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Taking Freight Forward

Cindy Miller, global freight forwarding executive, on a dynamic marketplace.

Jeff Berman | Logistics Management

Transportation and logistics bellwether UPS recently announced that Cindy Miller was named as the company’s president of global freight forwarding.

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The global freight forwarding market is very exciting and dynamic and can really change quickly.

A 28-year UPS veteran, Miller was president of UPS Europe, where she oversaw all UPS operations in more than 120 countries and territories across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Miller held that position going back to March 2013 and began her UPS career as a driver in Allentown, Penn. in 1988.

Other positions she has held at UPS include directing key expansions in the healthcare and retail/B2C sectors, which included the company’s introduction of its UPS My Choice and UPS Access Point network offerings, as well as leading various acquisitions and the opening of new or expected facilities across Europe.

Logistics Management Group News Editor Jeff Berman recently caught up with Miller to discuss her new role at UPS and the global freight forwarding sector. A transcript of the conversation follows below.

[Also on Longitudes: The New World Order in Transportation]

Logistics Management: What has the impact of the global economy been on the global freight forwarding business for UPS, given the varying global economic conditions?

Cindy Miller: What we are seeing in the global freight forwarding market, and it is not necessarily anything new, is that the market is very exciting and dynamic and can really change quite quickly.

I think one thing that stays constant that we are seeing and that we are hearing from our customers is that there is always a concern about costs. And that is whether you are in Europe or Asia or elsewhere.

Cost is still very, very much the forefront, but we also see that our customers are also looking at the time segment, and we are getting an awful lot of requests on solutions that can be put together that find the right mix of speed and costs, which everyone is being asked to come up with along those lines.

This requires engaging across the modes of transportation as opposed to having the position or mindset that “I am just an ocean freight or air freight type of customer.”

LM: What other types of things are you seeing on that front?

Miller: The concept of near shoring is something the industry is seeing as opposed to the off shoring piece.

One of the major trade lanes we are very excited about from a near shoring perspective is the U.S.-Mexico trade lane and how creative and engaged we can get in finding different solutions, where we are combining some opportunities for small package and freight that come across that trade lane a little better.

We have set up what we call a center of excellence along the border in the Texas area. It is a very big focal point for us, and we are finding that the combination of assisting small package and freight in moving stuff back and forth and combining it with time and solutions that provide the best value for the cost is where we are putting a lot of our attention.

And I was very pleased with me coming into this role having spent the last eight years in Europe and not really having been engaged in the U.S. freight forwarding market as much.

Getting to understand things a little bit more on the U.S. side in a more granular way has given me a bit of excitement a few weeks into this job, as I see a great opportunity there.

LM: From a shipper perspective, what types of things are they looking to your group for in terms of help or problems or issues they have that they need solved?

Miller: Quite a few of them tie into technology. As customers’ supply chains become more complex, whether it is for WMS or following warehouse movements that then turn into transportation movements, or into the box and out of the box, and keeping an eye on goods in terms of what is going on when talking about speed complexity, the technology piece is a big one in regards of where shippers are pushing us to come up with new solutions and move forward.

Our new Flex Global View offering is helping to enhance our customers’ ability to really keep an eye on their freight, where delays are and how to get around them. We are really pushing towards advancing technology, and we have a few things we are working on to make up for the pieces in the marketplace that are missing.

LM: How are you handling things on the regulatory front for ACE and SOLAS?

Miller: ACE is a little easier to have a conversation about. Our customers are looking to UPS to help guide and educate them and see what they can do better and be prepared.

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Technology allows customers to to have one complete system that focuses on the complete supply chain.

We are doing Webinars featuring a mix of our internal experts and share the most relevant and up to date information for our customers and also provide advance materials for them so they can ask specific questions, too. They have been well received and we have had some large audiences for these.

On SOLAS, there is just a lack of clarity that we see internally at UPS in dealing with different agencies, whether it is the weighing process or certifications or violations. Customers want the most up to date information available and that is still the spot where we are not sure where it is going.

We are very engaged from a public affairs perspective and within the compliance piece. When we get something more definitive, we are going to provide customers with something as definitive as we can, similar to what we are doing with ACE.

We understand everyone wants to improve ocean sector safety and are in complete compliance with that and focus a lot on safety across business units. But we don’t have strong feelings as to where that lands yet, and I don’t think anyone does.

We are feeling it and so are service providers, while the goal line keeps getting moved. It makes shippers uneasy in terms of not really still knowing what will need to change in terms of things like equipment and processes and by when.

LM: How do you view the current state of capacity for ocean and air in the global freight forwarding market in terms of demand, need, and availability?

Miller: Without getting into capacity-related specifics, our customers are continuing to come to us to help find the appropriate solutions, regardless of how much they are moving. That, in turn, is driving us towards increased technology.

The service providers best answering those needs are the ones that will fare best regardless of capacity levels.

[Also on Longitudes: The New Silk Road: A Multimodal Mindset]

LM: What are the plans for future growth for UPS Global Freight Forwarding?

Miller: The whole Europe-China rail piece is an opportunity is an untapped one and for customers facing different challenges for reducing transportation costs, or other things, when moving goods.

This piece is underdeveloped at this time, and there is a tremendous amount of opportunity that UPS needs to engage and help out customers on that front. There is more to come on that and we need to guide our customers to that offering as we think it will help to alleviate a good bit of that time-cost continuum to have the right solution based on customer needs.

And, again, technology is always going to be there, so customers can have one complete system that focuses on the complete supply chain, with a seamless flow. That continues to be top of mind for UPS.

We also have a strategic enterprise fund, where we invest in start-up companies from a technology perspective to see the latest and greatest that is being tested or baked in the market. goldbrown2

This article first appeared on Logistics Management and was republished with permission.

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Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review.

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