September 14, 2017

TRANSPORTATION SOLUTIONS: Service Centers Offer Flexibility for CHR Customers

With a network of service centers across the country, C.H. Robinson is offering its customers a plethora of opportunities to efficiently manage the fresh produce supply chain.

Craig Mack, director of service centers, for the firm, recently told Western Grower & Shipper that the organization now has nine service centers across the country operated by Robinson Fresh. In addition to affiliations with a number of other commercial facilities, CHR customers using these facilities have the ability to reach virtually any location in the continental United States within a day. He noted that the Northwest is the only area without a dedicated Robinson Fresh facility, but its alliances in that area can provide the same coverage.

“From these service centers, we can offer a full array of services along the supply chain while at the same time maintaining the cold chain and operating under the best food safety conditions,” Mack said.

During the conversation he listed many different services that are available at these supply centers such as just-in-time store deliveries, repacking and reworking merchandise, receiving and dispatching imports, packing bulk merchandise into retail-ready containers, consolidating merchandise and providing forward-distribution from a point closer to destination.

These are only a handful of the opportunities as CHR is actually striving to serve its customers as much as a collaborator as anything else. “We think of ourselves as consultants,” he said, noting that the company has tremendous expertise throughout the supply chain to help customers solve their individual challenges.

The firm’s Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, service center tends to operate as many might envision a forward distribution center would. Mack said there is a huge population within 500 miles of the center and a countless number of potential receiving docks. That center is often used to aggregate loads, provide western shippers with an East Coast storage facility, offer cross-docking services, and, of course, deliver less-than-full loads (LTL) to an array of customers. The facility is also used by ongoing customers to send product on a regular interval that is then broken down and delivered to individual stores or wholesalers.

The Robinson Fresh facility in South Texas tends to specialize in a different area of produce industry logistics. Mack said the McAllen, Texas, facility is often treated as a forward distribution hub. Because of its close proximity to a major crossing point for produce grown in Mexico, many shippers send bulk supplies—such as limes and other tropical fruit—to the center. With electronic sorting and packing equipment, this service center can operate somewhat as a packing house, getting the product ready for shipment and then sending it on its way.

One of Robinson Fresh’s newest facilities is in the Los Angeles area, with cross docking, product consolidation, handling of organic product in a certified facility, sorting/repacking, forward distribution, direct store delivery and import/export preparation listed as its main services. However, in listing this litany of capabilities, Mack again emphasized that it is not a list of limitations but of possibilities.

The nine locations are Los Angeles, California; Nogales Arizona; McAllen, Texas; Cobden and Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; Miramar and Miami, Florida.

Essentially, Mack paints these facilities as way stations on the way to the final destination. They are locations where a shipment of produce can stop along the way and avail itself of a plethora of services in an effort to assure that the best possible product ends up at the distribution center and ultimately on the consumer’s plate.