A major factor that decides an organization’s success today is its supply chain management strategy. Its logistics and transportation network in particular can make or break a business, affecting customer service level agreements and real-time delivery tracking.
No matter how prepared an organization is, minor or major logistics challenges are bound to occur with the dynamic nature of business. If not dealt with properly, those challenges might cause a substantial financial loss. Many companies collaborate with an experienced logistics service provider to reduce complications, and minimize or reclaim losses involved in supplying their product to the market.
AFS Logistics is a third-party logistics (3PL) provider, known for its extensive experience and expertise in optimizing logistics spend and operations with transparency and autonomy. They manage some of the most essential parts of the shipping lifecycle for their clients, including shipment execution, tracking, invoice audit, payment, analytics, claims and more to unlock hidden value.
AFS’s seasoned leader, Tom Nightingale (CEO), and his motivated and highly skilled workforce help clients achieve their logistics objectives and proactively solve problems before they arise using data-driven processes and best-in-class technology.
Let’s explore AFS’s history, services and their journey to become the most reliable logistics solution for their clients.
Forty years of excellence
AFS is a non-asset-based, non-asset-biased 3PL headquartered in Shreveport, Louisiana. Founded by Brian Barker in 1982, AFS celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and continues to evolve by assembling the best people, processes and technology to equip clients for success in a changing marketplace.
Over the past four decades, the 3PL has grown to become a top 3PL in the U.S. and Canada. It has built a roster of over 1,800 clients, achieving an average client tenure of almost 12 years, and generating more than $183 million in total annual client savings.
With 22 acquisitions in its 40-year history, the organization recently acquired a Toronto-based freight audit and payment (FAP) company, resulting in AFS becoming the new, largest FAP company in Canada.
“While our roots are in FAP, we now offer a wide range of data-driven logistics services that account for nearly $11 billion in transportation spending annually,” says the company’s executive team.
Today, AFS audits all modes of transportation, provides LTL and parcel cost management and transportation management, including freight brokerage and freight forwarding and offers customized analytical solutions as well.
Data is the foundation of what AFS offers. The more data its data scientists have, the more AFS can help customers reduce waste, drive down risk, increase the predictability of pricing and improve service levels. Data and technology are critical tools for adapting to various supply chain shocks, and AFS notes that quick response times and data-driven alternatives are part of providing a seamless experience for its customers.
One example is LTL congestion. As the industry faces trucking capacity challenges, there can be situations where carriers reach capacity and provide very late notice, sometimes leaving customers to find an alternative solution in just one business day. To adapt, shippers must have access to alternative solutions including a pool of additional, pre-vetted carriers or in some cases a different mode entirely.
Data enables AFS to confidently provide new options with comparable service and cost, ultimately empowering clients to pivot quickly and keep their business moving. But AFS uses data for more than just solving client challenges, they also have a data-rich predictive tool that provides useful freight industry insights at no additional cost.
AFS says, “On a broader level, we leverage data from the over $11 billion in freight spend we manage to provide market-wide insights. Our team works with Cowen, a leading full-service investment bank to produce a quarterly freight index that not only provides historical insights but leverages machine learning algorithms to offer a forward-looking perspective on where the freight market is headed.”
Supply chain disruption has been a common topic, from the five o’clock news to late-night TV debates.
Two main factors have prepared companies well for this, and AFS has been at the center of both:
- Data, and
- A model that is non-asset-based and non-asset biased.
The flexibility of that model is key – not limited to assets that you own, and you can use data to respond quickly and ensure that the solutions brought to customers have no bias toward owned assets and match the situation at hand. It is about being able to respond promptly and offer a seamless experience to customers.
One of AFS’s retail clients relied on the same carrier to deliver most of their parcels for over 20 years. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, service issues began to arise when online shopping increased and shipping capacity was limited.
In this situation, AFS helped the retailer switch to another carrier with competitive pricing– offering the chance to address service and capacity issues. Moreover, the AFS team negotiated a contract that created a 14% reduction in overall parcel spend for their client.
Expansion plans for 2022 and beyond
When asked about the future scaling plans for AFS, CEO Tom Nightingale responded by saying, “It is an interesting time in our industry. You have 3PLs like us at the nexus of all this chaos, helping customers respond quickly.”
He adds, “AFS has a legacy of innovation, and our approach is to continue to build out our suite of core services (FAP, LTL, Parcel, Transportation Management) on that foundation of data.”
Words of guidance
Tom has extensive experience in the logistics industry. The expertise at his level can prove to be insightful for a budding entrepreneur. When asked what he would want to say to those aspiring to enter the industry, he says, “Develop a service-driven mindset. Be eager to serve your team as a leader or subject matter expert and serve your clients by meeting their needs and exceeding their expectations.”
The visionary leader
Tom Nightingale, CEO of AFS, is dedicated to service leadership. Over ten years ago, Tom founded Upgrade Soldiers, a non-profit group that encourages and inspires others to thank the defense services personnel through acts of kindness.
Tom also currently serves on the boards of several organizations, including Syracuse University’s Franklin Supply Chain Advisory Board, CSCMP, and formerly the Warehouse Education Research Council and Women in Trucking.
Prior to AFS, Tom served as President and CEO of International Package Shipping and its operating companies. Tom also held different leadership roles at GENCO (now FedEx Supply Chain), ModusLink, Con-way Inc. (now XPO) and Schneider National.
Tom has over 25 years of leadership experience and brings a clear vision and unifying force to AFS.
What clients are saying
“AFS has been a long-term ally and valued asset within our overall logistics operations. AFS continually demonstrates its commitment to our success. They work with our team toward common goals and have enabled us to focus on our core business rather than getting buried in the micro-management of carriers, claims and invoices. We know AFS always has our back!”
Bo Ricketts, Director of Operations, Cavender’s.
“AFS has become part of the Mann Lake team. My staff can go directly to them, they optimize our processes and take work off our plate so we can focus on our core business.”
Shana Rowlette, CFO, Mann Lake Bee & Ag Supply
Award: Who’s Who in Logistics 3PL
Source: Armstrong and Associates
Product or service: Overall 3PL service
Women in trucking
Award: AFS staff member honored as part of “Women to watch”
Award: Top Companies for Women to Work for in Transportation
Source: Women in Trucking Association