Flexitanks were providing a low cost alternative to bulk liquid shipping, but often they were sold as discrete products separate from the shipping services used to move them. Our plan was to come to market as a fully integrated Flexitank Logistics company... a “one-stop-shop” offering a simplified pricing, communications, and shipment management. We wanted to be an international supply chain management company for companies whose supply chains contained a flexitank.
We also notice a problem, or let’s say an opportunity, when we began analyzing the actual flexitank shipment process. The normal export process was to truck flexitank “fitted” containers from the port of export to the load point and back. The expense of draying containers limited the distance from the port one could efficiently load and ship. In essence, the normal flexitank shipping process did not work efficiently in most of the geographical United States.
Our plan was to come to market as a company that could offer a nationwide network of flexitank handling and rail trans-load operations in order to overcome this problem. We envisioned a company that could provide export services from anywhere in the US, not just from facilities close enough to coastal ports to make the economics of truck haulage work.
As with all new things, our plan didn’t develop quite as anticipated. Rather than loading material from inland locations for export, our first rail trans-load customer was an importer. But we ran with what we had and developed a global supply chain management program for this high-volume importer of bulk liquids.
Using state-of-the-art logistics software, we implemented shipment visibility and supply chain execution capabilities for our customer and ourselves. From loading containers at Asian rubber plantations to matching those inbound containers to rail cars called from inland US locations, we timed and matched loads so that arriving containers could be immediately trans-loaded into railcars. It saved time and transport expenses, it reduced product handling at destination, and it took hundreds of trucks off the road… with all the environmental benefits therein.
Meanwhile, we began building our export rail trans-load service using many of the same software tools. We built a network of what are now 26 flexitank handling facilities throughout the United States, which included numerous rail trans-load operations. As we increased product verticals, we continued to stress to our customers the savings associated with rail logistics as part of the flexitank supply chain.
FGN now manages seven rail trans-load operations at strategic ports on all coasts. Approximately 65% of our US export volume is originally loaded in a railcar. Our customers and vendors use real-time Internet-based portals, which provide visibility of their containers, railcars, documents, and other logistics resources.
We believe the efficiencies provided by our railcar-to-flexitank logistics programs have saved our customers millions of dollars and have changed the nature of flexitank shipping in the United States.