BLG Logistics USA: The Rules of Engagement
Many logistics and transportation firms are still struggling to find enough labor supply to meet demand. With higher wages no longer the lure they were before the pandemic, and the ability to improve worker retention rates in the face of the Great Attrition getting tougher, what can companies do to ease the pain?
They could start by taking a close look at BLG Logistics USA. In March 2020 the Alabama-based subsidiary of global 3PL power player BLG Logistics Group was bucking the same fierce headwinds as their compatriots in the space, with employee turnover at 30%. So, how did they get to their present 4% rate, an enviable place to be even in the best market conditions?
“Just imagine if you could harness 100% of your employees’ capability while they’re at work,” posited Randy Pettigrew, the company’s COO. “If every person in every position is harnessed at 100% you can do a tremendous amount with much less. And what we learned during the pandemic is exactly that.”
In the days of lockdowns and quarantines, leadership made a commitment to work on the lean principle called the eighth waste: the squandering of human imagination, ingenuity, and skill. Doing so meant rejecting the typical tissue-thin nods to empowerment that many companies use, and actually extending trust and accountability to everyone in the BLG USA workforce.
Not only did they give workers the autonomy and tools they needed to excel in their roles, they created a self-reporting model in which employees at every level were responsible for truly owning their work. By leveraging this rare blend of discipline, flexibility, and employee engagement, turnover rates plummeted — even though the workforce had slimmed down during the pandemic.
“A smaller workforce, much more engagement, much closer relationship between supervisory and labor, and a focus on developing that relationship has turned around our retention numbers,” said Pettigrew. “It’s really an interesting thing; they talk about it in business school, but I think very few companies are able to capitalize on that.”
The leadership’s disciplined approach to excellence has definitive guidelines that must be followed impeccably, but there’s plenty of room for creativity to be flexible within those guidelines. “We don’t accept that things can’t be done, or that we can’t rise to the highest level,” he added. “We invest the energy to reach the outcome even if the expectation is very high.”
About BLG USA
“As an organization we practice excellence every day,” Pettigrew emphasized. “We strive to be the employer of choice wherever we open a business.” With seven locations throughout the Southeastern U.S., and headquarters just southeast of Birmingham, making that deceptively simple commitment has made a remarkable difference. “We work hard to have excellent leaders because if you have excellent leaders the ability to retain employees becomes much higher.”
Having one of the world’s most renowned logistics companies as their parent doesn’t hurt, either. Founded in 1877, BLG Logistics Group is the top European specialist in automotive logistics, with field-leading contract and container logistics divisions.
The Group entered the U.S. market in the early 2000s; stateside, the company offers supply chain solutions to the automotive industry, as well as to the consumer goods, retail, and industrial manufacturing sectors.
“We work together very closely,” Pettigrew said. BLG USA’s departments from IT, quality, operations, training, and HR meet weekly or bi-weekly with their global counterparts to problem solve, find new ways to innovate, and share learning experiences.
“That constant communication has really strengthened our flexibility. It’s made our bench strength a lot deeper. It’s a global focus of our company to build on this sharing aspect where we're all operating on a similar platform that gives us the ability to reach across the ocean to tap resources.”
Supply chain challenges brought on by the pandemic have opened abundant opportunities for logistics experts willing to take on extremely tough customer dilemmas, which is the BLG USA sweet spot. Take the container and chassis shortage, for example, which has enabled the company to serve more customers that need transloading services.
“We view that as a huge opportunity for a number of different reasons, not only the opportunity to move those goods from the port to their end user, but because we provide value-added services for others who want to move material into the interior where they might not be able to move a sea container,” he explained.
“We’re willing to step out there and take a risk because if there’s not a willingness to test your ability or test your system, you’ll never know what it can do,” he added. The variety of projects has led to the development of a flexible response system, which enables BLG USA to meet their customers where they are, even if that capability means leaping out of their comfort zones. With an engaged and inspired workforce, future leaps are bound to become more thrilling — and wildly successful.