The customer is a custom metal fabrication company with specialties in several industries — including solar panel frames. To date, the manufacturer has been responsible for fabricating eight gigawatts (GW) of steel solar mounting structures. The company has four manufacturing locations across the U.S., totaling more than 500,000 square feet.
Project freight can be challenging for a multitude of reasons. Oftentimes, it requires coordination of many entities, including numerous people onsite to execute the project, the necessary equipment for those people to do their jobs appropriately and the transportation solutions it takes to get that equipment to the job site.
In the case of the custom metal fabricator, when it came to their solar projects, they faced two major challenges brought on by their transportation partners, inconsistent pricing and communication errors.
While the fabricator’s business served multiple industries, they were seeing major challenges on the solar side of their business. With solar, they oftentimes sought out transportation providers to get their products to solar sites several months — and potentially a year — in advance.
The custom fabricator would receive a quote and budget appropriately for the transportation costs they were quoted. Then, once the project work began, the transportation costs would suddenly become more expensive — wrecking the budget they initially planned for.
When it comes to any project, communication is vital. Whether it’s because you have a crane on site for a specific time and you need products delivered appropriately or because the site has very specific restrictions in place that need to be abided by, the project manager and transportation providers need to be on the same page.
In the case of the custom metal fabricator, many of their project sites were located on federal project sites. Those sites commonly restrict access to only those with special badges. So, if trucks show up without the proper identification, it can cause massive delays and significant cost overruns.
Beyond the unique challenges, the fabricator was also dealing with many common-sense challenges that shouldn’t be an issue with an experienced transportation provider. For example, they wanted to know if they could expect a truck to show up to pick up their freight. Unfortunately, for them, they were often left in the dark about whether the capacity they were promised would be there when they needed it.
The custom fabricator was working with several transportation providers over the course of their challenges. On smaller projects, ATS Logistics was one of those partners. As the years went on, the relationship began to grow for several key reasons.
During their growing relationship, the fabricator let ATS Logistics know about the struggles they were facing with unreliable quotes. Having decades of experience working with project freight, ATS Logistics has a vast knowledge of the aspects of moving project freight.
That allowed them to get a comprehensive understanding of the project scope and account for every aspect of it during the quoting process. So, once the project start date rolled around, the quote hadn’t changed much (if at all) — allowing the fabricator to stay within their budget much more reliably.
Throughout their conversations with ATS Logistics, the fabricator also made it clear that consistent communication is essential. They needed to be in the loop as much as possible — particularly when it comes to covering loads. The last thing the fabricator wanted to hear was ATS Logistics promise trucks. Instead, they wanted to know how many trucks were secured and how many weren’t accounted for yet.
The fabricator’s single point of contact was able to do everything they asked for and more. They let the customer know the number of trucks accounted for while continuously looking for coverage to ensure the customer wasn’t left without a truck — whether it was ultimately fulfilled by ATS Logistics in the end or not.
That led to them relying on ATS Logistics to be their main transportation provider on two major U.S. projects. Over the course of the projects, the fabricator provided constant communications — which led to a better understanding of the customer’s needs and more reliable coverage.
Like many projects, things didn’t always go as planned for the fabricator’s solar projects. So, they needed a logistics partner that could adjust to changing timelines. There were many cases where the custom fabricator needs to adjust the carrier’s planned route to cover for a truck that fell through in order to keep up.
Thanks to ATS Logistics’ reliable coverage throughout the relationship, if a truck fell through on a project, the custom fabricator called ATS Logistics first in many cases. ATS Logistics’ vast network of trusted partner carriers spread throughout North America allows for quick response time — even with last-minute delivery windows.
This flexibility has proven useful for projects where ATS Logistics was the main transportation partner and projects where the fabricator needed supplemental capacity. In many cases, whether it’s a change of plans or a carrier that fell through, load destinations change last-minute. ATS Logistics was able to adjust accordingly.
While the fabricator often relied upon ATS Logistics to ship out of their Indiana and Ohio locations, that soon turned into a relationship that expanded to shipping out of their Arizona facility to keep up when other carriers fell through.
In the early stages of the relationship between ATS Logistics and the custom fabricator, the brokerage relied heavily on load boards to get the freight needs covered. As the relationship has developed and ATS Logistics has been able to better understand the unique needs of the fabricator, load boards are rarely used. Instead, ATS Logistics uses their proprietary carrier management system — which aligns them with trusted, high-quality partner carriers who both enjoy and understand the demands of the solar industry best.
This has helped create a consistent carrier — and oftentimes consistent driver — for specific projects. There have been many cases where those on the job site know which driver to expect and know them by name. These close, trusted partnerships between ATS Logistics and their carrier base added to the level of success on these projects.
Oftentimes, the drivers waited until the custom fabricator was ready, even if that meant waiting longer than expected. That’s because the drivers were invested in the projects and wanted them to succeed, even if that meant changing their freight schedule.
ATS Logistics, Inc. is a full-service transportation brokerage headquartered in St. Cloud, MN. Managing more than 250,000 loads per year, they are the 24th largest brokerage firm in North America. Having acquired brokerage authority nearly 35 years ago, stability and experience in the industry paired with a streamlined carrier management program have earned ATS Logistics a position as a preferred partner amongst the nation’s top echelon of carriers. These relationships provide shippers unique access to a private network of premier carriers.