Sometimes my imagination runs away from me. It’s why I make for a good writer—we often plan for the worst before considering the best. (In another world, I may have been a good farmer.)
So, you’ll understand my predisposition for being carried away by certain words, especially one as potent as relationship.
Relationship might seem an odd word in an article guided by data, solutions, and technology—but after my conversation with Kenny Lund, it became the most natural association in the world.
“In transporting produce, the three most important things are relationship, relationship, relationship. 2020 proved that,” the Executive Vice President of Allen Lund Company and ALC Logistics shares with conviction. “And we’re seeing companies push to the forefront by saying they’re going to replace the relationship with data, all for better pricing. That works until there’s a claim. It works until you add three pickups or three drops. It works until it’s two o’clock in the morning and the cherries being picked up have gone from eight pallets to four, or when rates change by 1,000 dollars on a Friday afternoon. Relationships built over time are what get that product moving.”
In essence, data can’t replace trust. It can, however, be used to strengthen an existing trust, which is precisely what Allen Lund Company’s division, ALC Logistics, set out to do. And that, in and of itself, makes a world of difference.
Or, as Kenny would say, “Our technology improves relationships. It doesn’t replace them.”
It wasn’t long after I became a part of the industry myself that I heard of AlchemyTMS and what the consolidation of ALC Logistics’ full transportation management system (TMS) offering meant for perishable freight. Although the AlchemyTMS suite of solutions may be relatively new, it is backed by the integrity and expertise of both ALC Logistics and the Allen Lund name.
“We started by providing a very basic TMS and now we’re AlchemyTMS, with over fifteen different products under the Alchemy suite,” Kenny explains. “Almost all of those products have been developed at the request of customers.”
“We built our system to be able to handle the changes that are par for the course in the produce industry.”
Kenny Lund, Executive Vice President, Allen Lund Company and ALC Logistics
This is how relationships are built, how trust comes into being. Trust is what keeps you feeling steady even when the battering rams of industry-shaking events beat on your doors.
“We weren’t a software company first,” Kenny explains. “We were a transportation company—we have 45 years of transportation experience at our backs—and continue to bring that knowledge and put it into our software. And I cannot tell you how important that has been.”
Here is where the specter of 2020 looms, a presence that, for better or for worse, we cannot escape. If anything, it strengthened the industry’s reliance on its partners along the supply chain.
“2020 saw many things, but the struggle for many was the rising cost of transportation. Our spot bid program allowed our customers to take some of their freight out of contracts—or, when they were handed those back, they were still able to cover those loads efficiently. The program lets them find lower prices than their competitors,” Kenny expresses.
The system itself gets spot bids to carriers in a matter of seconds, after which the spot bid parameters are configured, the deadline is set, and the carriers are selected.
“Every system we install, especially in produce, improves the relationship with the transportation providers. And, it improves it in two measurable areas: better service and better pricing. Our solutions quantify that on a number of metrics—pickup times, appointment scheduling times, delivery times, unloading times—that act as a report card for transportation companies, because if they know you’re measuring their performance, they’re going to improve,” Kenny notes.
The solutions under the AlchemyTMS suite are meant to solve a problem before it becomes a problem.
“We built our system to be able to handle the changes that are par for the course in the produce industry. So, we built it to be able to handle changes and to get that data flow to all the parties involved. One hundred produce loads could see over 600 changes to manage, and that could include quantity, sizes, and pickup points. Information flow is dramatically better for transportation providers, which means they’re able to give better pricing,” Kenny states.
Never one to shy away from the realities of being in the fresh produce business, Kenny makes a note of another solution under AlchemyTMS that helps alleviate an industry pain point.
“We’ve evolved our claims management module, which we automatically include for anybody that handles refrigerated product. Claims never get better with time—it’s not wine,” he says with a laugh. “Our module gathers all the documents needed to get through those claims. We can communicate with everybody involved—we can bring in elements that come from an inspection or from a temperature recording device, or even from a preload inspection and the bill of lading into one area so that the claim can be solved as quickly and painlessly as possible.”
To further benefit its customers, Kenny explains to me that ALC Logistics is working with Sensitech, Emerson, and Tive® to develop new products that allow for easy use no matter which system a customer may already have in place.
“That way, they can just integrate their data into our TMS,” he tells me, and I know that one of the things Kenny is most proud of is making this technology more accessible for businesses.
AlchemyTMS’s dock scheduling program has also picked up steam ever since its introduction 15 years ago, seeing over 2 million appointments—1.2 million of which are made through a prominent wholesaler. Every single one of this wholesaler’s distribution centers in the United States and Canada goes through its systems.
Overall, the importance of AlchemyTMS cannot be overstated, especially in a year like 2020. Companies using it were able to leverage the relationships they had and communicate more effectively with the transportation partners they work with. They were able to see pricing trends more quickly and react—a critical advantage when pricing’s only consistency was the fact that it would leap up and down.
It is important to note Kenny’s deep conviction in the solutions he works with, a conviction that runs so deep he will let companies try the product for two months and if by the end, they don’t like it, he’ll issue a full refund.
To date, no one has asked him for that refund.
“It’s fun to sell a product you’re that confident in,” he says with a smile. “You know that offer is unheard of in software, but I’m so confident in what we do and how we install our solutions that it doesn’t faze me. Our belief in our products helps build that trust between us and
Purchasing the software, as Kenny remarks, is a huge commitment for a company, which is why it is essential to build that relationship.
“It’s a big change,” he comments. “And the company and its team have got to be comfortable with how we’re going to help them through that, how we’re going to be there, and how we’re going to make this product really fit for them. We don’t have off-the-shelf software; we adapt it to each install that we do because we’re accounting for shipping seasons, product, temperature, and how many different trucking companies that customer may use. This all has to be put into the system before we move one load.”
“Every company that we work with brings a unique challenge, but that’s what I love.”
Some of the companies using AlchemyTMS include Naturipe Farms, Ready Pac Foods, and Mucci Farms, all individual powerhouses within the fresh produce world.
Rick Burden, Senior Director of Transportation and Logistics at Naturipe Farms, shares with me his high praise for AlchemyTMS.
“We were looking for a TMS system for quite a while because our business is influenced by so many things, primarily weather. We have growing areas all over the United States, South America, Mexico, Canada, and Europe,” Rick explains. “We bring in close to 2,000 containers a year from Peru and Chile. We have a Mexican program that crosses the border. The supply chain is very much influenced by a lot of outside factors. On the berry side—especially for strawberries—when you’re picking, packing, cooling, and shipping on the same day, there’s a lot that can happen. There are a lot of changes involved in the supply chain. So, we needed a TMS system that could adapt to that, and we chose AlchemyTMS for that reason. Over the course of a few years, we’ve been able to tailor a program that completely fits our needs. ALC even developed new solutions to specialize a system that is specific for berries. Right now, to be honest, we’d be pretty much dead without it.”
When I speak to Ready Pac Foods, a brand under Bonduelle Fresh Americas, the response is similarly glowing.
“AlchemyTMS has been a very successful initiative for Ready Pac Foods and Bonduelle Fresh Americas by replacing a largely manual-intensive set of processes to a wholly integrated systematic approach for managing our freight and logistics,” shares Rod Downey, Director of Customer Supply Chain. “The ALC solution has superior functionalities developed specifically for the complexities of our business and is user-friendly for both our transportation teams and carrier base. Overall, we experienced superior project management and leadership support to implement the solution across our network and continue to be extremely pleased with the final product and ongoing support.”
Bryan Miller, Mucci Farms’ Logistics Manager, also takes a beat with me to offer his take on why AlchemyTMS has been a must-have for running the company’s operations.
“The team at Allen Lund is open to all my craziness,” he says with a laugh. “Five years ago, Mucci Farms went from a 21-pallet average to 24, and a TMS solution became even more imperative. I picked AlchemyTMS in 2018 because it’s not a cookie-cutter solution. It’s up to your imagination on what you want to do with it. Our business is decidedly not cookie cutter; there are a lot of moving parts and I need to be able to capture those moving parts. AlchemyTMS continues to be the best solution for me and our company because the solutions help identify weaknesses and strengths based on your utilization of the product. If you use the tool correctly, it’s going to do you a great service—and it’s going to save you a lot of money.”
Kenny himself reflects on the theme I’ve seen throughout my discussions with the companies making use of AlchemyTMS.
“Every company that we work with brings a unique challenge, but that’s what I love,” Kenny expresses. “They are not demanding, they are challenging. They present a new way for us to look at an issue and say, ‘How do we solve this problem?’”
Looking ahead, the EVP tells me that, as a pioneer within the space, there’s a lot to look forward to. There’s one innovation in particular that I’m champing at the bit to share, but I have a relationship to maintain—and you’ll find out soon enough.
In a world where we must, at times, plan for the worst before considering the best, it is good to know that there are those like Kenny and Allen Lund Company in that equation with you—with the technology to calm the waters.