Forty Years Strong

SPI Logistics
Written by Karen Hawthorne

For SPI Logistics, impossible asks and just-in-time deliveries are business as usual. The SPI team members are the experts who take the worry out of getting your products to wherever you need them.
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This is it! You have your product ready to share with the world at that big trade show in San Francisco. You know that when potential clients see it, your company will be ready to go to the next level. There are just a couple of problems: the trade show is two days away and San Francisco is on the other side of the country. Your delivery plans have fallen through, so how in world are you going to get a product the size of yours to that trade show in time?

For most of us, that’s when the cold sweat starts. But complicated deliveries and time-sensitive deadlines is just business as usual for SPI Logistics. “Situations that are scary for some people are routine for us. This is where we thrive,” says Joe Chandler, SPI president.

Pulling off the impossible is part of the job description for his team. For instance, getting that product to just where you want it could mean starting with a train on an express line so that it can get as far as possible with the fewest stops. Then it may take a truck with a “sleeper team” of two drivers who can keep your product on the road by switching each other off until your delivery arrives where you want it, when you need it.

“Every single day our customers are calling on us to get them out of a jam,” Chandler says. “Somebody else has let them down, or they need to deliver their materials just in time.”

SPI, headquartered in Vancouver, promotes itself as the premier logistics company in North America, and provides transportation of materials, machines or just about anything else to any point on the map. The company consists of a network of agents who manage the trucks and trains involved in your product’s journey.

With 50 locations throughout North America, SPI is the intermediary who plays a critical role in the supply chain industry. It’s all about working out the details of how your product will get to where it has to be, on time on budget. That includes organizing and managing trucks, rail and even planes if it comes down to it. “We are like a travel agent for freight. A travel agent puts people in empty seats; we put freight into empty trucks and get it to its destination,” Chandler says.

A lot of things have to happen to make a shipment go smoothly. From the time SPI is contacted, its network of independent contractors works together using the latest in GPS technology to plan out the best route. If things like severe weather conditions or unexpected situations come up on the road, SPI will step in to find the most efficient and safest way to get the delivery where it has to go.

And while technology plays a major part in all of this, one thing that separates SPI Logistics from competitors is the agents watching over your delivery. Since the workforce is a team of independent contractors across the continent, they provide a local and personal presence throughout the transportation journey. So each customer is not just a number on a screen, there’s a personal connection. That means, if you have a problem on Christmas Eve, you can call SPI and the team will stop what they are doing to take care of that problem for you.

Certainly, logistics can be a tough industry. It’s complicated and precise work that takes a group of professionals committed to ensuring all the variables that come with moving materials across the country are accounted for and managed. And, with all the pressure and intricacy that comes with this kind of work, many logistics companies don’t make it in the long run.

That’s where SPI Logistics is different. The company started back in 1979 as a family business involved primarily in importing emerging technologies into North America, but it quickly evolved into a pure logistics business.

The early days of the logistics industry were a bit like the Wild West, with undercapitalized startups operating out of their kitchens and truck drivers calling from payphones at truck stops to report where they were on their route. What made SPI different was its commitment to developing a reliable network of agents so that customers didn’t have to worry about their delivery. And the team continually integrated the latest technological advancements for a superior experience. Now SPI is one of the top 100 logistics companies in North America with a reputation of dependable delivery and personable service.

In fact, SPI delivers virtually any type of materials. “We have a very broad base of products that we transport. Our commodities are everything from the machinery that brings the oil out of the ground to raw materials like steel, the products that are used for buildings, or the food that the people who are building the building are going to eat,” Chandler says.

Performing at this high level in a challenging industry is no small feat, and to mark the significant 40-year milestone in the company history, SPI Logistics has introduced new branding and a new name. “The SPI brand held quite a bit of equity. We surveyed our employees and customers about what they thought of our company and the words they used to describe us were the same they used for banks and insurance agencies; they also thought we were innovative and responsive.” To Chandler, that is the value that SPI brings; the company is dependable and flexible in how it gets things done and is adaptable to emerging technology.

The company was formerly SPI International Transportation, but the “international transportation” part of the name made people think SPI was an overseas freight forwarder instead of a domestic North American logistics firm, so the business made the change to SPI Logistics. The company’s adaptability and focus on striving to do more is also reflected in its new branding: “Aspire: Daring to be Great.” In many ways, this is a descriptor of what SPI’s employees are already doing for their clients.

Now 40 years strong and growing, SPI is not content to rest on its laurels. Looking at the challenges and opportunities ahead, Chandler talks about the company’s people first. “Our challenge is keeping up as our agent base grows rapidly; how are we going to support them? We are continually transitioning to better information systems, and you need people who can learn those systems and train other employees as well.”

From a small start-up to becoming one of the top 100 logistics companies in North America, SPI Logistics is the classic story of a business success. Its forward-thinking ingenuity, expertise and focus on the personal touch make it the go-to company for getting your goods exactly where you want them, right on time.

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