REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: PACIFIC NORTHWEST
"People are the true differentiator in any service business"
Interview with Brien Downie, President of Holman Logistics
Brien Downie is the President of Holman Logistics, a third-party logistics company based in Kent, Washington, serving B2B and B2C customers throughout the US. Holman was founded during the American Civil War and has been in continuous operation for over 159 years. We asked Brien about longevity in the logistics industry and what it takes to not just survive but thrive for well over a century.
Q. With over 14,000 third-party organizations in the logistics marketplace, what distinguishes one organization from another?
A. I believe that people are the true differentiators in every service business. While technology and processes are critical and can separate one organization from another, at the end of the day, what we provide is service. Service is an intangible asset that depends upon the discretionary efforts of individuals.
As service providers, we should strive not only to meet customer expectations but also, whenever possible, to exceed those expectations. To do so requires us to focus on people and processes. And in my opinion, people must come before process.
In the end, we are here to serve one another first, and the responsibility to live that out each day starts with me. Only in helping one another can we collectively deliver an Extraordinary Service Experience to our customers.
Q. Is automation the key to solving labor challenges in 2023?
A. AGV’s and AMR’s have been the new hot tech in logistics for the past several years, and while they may have a part to play, what we do (namely, operate customer-facing distribution centers) doesn’t generally present an ROI-positive case for implementing automation for a DC where freight comes in and goes out in full pallet or stack quantities…at least not yet. Someday automation will improve, and our perspective could be much different, but “someday” is not “today.”
Q. In today’s gig economy employment environment, how do third-party organizations find the necessary workforce to deliver on a commitment to service?
A. Third-party logistics is a service business, and while customers are a top priority, we feel it’s crucial to have our first commitment be to the team that serves those customers. So, to the line of thought that says, “The customer is always right,” I would add, “…and our people always come first.” If organizations lose sight of providing a safe, fulfilling environment for their teams, it will be difficult to recruit, train, develop, and retain the people needed to serve customers well.
Q. Environment and sustainability have been big topics for years. Is new technology the key to reducing our carbon footprint?
A. Our world runs on diesel. Building parts, furniture, cellphones, computers–it was all delivered by a truck or train with a diesel engine. Electric and other alternative-fuel trucks may be the future, but our world simply isn’t ready to make a big transition like that in the short-term.
I don’t mind sounding like a broken record when I say that culture is one of the keys to reducing our carbon footprint right now. The best way to reduce trucking’s impact on the environment is to take trucks off the road, and the best way to take trucks off the road is to collaborate across shippers. To do that we need to have good, solid relationships with one another, and we have to be willing to compromise, knowing that giving a partner a “win” in one case will result in a “win” for ourselves in the future.