A balanced approach: Celadon uses technology to act quickly, strategically

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Updated May 12, 2014

As a mathematician, Steve Russell takes a very methodical and planned approach in life and business. His beard, for instance, is the result of a calculation he once made on how many minutes he could save throughout his life and apply to more productive tasks than shaving.

Steve Russell, founder and chairman of the Celadon Group.Steve Russell, founder and chairman of the Celadon Group.

One day nearly 30 years ago, Russell, from Brooklyn, New York, stopped at a toll booth on the Henry Hudson Parkway. He had always carried exact change to travel as efficiently as possible through toll booths. This day was different.

He stopped and waited for change and, in the process, spotted a former colleague in the next lane. They both quickly rolled down their windows and the colleague wasted no time in telling Russell of an opportunity to start a business transporting automotive freight into the United States from Mexico.

The rest, as they say, is history. From this chance encounter Russell created the Celadon Group in 1985.

Today, the Celadon Group (CCJ Top 250, No.36) operates 3,500 trucks and 9,200 trailers with diversified operations that include dry van, temperature control, intermodal, local, regional and dedicated.

On May 6 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., two of Celadon’s young leaders discussed how the company is using advanced technology to follow the example set by Russell as the scale and complexity of Celadon’s business continue to grow.

Lauren Howard, vice president of customer service, and Troy Casey, optimization manager of Celadon, presented at the Manhattan Associates’ user conference, Momentum, on a very robust tool the company uses called Load Analyzer. The technology helps the company stay true to its roots of taking a very methodical, planned approach and quickly responding to new opportunities at hand.

Howard described Load Analyzer as a strategic planning tool that helps Celadon maximize profitability and maintain network balance. The software does this by gathering supply and demand data from Celadon’s freight network and presenting it to people who are tasked with creating the best possible outcome.

Load Analyzer summarizes supply and demand information for today and five days out in the future, Howard said. The software separates this information for each market, or area, in Celadon’s network.

“(Load Analyzer) is your crystal ball for telling you exactly what is happening with your network so that you can plan accordingly,” she said.

CLICK HERE to view a photo gallery of the key topics discussed at Manhattan Associates’ user conference for shippers and carriers.CLICK HERE to view a photo gallery of the key topics discussed at Manhattan Associates’ user conference for shippers and carriers.

The main screen in Load Analyzer contains six rows of dates (one for today and for the next five days). The first column shows the market — like Dallas — that all other columns correspond to. The first set of columns show numbers for the supply side of the equation and include trucks, trucks short, and trucks due in the market that day. One column gives recommendations for what trucks to bring in empty from surrounding regions to address immediate capacity needs.

Continuing on to the demand side, the screen has columns that show the number of loads booked in the area without trucks. Another column shows recommendations for which customers and loads to solicit for moving trucks into areas where they are needed to satisfy customer lane commitments. The recommendations show the operating ratio of these loads so that customer service representatives (CSRs) can prioritize calls.

With this information, Celadon’s CSRs know which customers they will need to contact to change pickup dates and times to meet commitments as well as which customers to contact and solicit freight moving into specific markets.

Before implementing Load Analyzer in November, 2013, Celadon’s customer service department had a strong approach for soliciting loads, Howard said, but the approach was “take whatever we could get.”

If the company had 15 extra trucks in the Dallas area, for example, its CSRs would get on the phone and find loads to move those trucks. The profitability of those moves was an afterthought and its old approach created another problem of landing excess capacity into markets.

“They didn’t necessarily care where they were taking trucks. They just had to move the trucks out of Dallas since that was their job,” she said.

Moving trucks from Dallas to markets like Arizona would often result in contacting a broker, such as C.H. Robinson, to find a backhaul.

“That didn’t make sense. If South Carolina was overbooked by 10 loads, that’s really where we needed to drive a truck,” she said. “Load Analyzer fixes all of those problems for us, which is why it so great.”

Some of the results Celadon has achieved since implementing Load Analyzer in November, 2013, include a 49 percent reduction in brokered loads, year over year, in February; a reduction of layovers by 67.5 percent; and an increase in the number of load solicitations by 30 percent with a 15 percent higher success rate.

Manhattan Associates designs, builds and delivers supply chain commerce systems to shippers, third party logistics providers and carriers. The company reported 2013 revenues in excess of $400 million and maintains a debt-free balance sheet. Its products fall under three categories—warehouse management, transportation management, and order management.