From the Top: Greg Weigel
An interview with AIT's Vice President Global Operations published in the Winter 2017 edition of Air Cargo Focus
Greg Weigel joined AIT Worldwide Logistics in 2014 to further accelerate the pace of the company’s global expansion. With a reputation for operational excellence and uncompromised commitment to customer service, he leverages more than 30 years of industry experience while overseeing the organization’s Domestic Corporate Operations, Global Development and Regional Operations teams. Weigel said, “AIT’s legacy is rooted in a culture that is passionate about delivering a best-in-class customer experience while empowering and supporting its team members to accomplish this. In today’s global supply chain environment, these cultural attributes are essential to sustain execution with speed, flexibility and precision – that is a major reason I chose to be a part of this team.”
Focus: How has AIT benefitted from the decision to remain a U.S. company?
Weigel: AIT is a very flexible, agile organization and we are focused on growing in ways that are responsive to the needs of our customers. Our philosophy resonates with U.S.-based decision makers who are looking for something more dynamic than a transactional customer/vendor arrangement. Our customers’ businesses thrive on partnerships that are collaborative and innovative. AIT’s customer-centric approach is what continues to drive our products, geographic coverage and operating capabilities. The company’s leadership is incredibly entrepreneurial and that spirit permeates the organization – we are focused on finding ways to quickly and reliably say “yes” to our customers.
I think many organizations are focused purely on driving volumes rather than consistently improving value and quality. To me, bigger isn’t better – better is better.
Focus: What technologies does AIT Worldwide Logistics employ to best respond to global opportunities?
Weigel: AIT has adopted CargoWise as our single global operating system and it has helped enable our global expansion plans. It’s an efficient, reliable tool with good internal and external reporting. I was most impressed with our team’s willingness and support to effectively implement the system at a rapid pace. Our Information Systems and Operations leaders managed the launch flawlessly with their teams. I’ve been working in this industry for 34 years and this was the best technology implementation I have ever experienced. I credit the leadership and the team in the field who were both receptive and motivated. Our entire network transitioned in 90 days with no outages or service disruptions to our customers. As a result, AIT has more than 70% e-AWB integration with all of our Core Carriers. We’ve created a better customer experience for our airline partners as well.
The company is also rolling out a final mile delivery tool to capture all status updates as well as digital images of documentation and cargo. Everything integrates seamlessly with our existing system. We’re seeing numerous benefits already: shortened data cycle time, better quality for customers, improved internal efficiency and reduced cost per transaction. This technology is critical to support the end-to-end supply chain needs of our Residential Delivery customers, particularly their evolving e-commerce needs.
Focus: What opportunities are customer e-commerce demands presenting for AIT?
Weigel: We are rapidly expanding our e-commerce portfolio and experiencing the most growth in two areas, the first of which is domestic services. AIT is one of the few domestic forwarders continuing to operate an exclusive trucking network that flows into a broad scope of delivery services. Our e-commerce customers benefit because we control both capacity and quality and that makes the dedicated truck network a big differentiator for us.
We are also expanding our consolidation/deconsolidation solutions for imports and exports with a number of our customers connecting into international post distributions using heavyweight air.
Focus: Do you employ social media to connect with new suppliers and customers?
Weigel: AIT continues to note the importance of knowing your audience and connecting with customers, partners and community members via social media outlets. Frequent updates are made on the company’s Facebook, Glassdoor and LinkedIn pages with posts promoting items such as events, global news, network expansion, charitable efforts and thought leadership. Our digital presence gives us a higher level of online visibility compared to most other companies in our industry.
Focus: As AIT continues to invest in people, what skills are needed to be competitive in today’s marketplace?
Weigel: It starts with the AIT culture and the company’s Core Values. To do a great job serving our customers (both internal and external) you have to understand who we are and what we stand for. From that foundation, we have a comprehensive approach to process, systems and hands-on training. Our Quality Management System breaks down the skills required to create “the perfect shipment” both domestically and internationally and we utilize layers of management tools and metrics to ensure proper execution throughout the organization.
Focus: In what areas or disciplines did AIT make intellectual capital investments to support the company’s five year strategy?
Weigel: Freight forwarding is about assembling a great team of professionals and providing them with the right tools and processes to drive a great customer experience. To support our five year strategy, we have invested globally to add highly qualified team members in China, Mexico and Vietnam while fortifying AIT’s Life Sciences, Perishables and Retail divisions with new subject matter experts.
Other personnel investments are driving new revenue streams with in our Air, Ocean and Brokerage products. We also invest heavily to help our existing teammates broaden their skill sets with internal training and development that is tied to our long-term goals. This is an exciting time at AIT, especially since we are expanding when most others are contracting.
Focus: AIT is a light asset company. What are the attributes that attract new customers?
Weigel: The ability to be flexible with service options is a long-time cornerstone supporting AIT’s approach with the value we offer. This agility allows us to be creative and innovative for customers rather than forcing them into a pre-fabricated transportation service that may or may not be what they need. We have integrated our operating systems with our Core Carriers at a highly sophisticated level which provides an unprecedented degree of transparency and control over the outsourcing and procurement process. The robust combination of operating excellence, our Quality Management System and a passion for proactive communication is what ultimately produces an outstanding experience for our customers.
Focus: How does AIT leverage shipping solutions while taking complexity out of international cargo?
Weigel: We have a great group of subject matter experts in Brokerage, Compliance and Operations who are focused on being easy to do business with while instilling a strong sense of confidence with our customers. The cultural mindset of developing partnerships with our customers is key – we are viewed as trusted, reliable advisors and collaborators. We have also seen rapid growth in our sector solutions and international product scope. These best-in-class solutions are highly transferrable to partners who are looking to improve the velocity and reliability of their supply chains. By creating detailed documentation and using it to train our staff about these capabilities, our customers are getting advanced levels of value and reliability.
Focus: Has intermodal shipping requiring multiple modes of transport changed with the new technologies available?
Weigel: The evolution of global supply chains requires increased multimodal solutions from the industry. Some of this is driven by a lack of infrastructure and capacity in emerging markets. Some of it is based upon the procurement strategies of customers that require us to bundle different modes of transportation to meet cost and service objectives. E-commerce is an area where the industry is experiencing the most growth that requires multimodal solutions. We are currently handling large import and export consolidations, releasing those products out via parcel, express and time-defined ground solutions to the final consumer. The most critical component of this is providing data transparency and cycle time reliability over the multiple modes of the solution. This requires tight integration and fluid collaboration between multiple partners. In today’s environment, the key to success is ABC: Always Be Collaborating.
Focus: Which demands are customers valuing more, cargo transparency or price?
Weigel: This is a loaded question! Decision-making has to be based on value and each customer sees this differently depending on the commodity in question. I would say that in today’s marketplace, you would expect transparency of information to be a core requirement for any key supplier. Like any other part of the value chain, as components like IT and systems mature, they tend to become commoditized.
Our customers are demanding more reliability as they optimize their supply chains. The only way to validate reliability is to consistently deliver the customer’s inventory data across all touchpoints. The other key to data transparency is managing our standard supplier metrics and performance. We are much more likely to work with the carriers who are consistently focused on data-driven operational performance and proactively using that data to improve reliability.
Focus: What skills and courses would you advise students who endeavor to enter the logistics business?
Weigel: My son is studying logistics and I told him the most important thing to learn is how to communicate and interact with people effectively and professionally. It sounds funny, but in today’s world of email, SMS and instant messaging technologies, it’s effective verbal communication that is becoming a lost art. If people are the most important resource, then being an effective communicator is an essential skill.
Of course, it’s critical to know the basics including IATA, Federal Maritime Commission, Dangerous Goods and so on. I strongly urge a project management course and some form of quality system management such as Lean or Six Sigma. Financial and IT comprehension skills are important and so is a good geography lesson.
About AIT Worldwide Logistics
AIT Worldwide Logistics was co-founded in 1979 as a start-up freight forwarder in the Chicago, Illinois area. Over the next three decades, the company grew considerably. The organization’s domestic network has expanded and strengthened to become revered as one of the best in the United States, while the company’s global locations have continued to multiply.
AIT’s complete offering of services provide customers with agile endto-end supply chain solutions. The company delivers a full range of ground, air and sea freight product choices to fulfill every customer’s speed, handling and budgetary requirements. A dedicated brokerage team supports international shipments while customers with unique shipping needs utilize AIT’s specialized services including residential delivery, retail logistics, perishables, life sciences and government.
Technology continues to be at the forefront for AIT, supporting customers’ global supply chains with proprietary platforms that provide complete shipment visibility, support proactive communication practices and enhance the company’s ongoing quality program. Likewise, cultivating and expressing a company culture that is aligned with the day-to-day work experience at AIT is an ongoing project that evolves with the growth of the organization.
The future of AIT includes continuing global expansion with new offices opening in communities all over the world. Meanwhile, investment continues in vertical markets that open up access to an increasingly diversified customer base. This hybrid approach will help realize the organization’s global growth strategy.