Memphis-based Global Logistics Company Aims to Eliminate 'Snag' in Supply Chain

By Michelle Corbet

When customers order an item off Amazon, they expect it to arrive on time. So do the people and companies behind imports from around the globe, but that is a bit trickier.

With the consolidation of the world's ocean carriers — what was once 25 carriers is now down to a core group of 10 — international shipments have become very "high touch," said Richard McDuffie, COO of Memphis-based logistics and supply chain management company Dunavant.

With a more than 60-year history — in which it has navigated the logistics of moving 3 million to 6 million bales of domestic and foreign-grown cotton each year — Dunavant noticed a snag in the supply chain.

"One of the most frustrating pieces of the business is bringing an order for an export out of the United States. It is a high-touch situation," McDuffie said. "There are a lot of moving pieces from rail to port, warehouses, chassis and containers."

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And, when you are moving thousands of pounds of cotton at once, it can get even more complex.

Fast-forward to today, Dunavant has turned that frustration into a new service it's calling "Intermodal Milestone Management."

"The service is called Milestone because there are key milestones in every international shipment," McDuffie said. "From documents to delivery, pick-up, equipment, per diem — there are key things that have to be tracked."

Dunavant had been managing first- and last-mile delivery for customers for a number of years and recently decided to brand the service under its intermodal division.

"Visibility is needed," McDuffie said. "From a business perspective, you can’t allow for late pick-ups or delivery, or delay goods if it is a retail distribution center with a product rollout. … Whether we are using our own capacity or other truckers to schedule appropriately, the schedule fits the distribution center, assembly line or manufacturer through one centralized solution and one point of contact. Customers can go online and see when their product will leave a particular location."

As Dunavant has experienced, timing can be particularly important for commodities, which fluctuate in price.

"For something that has to go out on an export or you'll miss your contract price, it's good to talk to someone on the phone to know we have the right equipment," McDuffie said.

With ocean carriers moving thousands of products, customers may need a little more of Dunavant's "touch and feel" for their particular solution.

"We manage the hold from the origination of an import oversees at a manufacturing location in China, Vietnam or India all the way to the door here in the United States," McDuffie said.