Schneider National, Inc. based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, recently acquired less-than-truckload (LTL), Watkins & Shepard Trucking, Inc. and final mile furniture delivery specialist Lodeso Logistics, Inc. This blockbuster deal underscores the need for specialized first to final mile transportation services of high value over dimensional goods for the e-commerce markets. The combination of these furniture logistics companies was years in the making.
Lodeso, based in Zeeland, Michigan, is a non-asset based organization with hundreds of agents in the United States and spot agents for remote areas in order to service customers in the catalogue, home and Internet shopping industries. A few years ago, Lodeso and Watkins & Shepard integrated their proprietary information systems and aligned by two separate companies. This proprietary software called Simplex is designed by Lodeso to manage home delivery of furniture throughout the U.S.A. with visibility to all stakeholders. “With Schneider, we have the I.T. muscle, the transportation muscle and the financial muscle and this will have a huge impact on the industry,” said Ron Borgman, President of Lodeso in a recent interview with the AJOT.
Watkins & Shepard is based in Montana and began in 1974 and now has 20 terminals in 15 states for furniture deliveries in 48 states and western Canada. The business specializes in LTL, or trucks containing orders from many customers into a single truck, as opposed to full-truck-load (FTL), which moves full containers or trucks of one product from one customer. Case goods or furniture made from hard materials are difficult to manage and bulky to require specialized services. One measurement of success is that Watkins & Shepard does not use forklifts - all movements are done by hand for a record of less than one percent damage.
Lodeso’s white glove and threshold furniture delivery services will complement Schneider’s “Final Mile” offering to the fast growing and underserved furniture e-commerce customers such as Wayfair. “E-traders place orders to Lodeso and to the manufacturer. We create the shipping paperwork and send to the vendor with the shipping instructions. The manufacturer ships product to the local delivery terminal of Lodeso and we contact the customer to make the home delivery with a local vehicle and two person team,” said Borgman. White glove premium service does inspections and corrective actions prior to delivery and full set up in the home. A two tiered threshold service delivers either through the door of the residence or to a room of choice.
US furniture retail sales were $105.4 billion in 2015 and of that e-commerce deliveries grew 8 percent to $6.8 billion, excluding private fleet deliveries, according to the Wall Street Journal. Many parcel networks cannot handle these oversized and bulky boxes. As such, this niche market will be served by the combination of these three specialized furniture logistics transportation providers. “We have 250 facilities and our goal is to be within 25-50 miles of the end customer for a 1-2 day final delivery,” said Borgman.