Changing the Face of International Logistics

Compass Forwarding Co.
Written by Pauline Muller

Global logistics firm Compass Forwarding Co. offers bespoke shipping services to international companies. Its dedicated teams coordinate airfreight, ocean freight, and domestic trucking. It also maintains an import department that provides customs brokerage and clearance services at any airport, seaport, or land border in the United States.
Compass serves the entire United States and seventy countries around the world. Thanks to its industry-leading information technology (IT) infrastructure, the company offers worldwide support to the aerospace community whenever needed.

This successful family business has driven logistics innovation for over sixty years and prides itself on arming its partners with the customer support, data, and knowledge they need to remain competitive. Robert M. Shelala ll, Associate Director of Aviation and Defense, shared some of the company’s background.

The Compass headquarters at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, maintains a solar-powered, 30,000-square-foot office space and warehouse. The latter is U.S. Customs-bonded and also acts as a container freight station. Here, ocean freight containers are loaded and unloaded, and airfreight pallets are prepared. The facility is fully equipped with hazardous materials storage, as well as specialized secure storage options.

Its sister company, Falcon Maritime and Aviation, has allowed Compass to expand its ocean freight capacity significantly. Falcon is a non-vessel operating common carrier that specializes in global ocean transportation services. Collectively, the two operations have a presence on four continents with crucial trade hubs in Brazil, India, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Clients have included over fifteen international airlines; two of the world’s top ten aerospace manufacturers; three leading Middle Eastern aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centers, a leading global supplier of industrial gasses and worldwide retailers for two of the world’s most prominent luxury brands.

An estimated USD 135.1 billion was spent on global aerospace maintenance in 2015, 75 percent of what was spent on producing the entire world’s civil and military aircraft that year. Compass’ quality services play a pivotal role in the aviation industry. Its goal is to help the industry minimize maintenance-related costs through providing streamlined supply chains.

Flight delays cost the industry billions of dollars a year. The company’s aerospace support team gives clients personalized attention to ensure their maintenance materials and spare parts get delivered as efficiently and quickly as possible to avoid delays.

Meeting these high demands of the aerospace community has equipped Compass with a very strong team and an advanced IT infrastructure that captures shipment data which is translated into useful metrics for its clients. It uses these resources to support clients in a variety of industries, including healthcare, construction, high-end retail, energy, and industrial gases.

The company’s main service to the aerospace community is a parts handling service. Airlines as well as maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) centers use the service to coordinate moving spare parts and maintenance supplies around the world. Compass also offers a service to economize shipping by gathering spare parts from multiple suppliers and consolidating them into a single package for export, saving between twenty and thirty percent in shipping costs.

For the most time-sensitive shipments or aircraft-on-ground (AOG) shipments, it offers an expedited handling service. Its dedicated AOG operations team is on-call 24/7/365 and coordinates high-priority shipments to anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. It can identify the quickest available routes to get parts from suppliers to maintenance teams abroad. When necessary, the team will use onboard couriers (OBC) to carry smaller parts on passenger flights personally. This is a unique service that very few logistics companies can provide.

Compass Forwarding’s power is in its people. This is a company led by ideas from its team’s innovative minds. It has people who have been with the company for more than twenty years and are the beating heart of the company. “They are the reason we have clients of all sizes that have trusted us as partners through three generations,” says Robert.

To this day, the company’s board is owned by the Shelala family, with Richard A. Shelala at the head as President, Robert M. Shelala as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Richard J. Shelala as Director and Robert M. Shelala II as Associate Director of Aviation and Defense. It has a rich history in logistics, and the story began in the 1950s, when Robert M. Shelala ll’s grandfather, Joseph Shelala, who had been in the U.S. Army Air Forces, bought a company called Foreign Shipping Services. He used his extensive experience in working with aircraft to create a niche enterprise in aerospace logistics.

From his storefront warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, he would take delivery of Piper training planes, disassemble and crate them, and ship them by commercial airfreight to Europe. This was in the infancy of the jet age, long before the superjumbo transport. Packaging a whole airplane small enough to fit into the cargo hold of a first-generation jet airliner was truly revolutionary.

Joe continued to expand the company and forge partnerships in the industry. In 1977, he launched Compass Forwarding Co. with his son Richard Shelala, building on the foundation of the original business, while offering a broader range of services. Joe’s son, Robert Shelala, joined the team in 1980. He was followed by the third generation, Robert and his cousin, Richard, who joined the team in the 2000s after completing their degrees.

Compass’ personalized customer service philosophy has allowed it to maintain long-term business relationships with several key players in aerospace and other industries. One of its longest-standing relationships is with a large Middle Eastern airline that it signed in the late 1970s when the airline first began flights to North America. The two companies grew together as the client became a large global airline and one of the top carriers in the region.

Compass Forwarding only hires the most qualified and ambitious men and women in the industry. For this strong team, innovation is a natural part of what it does every day and something that has brought about an impressive collection of fantastic achievements.

One such achievement came when Compass provided logistics support for a building renovation project in the Middle East. As the deadline approached, the customer needed 87.5 tons of air conditioning equipment shipped to Qatar with less than one week’s notice. Compass Forwarding chartered the world’s largest aircraft, the Antonov AN-225 and an air cargo expert to manage it. The team flew in from Europe and lifted the equipment from Minneapolis to Doha. The mission received national media attention and was delivered on time.

More recently, the team was given the task of transporting a Bell 212 Twin Huey utility helicopter from Alberta, Canada to Afghanistan. A dedicated operations crew worked around the clock for several weeks to coordinate the various aspects and to ensure compliance with export control regulations in multiple countries. Compass Forwarding delivered the aircraft to the conflict zone two days ahead of schedule.

The company serves several producers, distributors, and users of metal fabrication machinery, some of which have products with applications in the aerospace industry. To this end, the company’s services include the door-to-door moving of machinery made in Europe and Asia to metalworking companies in the United States. Many of these machines are oversized, weighing tens of thousands of pounds and standing over ten feet tall. Special handling and innovative shipping solutions are required to ensure safe delivery.

Last spring, Compass handled the shipment of the world’s largest metal fabrication laser, the 400,000-pound Revolution Machine Tools Kyson 860, from Europe to Lindon, Utah. The massive transfer required five months of planning, seven dedicated ocean freight units, on-site loading support and surveying, and specialized trucking permits and oversized exemptions in several states.

This incredible commitment to customer service has made its mark on the industry. Compass is small enough to remain agile and deliver personalized solutions and large enough to run worldwide operations. Its client list is made up of global companies that use its services for an excellent reason. When Compass is selected for a project, it first works with clients to understand their supply chain and the logistical challenges they face. Then, its sales team, operations managers, and quality control department work together to develop standardized procedures and workflows that are adaptable to the client’s needs, yet standardized to maintain a consistently high level of service.

Both management and personnel do their utmost to ensure that the company has a positive impact on its community and the world. It has supported a phenomenal number of charities and organizations over the years, and everyone is routinely encouraged to donate to worthy causes through the company’s matching donation program. It also uses its resources as a logistics company to benefit those in need, like in 2017, when it donated supplies to Community for a Cause to assist with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

Compass sees enriching its community while protecting the planet as one of its primary obligations.

This year is set to be big for the company as it increases its capabilities and takes its sophisticated quality control program to the next level by obtaining an internationally recognized ISO9001 certification that will enable it to gain new business in various markets. It is also adding a climate-controlled section to its New York warehouse so it can store a wide range of temperature-sensitive merchandise, including pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, perishables, and specialized machine parts.

Compass’ overall goal for 2018 is to continue to de-commoditize the logistics market through market education and to demonstrate the value of its specialized services. As it improves its quality control program and IT infrastructure further, it will arm its clients with even more tools and resources to stay informed and competitive. This will include even broader access to sophisticated real-time shipping information and the latest news affecting supply chains.



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