Global Supply Chain Logistics: An Expert Perspective
From automation to careful planning, implementing a successful logistics strategy goes beyond simply choosing the next big name in technology platforms. When done the right way, robust logistics strategies have the ability to create a life-long customer network while extending company values and reputation, as seen with CN – a leader in North American Transportation and Logistics. The company boasts an impressive 20,000 route-miles rail network in Canada and the U.S. Led by a vision that goes beyond North American parameters, the team continuously works towards building an internationally recognized company that values commitment to customers while delivering the highest quality value to shareholders. Through CN’s multidimensional approach, the company prides itself on fully integrated services that connect ports on three coasts.
Senior Vice-President of Consumer Product Supply Chain Growth Keith Reardon explains what sets CN apart from the others, identifying key differentiators found within the company’s operations.
“Number one is for us as a key differentiator is our scope and scale, our network. We are blessed to have the network that we do,” Reardon said. “We are the only railroad that covers all three coasts of North America, all the way from Halifax to Prince Rupert, Vancouver down to the Gulf Coast.”
The company boasts an extensive century-long history of providing customers, shareholders, employees, and partners with the highest quality supply chain services, setting the bar higher with each successful initiative and expanding its network through proactive efforts, rather than last-minute reactive measures.
“Because we saw it very early on, we’ve been involved in having people and boots on the ground in Asia for years. One of the things that we pride ourselves on is listening to our customers, having boots on the ground whether there’s an issue or opportunity. We go first hand to find out what’s going on,” Reardon explains.
CN attributes much of its success to proactively learning about market potential at a granular level, vetting problems and areas of improvement while building valuable relationships with key executives in and around the industry, and finding value in diversification. Beyond understanding regional opportunities, CN creates an example of gauging market predictions on a short-term and long-term scale, developing a strong competitive advantage in the industry.
“That’s why we have people positioned in Asia to understand the market, to understand the players, and gain some credibility as well. I think that if you’re doing business with people face-to-face, you’re going to get more out of it, you’re going to have a better relationship when things might not be going so well. There’s going to be that relationship to hang on to, to weather the storm so to speak, and we’ve been able to do that,” added Reardon. “I think that’s another reason our global trade is doing so well, because we’ve been able to weather the storm. It also gives us a very diverse portfolio of business.”
In addition to its extensive market reach and developing robust industry relationships, CN takes efforts one step further by partnering with companies that provide added value and resources that align with their vision and future business goals. In October 2018, CN announcedit had agreed to acquire of one of the largest and oldest transportation companies in Canada, The TransX Group of Companies.
“This strategic acquisition allows CN to deepen its supply chain focus, strengthening our exceptional franchise, including our intermodal business, notably in the specialized, fast-growing refrigerated segment,” commented president and chief executive officer of CN, JJ Ruest. “This alignment creates a solid framework to serve a growing consumer economy with transportation options that bring more supply chain flexibility to our customers.”
This acquisition, which is pending regulatory approval, provides a multidimensional benefit to the company and its customers, supporting one of the key differentiators found within the CN business model of valuing customers just as much as the company’s success. CN executives recognized the added value and talent TransX offered and carefully considered how much impact these elements would bring to each business initiative. The acquisition idea comes from an extensive business relationship CN and TransX created spanning more than two decades.
“We are acquiring talent. They are a very talented company and well run with a lot of people that have exceptional capabilities from an operating standpoint and also sales and marketing. They will give us more tools in our toolkit, so to speak. We are adding, again to that optionality for the customer,” Reardon explains. “The other thing is, they have been customers of ours for 25 years, so they understand us, and we understand them. It should be a very easy integration. We will keep them as a stand-alone entity, but there is always the second commercial integration. We get along so well that we thought it was a perfect fit.”
Going back to the theme of valuable relationships, CN works hard to navigate the best strategies that benefit all participants, all while continuing the expansion of services and company reach. Leaders at CN take a holistic approach while evaluating what areas have potential for additional growth and what areas need improvement from a marketing and sales perspective.
“TransX has over-the-road trucking and they have LTL – they’re a big player in the LTL business. We don’t offer LTL service (but) we are now hoping (to)to be able to offer (LTL) to (customers who need it), Reardon said. “They also have customs brokerage service, which we do too, but their customs brokerage service is geared towards a different clientele and different products, so again, we are adding more capabilities in what we can do.”
Whether your company goals are to increase sales and marketing, improve operations, or build on longstanding, valuable industry relationships, following the model and strategies CN continues to implement are exemplary and imperative to substantial growth. The company serves as an industry example of how to navigate an evergreen market while strengthening reach beyond North America. CN will undoubtedly continue to extend operations well into 2019, proving that to create a successful business empire, companies must go deeper than technology integration.
Keith Reardon was appointed Senior Vice-President, Consumer Product Supply Chain Growth, in August 2018, based in Toronto. He is responsible for the execution and expansion of CN’s intermodal and automotive businesses, leading the commercial teams and non-rail operations in his supply chains, and adapting all last-mile services for customers. Mr. Reardon oversees all aspects of the company’s domestic and international intermodal and automotive activities, as well as freight forwarding services in North America and Asia, and CN’s regional sales groups.
Prior to his appointment, he had been Vice-President of Intermodal and Automotive since January of 2017. In 2012, Mr. Reardon was named Vice-President of Intermodal Services. In 2009, Mr. Reardon was appointed Vice-President of Supply Chain Solutions, where he was responsible for the Automotive and Iron Ore business units and CN’s non-rail transportation services including transloading, freight forwarding and warehousing, just to name a few. He also directed many supply chain and business development initiatives for CN – working closely with CN customers and partners. Previously, he was Assistant Vice-President of CN Transloading Operations, where he managed more than 80 CN-owned warehousing and distribution facilities.
Passionate about logistics, Mr. Reardon has more than 25 years of experience in the field; he also held senior positions with outside firms in the world of logistics for a number of years. Mr. Reardon holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing and an MBA from the University of North Florida.