading docks have become the gateway in and out of Atlantic Canada.

When Gordon Armour launched the modest materials trucking firm for local customers in the hard time 30's, he started with one truck hauling hay and gravel from nearby Taylor Village, a farming village located Southeast of Moncton, towards Dorchester/Memramcook. To build up the company, Gordon began branching out to neighbouring regions and bringing back other commodity products to reduce the cost incurred in delivering the original consignment of hay, or any other product he could get lashed on the truck at the time. A prime example of the reach of the original Armour selling and hauling effort was to move apples out of the Annapolis Valley for producers there.

Today, the Armour family, operating as ATS, still hauls apples, oranges and everything from liquid dish soap to retail grocery Superstores throughout Atlantic Canada, to a snowmobile for a customer located in Northern Labrador.

A strong area of business concentration today for Armour centres on that same strategy of hauling for others in order to reduce the overall cost of hauling for themselves. Today, with major retailing corporations building retail centres throughout Atlantic Canada, it is common practice for corporate store haulers to haul into ATS Moncton Logistics centre and have product inventory distributed by terminal to terminal ATS vans throughout the region. To aid in this distribution effort, Armour maintains a total of 350,000 square feet of warehousing space in Atlantic Canada including the Moncton locations, Dartmouth, and Mount Pearl, Newfoundland.

Armour Logistics Pacing Growth of Trucking Company

Armour's warehousing facility in the Moncton Industrial Park is the largest public distribution warehouse east of Montreal. ATS vans haul freight among 23 terminals located throughout Atlantic Canada continuing the original haul-anything-for-a-price Armour tradition. ATS may be hauling a cargo load from a US based network customer to Atlantic Canada, or be bringing a less than truckload (LTL) consignment back to Moncton for forwarding on from one of Armour's community-based terminals.

"Moncton has been a good business location for us. We sort of grew with the City over the years. As more freight moved to warehouses here we just kept up with what our customer's needed and we are doing the same thing today", says Armour.

"Moncton has always been seen as a freight hub and as more freight moved onto trucks to serve Atlantic consumers, it was a natural thing for the City to grow with the trucking industry as we have," he adds.

The Armour family, over the last 70 years has built their company on managing trucks, technology, and time by linking the three into an integrated delivery philosophy. Armour trucks are not the fastest trucks on the road in Atlantic Canada, noticeable in their bold colour schemes, but they steadily win the freight race; much like the proverbial nursery tale of the hare and tortoise.

Without appearing to rush, Armour Transportation Systems delivers on Armour time, which is when the customer wants it delivered. Everything, as they say in the yard, backs up from there including up to the fuel-up islands, where fuel consumption as a cost input is calibrated against the driver's assignment to be on time, on schedule, and on budget.

It's the Armour way. Using technology in the office and on the trucks has given Wes Armour a way to keep a governing handle on nearly every delivery his trucks make. ATS is based in a major transport service facility and freight-forwarding warehouse that acts as the main Hub, located in the Northwest corner of the Moncton Industrial Park, spread among facilities on Edinburgh and English Drives.

Armour has been frequently featured in trucking industry magazines for awards such as continuing high rankings as the "Top 100 for Hire Fleets in Canada". Armour is no stranger to industry accolades and awards. ATS has received national recognition for its service program with the Award of the Canadian Maintenance Manager of the Year, presented to Alban Gaudet,( http://www.armour.ca/about/awards.html) a long term ATS employee.

Armour operates a network of terminals located strategically around Atlantic Canada serving the more than 2,500 vehicles (http://www.armour.ca/about/fleet.html ), operating under the ATS flag. On any given highway, a speciality tanker truck with the bright red and blue relief Armour logo on it can easily be joined by a general freight van, or a retailer's trailer van being hauled by a distinctive red Armour tractor. Rigs always travel at the same regular pace that follows the Armour designated optimum speed to get driver, load, truck and customer's satisfaction all delivered economically.

1,400 Employees, 2,500 Trucks, 350,000 Sq Ft. of Armour Logistics Capacity and .......More to Come

Wes Armour, on his watch over the past 30 plus years, has quietly built the company up to its current corporate strength and one of the company's proudest accomplishments is its safety record.

In 2003, ATS has achieved recognition with the National Safety Council for 200 million mile driver safety records and individual drivers continue to post remarkable records with two drivers now clocking over three million miles without accident. Some 29 drivers are chasing that milestone record with recognition for achieving over two million miles of accident free incidents on their mileage meters.

Increasingly over the last decade, Armour's interest in managing the risk and reward side of the trucking business has built information systems around measuring the performance of the company and its fleet. This new focus, using the latest in computer horsepower to back up diesel horsepower on the road spawned growth in a new Division within ATS, called Armour Logistics Services.

The company took over a 125,000 square foot building dedicated to logistics by an international firm and doubled the building's footprint at 350 English Drive and today the Logistics Division is one of the company's premium services to corporate customers.

As a result of this concentration on measuring and managing customer consignments beyond the truck in and out of the warehouse until it reaches the intended customer has established ATS as one of the country's technological leaders in the transportation and logistics industry sectors.

July, 2003