The COVID-19 pandemic has flipped the script on what is expected of specialty logistics providers. But one such provider is primed for the task.
FreightWaves President George Abernathy chatted with Scott Kluesner, executive VP of operations at UniGroup Logistics, about the company’s dedication to serve its customers with care and precision on the FreightWavesTV show Fuller Speed Ahead.
Household goods are at the core of UniGroup’s operations, but the company has a presence in many verticals. As the parent company of United Van Lines and Mayflower, its 500-plus nationwide agent location network of high-touch moving professionals gives UniGroup an incredible reach to its at-home and office customers.
Over the course of the pandemic, Kluesner said volume activity has skyrocketed for electronics, health care and special commodity products. But the time-sensitive nature of these shipments in addition to the varying COVID-19 protocols have yet to slow down UniGroup.
“In our logistics business, we tend to focus on three primary customer verticals: special commodities, trade shows and electronics,” Kluesner said, adding that the events of the past year have only sharpened the company’s expertise and in fact fit nicely within UniGroup’s business model.
Kluesner described UniGroup’s old-school service as positioning the logistics provider well to embrace the e-commerce boom of late. American consumers are preferring residential deliveries for a greater number of items large and small, expanding their online shopping list to include large and bulky items like furniture and perishable goods like groceries.
UniGroup’s high-touch success and attention to detail can be attributed to its household goods heritage — the “difficult-to-do” jobs, Kleusner calls them. Specialty logistics jobs include hauling anything and everything across the U.S., including things heading out of this world.
Kluesner noted that a UniGroup agent recently moved the James Webb Space Telescope between NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and Johnson Space Center in Texas. The telescope is scheduled to launch into orbit later this year.
“If you can imagine this multimillion-dollar satellite on the back of our Mayflower truck moving over the road, it’s quite the accomplishment, but it illustrates the types of commodities that we are able to serve on behalf of our customers,” Kluesner said.
Regardless of the vertical, Kluesner expects UniGroup to pivot with the changing needs of the American consumer, anticipating health care services to remain in high demand.
“The aging demographic of Americans is driving a higher need for health care services; that fits nicely within our wheelhouse when you think about those difficult-to-do types of commodity deliveries to doctor offices, such as dentist chairs and X-ray or MRI machines,” Kluesner said.
UniGroup’s response to the pandemic was forming a COVID-19 task force to lay out protocols for protecting its customers and employees without sacrificing productivity or performance. Kluesner, who chairs the task force, said its guidelines are continually evolving as the COVID-19 landscape changes.
The pandemic virtually eliminated the hospitality industry and in-person events. But as both industries slowly emerge from the depths, the challenge will be to put on a show in a “new normal” environment. Kluesner suggests UniGroup has the answers.
“[Our drivers] know how to handle very sensitive items; they know how to handle trade show events and protect the display that our customers set up,” Kluesner said. “Our claims ratio is outstanding — 99.7% claims-free deliveries in all of our customer verticals, which is especially important in the health care and trade show verticals.”