Merging its global expertise with local strength, ECU Worldwide is relying on cutting-edge technology and best-in-class service to emerge as a leading logistics player in the US market
USA is a country on the move. A growing economy, rising consumer confidence, surging imports and booming trade transactions are contributing to record container volumes at ports across the US. In July 2017 alone, American ports recorded 1.72million 20feet containers and the numbers are expected to swell even as the world's largest economy goes into the peak season. Keeping pace with this impressive growth trajectory, ECU Worldwide is charting an aggressive growth plan to assert its status as a leading logistics operator in the US market. The global leader in the logistics domain is scaling up its scope of services to expand ECU Worldwide's footprint in America.
Back in 2013, ECU gained a strong foothold in the American market with the acquisition of Econocaribe, the long-time partner of ECU and well-established North-American logistics outfit. In the next three years the regional tag of 'Caribe' was shed for the new identity of ECU Worldwide, a name that truly reflected the company's global scale and status. The subsequent period was a phase of consolidation where ECU Worldwide maintained the legacy and goodwill of Econocaribe, even as it brought in its expertise and resources as a multinational organisation. "We are proud that we continue to set the benchmark in providing service to the Caribbean and Latin America region while we have significantly expanded. Both ECU Worldwide and Econocaribe had similar cultures with a strong commitment to quality of service and this was a key ingredient in the smooth transition for our clients and associates," says John Abisch, head - USA, ECU Worldwide, adding that four years after the acquisition, the company has successfully retained all key clients, agents and core personnel.
Beginning its operations in 1968 and earning the trust of clients over the years, ECU Worldwide USA (erstwhile Econocaribe) is today the largest LCL player in the Caribbean and Latin American markets. Commitment to providing quality service has been at the core of ECU Worldwide's US operations, and the company has consistently made investments to ensure the we make it easy for the client to work with us. There are three fundamental features in the approach to providing best-in-class service. First, ensure guaranteed movement of cargo on the booked schedule; second, hire professionals with a great attitude and a strong work ethic, and impart continuous professional training to enable them to maintain the high service standards; and third, utilise cutting-edge technology to have an efficient operation.
Keeping with its strength as a global player with resources across the world, ECU Worldwide has nine offices in the American market — Miami, New Jersey, New York, Atlanta, Charleston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Puerto Rico — covering every major port and logistics hub across the country with 24 receiving stations throughout USA. Its core strength in each of these offices is the dedication and commitment of the professionals. "It is a team with the knowledge and experience of a global leader, with high level of professionalism and clear understanding of our mission," says Mr Abisch, adding that the company has its own offices in Latin America, as well as a very strong network of agents across the region.
The US operations works in synergy with ECU offices in Australia, Shanghai, France, Germany and Italy, handling the company's business across continents. "We service over 150 trade lanes on export consolidation and over 120 trade lanes on import consolidations," shares Mr Abisch.
ECU Worldwide's air freight share in the US market is also on the rise. The company has been offering air consolidations from Miami to the Caribbean and Latin America for over a decade and in 2016, it expanded its operations to offer direct services from LAX, ORD, IAH and JFK. In each of these four new air offices, the company has dedicated teams handling air cargo — primarily exports from the US — on a daily basis.
In terms of inter-regional services, there is regular movement of volumes between America and Brazil, with weekly consolidations to Santos from Chicago, Houston, New York and Miami.
In sync with the demands of an advanced market like the US, ECU Worldwide has been quick to adapt technology and introduce innovative solutions for its clients. The company has a clear digital strategy and staff members who capably execute the plans. They continually invest in IT recognising the gains this will create for the efficiency and quality of the operation as well as the ease for the client.
The core clients in US are freight forwarders, and ECU handles all non-perishable commodities that they move for their BCO clients. There are project department to handle the movement of Over Dimensional and odd-dimension cargo, which does not fit in a container.
There has been a conscious effort to pool the synergies of ocean freight, global air freight and trucking divisions to offer customers a one-stop-solution for cargo transportation. "Our core business since inception was LCL and over the years, we have expanded to offer FCL. A decade ago, we expanded the scope of our air services and we are currently making investments to expand our domestic trucking services," reveals Mr Abisch, adding that the company is constantly identifying opportunities for expanding the scope of business with existing clients as well as new clients.
People have been one of our greatest strengths. Their cultural transition into the ECU family was seamless, depicting a strong sense of openness and honesty, the two strong value systems of the group. Their enthusiasm has been infectious for the other regions. Together about 300 people are managing by far the most active regions of the world, ensuring tight turnaround time and service.
In a bid to expand its network within the country and scale up its last-mile abilities, ECU Worldwide's US division is increasing its trucking operations in the country. "We are introducing a new service under the brand of ECU Trucking - we offer LTL trucking within USA. Over a period of time, we plan to expand the trucking operations to tap the immense potential in surface transport and logistics," says Mr Abisch, adding that the LCL trucking option will be offered on a stand-alone basis to the clients. In the past, the company handled LCL only as a portion of the international movement for exports and imports. With ECU Trucking, the company will now be able offer purely domestic LTL.
On the policy front, there is a new regulation for domestic trucking which will ensure that drivers spend less than 10 hours a day driving on the road. There is a possibility that this may create a shortage of drivers. To counter this, ECU Worldwide is investing in technology to improve the ability to handle domestic trucking volumes.