Critical Path Express has grown from a humble courier start up to one of Ontario’s leading providers of courier, transportation, logistics, warehousing, and distribution services. After three decades of successful growth, Greg Doff (Founder) is proud to say the company continues to expand its list of specialized services to better support its customers.
Critical Path’s expansive scope allows the company to deliver a complete solution to its diverse customer base. “We provide a solution that offers many different capabilities, no matter what the vertical might be – courier, on demand, aviation, or warehousing,” Mr. Thompson explains. Furthermore, the team carefully manages every step of these full service solutions. “We look at everything from a project management standpoint, focusing on the details to make sure that we are providing the right overall solution.”
Aviation is one area of significant recent growth for Critical Path. The focus on AOG (Aircraft on Ground) services began a few years ago, when the team had the opportunity to work with Ornge Air. “We facilitated some last minute, on demand needs for them,” Mr. Thompson recalls. This initial business, which grew into a partnership that includes warehousing and on demand services, helped Critical Path break into the sector long term. “Having that partnership with Ornge put us in the aviation industry realm.” The team’s conscientious approach and quick turnaround is ideal for an industry that demands 24/7 attention; when an aircraft is grounded and waiting for a part, the cost in lost revenue can be extreme – as much as $50,000 per hour in some cases. “Aviation is a last minute, on demand service and we have proven that Critical Path can facilitate that expectation.”
For example, Critical Path received a request on December 24th to facilitate an emergency, last minute shipment of small engine propellers to Europe. With Christmas day just hours away, “there was not one other company that could do it,” Mr. Thompson recalls. Critical Path rose to the challenge and got the shipment to its destination on time.
Critical Path has also been steadily expanding the size and scope of its fleet to include everything from bike couriers to validated temperature controlled trucking, tractor trailers and more – whatever is needed to get an item to its destination as efficiently as possible.
The company’s warehousing capabilities have undergone a significant recent expansion as well, an expansion that complements the company’s traditional services while taking advantage of new opportunities. “The courier industry has changed so dramatically [due to] electronic communication,” Mr. Thompson explains. Gone are the days when couriers rushed to and fro, delivering letters for immediate signatures. “That change made us sit down and look at how to apply our strengths to other fields of growth.”
Six months ago, the company added 28,000 square feet of additional warehouse space for general freight and cross-docking purposes, enabling the team to expand its focus within the sector. One area of business that gained a boost is Critical Path’s XM or experiential marketing services, which include warehousing, transportation, setup, management, and planning for tradeshows and media events for Fortune 500 companies. The team handles the entire process from start to finish, assuming the challenges that come with coordinating a large event so the client “simply needs to call us and we will orchestrate the tour in its entirety.”
Before the recent warehouse addition, Critical Path already facilitated a 16,000 square foot warehouse that remains in use. This high-tech facility maintains a specific temperature and humidity level, sending an emergency alert to the team’s mobile devices if these levels rise or fall beyond the predetermined range. The company’s complete, temperature controlled transport supply chain – of which the warehouse is a key component – has been such a success that the team has been called upon to help other businesses develop their own systems.
Critical Path’s temperature and humidity controlled warehouse is ideal for storing sensitive media assets such as digital tapes. Special media services include an online media asset management program that maps inventory so that film elements and video/audio tapes can be retrieved quickly and effortlessly. The team works with production, postproduction, studios, television, film festivals, music, and broadcast equipment.
The company’s temperature controlled vehicles, warehouses, and related expertise have allowed Critical Path to accept demanding contracts that many transport companies would not dare to take on. For instance, the team regularly ships pharmaceuticals and perishable foods as well as blood, tissue, organs, and live animals for the medical and life sciences sectors.
Shipping perishable or sensitive materials is heavily regulated, so companies like Critical Path must uphold specific standards. “The distribution and transport of pharmaceuticals and food has been under a lot of scrutiny by the government, in order to provide safer and more consistent end product for the general consumer,” Mr. Thompson explains. “Companies that provide solutions have to follow quality assurance guidelines as dictated by the federal government. We are focused on providing these validated services to our customers, both a warehouse and a transportation solution that is inclusive of climate controlled mapping, chain of signature, and auditory response.” This high level of expertise has allowed Critical Path to earn contracts with the most conscientious customers. “We have some very large contracts for government distribution straight from government-controlled pharmaceutical warehousing direct to the medical sector.”
Critical Path continues to expand its systems and services to best meet customers’ needs. “We are a company focused on project management, [going] deeper into different verticals. Everybody has been looking for a one-stop solution forever, but it is a very tough platform to create. When we bring on projects we realize that there are other aspects that we need to add, so it leads us to bring in different assets – warehousing, technology, online ordering systems, warehousing systems, transportation management systems. But mostly, Critical Path succeeds by seeing the big picture, asking the right questions, and delving into the details so that we can solve problems and provide a whole picture solution. We treat our client concerns the same way we would treat our own business concerns. We care about getting things done properly, on time and with careful attention.”
Currently, social media is one area the team is trying to better utilize. “We are presently putting a lot of focus into the development of social media,” says Mr. Thompson. The team is also putting a lot of effort into the company website to ensure it is as user friendly as possible. “We emphasize the use of our website. It is a great resource for customers. We have full online capabilities for ordering.”
Throughout its expansions and advancements, Critical Path has managed to hold on to an impressive number of customers, while simultaneously attracting new business. “Customer retention is a large focus for us. We have retained 70 to 75% of our original customer base.” This level of retention does not happen by accident; the team works hard to stay in touch with customers and their needs. “We work very diligently with our customers, to constantly understand the evolution of their business and how we fit as a partner,” Mr. Thompson says. “We hold luncheons, facilitate discussion groups, core building, get involved in trade shows etc. We have free forums on where our business is at and where they would like to see us go. We encourage that networking and communication, and understanding how we can help each other. We grow through partnership.”
Critical Path has also managed to retain its company culture throughout its years of growth and development, and a key part of this culture is a commitment to sustainability. The company minimizes its use of paper, recycles extensively, embraces energy efficient technologies it its offices and warehouses, and minimizes its carbon footprint through the use of bicycle and foot couriers as well as fuel-efficient vehicles. Moving forward, the team plans to transition to alternative powered vehicles that are even more energy efficient than the current fleet. Critical Path also hopes to reduce its paper use even further, eventually becoming 100% digital.
The team is eager to continue meeting customers’ diverse needs with a complete, one-stop-shop solution. “The company is headed in the same direction as it always has been,” Mr. Thompson summarizes. “This includes focused, monitored growth, understanding our customer base and maintaining that base, while at the same time being open minded and creating new verticals and customer solutions that we can share not just in Canada, but globally.”