REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: NORTHEAST
Port Jersey Logistics Growth
a Service Response for Food Industry Partners
Order Volumes Stabilizing as Global Food Brands Shift to More Domestic Production
For the past three years, US consumer orders for food and consumer goods have surged to record levels, straining supply chains, and challenging the professionals charged with managing the flows and delivering for customers. Port Jersey Logistics, headquartered in Cranbury, NJ, has expanded its warehouse logistics and its transportation services footprint in direct response to shifting customer and partner needs through the tumult. Currently operating at capacity in New Jersey, the thriving third-party logistics (3PL) service provider continues a strategic initiative of investing for the future with its longtime partners and their customers in a mix of acquisition, organic growth in capacity regionally, and some thoughtful restructuring and investment with an eye to future requirements.
As 2023 opened, Port Jersey announced the promotion of Jeff Ramella to the office of president for the Port Jersey organization, which includes the 65+ year warehouse logistics operation and the trucking and transportation services: Tyler Distribution, Continental Logistics, and 21st Century Distribution. Ramella was with Worldwide Express for 17 years before joining Port Jersey in 2020 as a director of business development.
“Jeff has helped drive significant improvements in process and structure, spearheaded new initiatives in technology and expansion through acquisition, and opened the doors to new regional operations,” said Port Jersey Chairman / CEO Rob Russo. “After 20 years, it is truly an honor to pass the baton to such a dynamic leader and team builder.”
In a recent interview with Ramella, he reflects on economic impacts of the pandemic years, on the food and beverage market and the logistics strategies of his food and beverage customer base and looks forward to continued growth and expansion focus areas for Port Jersey Logistics.
Q: What is the current state of logistics in your area? How is business generally for Port Jersey Logistics in the Northeastern US?
Ramella: While the ridiculously high volumes that strained supply chains in the pandemic’s first years has generally calmed and orders are stabilizing somewhat at this point. Generally, business is still very strong, and demand, in terms of inbound inquiries, is strongly up in the last few months. There is a noticeable shift in demand patterns, as our customers diversify their supply sources, and become less reliant on international sourcing. Producing in the U.S. gives them better flexibility in inventory management. Many customers have substantially increased inventory levels in the last six months, to ensure their customers that inventory would be available when needed. But then, they’d end up with more than needed. Having it produced domestically allows for keeping less on hand and more volume to move through. Working in close partnership, we’re heading now to more Just in Time (JIT) inventory management than ever, which has allowed customers to have better predictability.
“Strategically, the customer shifts to more domestic sourcing impacts us a great deal. Like most 3PLs worth their salt right now, we are working on adding to our capacity. Operating real estate close to ports has traditionally been the most expensive option, so the shift to more inland and domestic sourcing allows us to search more cost-effective space options not necessarily near the ports. We are looking at secondary markets in New Jersey, farther away from the ports.”
Q: Which industries are predominantly driving those shifts for you?
Ramella: Food and beverage is 90 percent of what we do. The huge volume ordering of pandemic years has leveled out, and while it has normalized, food is food: an essential need in any economic conditions, immune, but less threatened.
Q: I see that all over your website – that ‘we’re Port Jersey Logistics, and we know food.’ What’s different about the food sector that you need to know?
Ramella: There are a lot of processes and certifications needed to truly operate a good food distribution business – from warehouse management systems (WMS) that rotate the product according to parameters customers provide us, having buildings that are above average for sanitation, and certifications you achieve and maintain to attest to those capabilities and rigorous adherence to keeping it all up to date. The more seasoned companies [like ours] must have the basics for professional food and beverage warehouse logistics handling – organic, AIB, FEA registered, CTPAT, ABC alcohol permits.
Q: Is there an initiative or new focus area you would like to emphasize?
Ramella: We are focused on growth and expansion into other markets as our customer base diversifies from being port centric. We’re at capacity and looking for space here [in New Jersey] and elsewhere. Simultaneously, as we achieve operational efficiencies in our existing spaces, we can run more through the buildings. We are always looking for bolt-on options for our WMS – not really robotics or any super techy stuff but making processes a little bit better. We promoted someone internally into a lean ambassador role to focus on quality assurance and continuous improvement. We’re developing a whole department to focus on gaining efficiencies in the warehouse so we can also grow the business without having to grow space.
Port Jersey Logistics serves some of the best-known retailers in the United States in long-term and continuously improving partnerships. As the company enters this exciting period of growth, focused response to change, to better support customers in the future, Ramella looks ahead to ways the organization can continue to communicate and strengthen relationships with their customers.
“We understand that our customers have been really kind of beat up over last couple of years with supply chain challenges. It is our focus to really provide a service for customers that they see as valuable. At the end of the day, we’re an extension of our customers’ business. We have to be empathetic. It’s communicating with them and being honest with the challenges that we’re facing and that they face to have a better partnership working through it together. The more we can be honest and work together the better customer relationship.”
– Jeff Ramella, President- Port Jersey Logistics