As chief strategy officer for Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc. and vice chair of the Intermodal Association of North America, Adriene Bailey exudes an undeniable passion for the intermodal industry.
With the trade association preparing for Intermodal EXPO 2016, to be held Sept. 18-20 in Houston, Bailey offers readers of the American Journal of Transportation insights into the industry she’s been pleased to be a part for three decades.
What exciting things can we expect at Intermodal EXPO 2016?
There’s been a real focus of the IANA board and staff, with some outside help, to reconstitute the event and fire up and energize it. I’m very proud of what the team has done, because we can see the attendance figures going up, and the event feels a lot livelier. Also, IANA committees have become a lot more active in producing more tangible results, and that’s very exciting to see.
IANA’s 25th anniversary is a major theme of this year’s EXPO, and we’re celebrating this milestone throughout the program. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the arrival of the Ideal X at the Port of Houston – the start of intermodalism as we know it today – so it’s very timely that our conference this year is in the great city of Houston.
The last three years have been an exciting time for EXPO, which has always been the place leaders and influencers in our industry come together to shape policy, identify recommended practices and work to improve the business.
EXPO’s new design has added dynamic formats that increase the level of engagement with attendees, expand the quality and breadth of the educational content, and provide more opportunities for attendees to network and build their business.
This year, we have an impressive lineup of speakers, including a keynote address from Matt Rose, [executive chairman] of BNSF, followed by a “Merger Mania” general session with major 3PL [third-party logistics] executives.
Perhaps something not everyone knows is how much IANA invests in building the next generation of transportation leaders. In addition to funding eight colleges with scholarship and program development grants, IANA hosts a student case study competition during EXPO. Seven schools will field undergraduate student teams who will compete over the course of EXPO. In addition, they will have access to all of EXPO for expanding their networks and exposure to our industry while providing a unique opportunity for our members to interact with the next generation.
How has intermodal become an increasingly attractive option for shippers, and how is Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc. – the Secaucus, New Jersey-based third-party logistics arm of the NYK Group – involved in this regard?
Intermodal is such an interesting piece of the industry. I’m very passionate about the fact that, if you look at what’s good for our country, intermodal is a very good solution.
Intermodal is taking trucks off the road, which reduces the amount of infrastructure dollars we have to spend to support the highway system. It frees up traffic, which improves quality of life. It reduces air pollution. Every time we can take a truck off the road and put freight on the rail, that’s a bonus.
Many shippers have already become quite savvy about their intermodal options and are using it within their networks where there is a good fit. Intermodal has become a lot more reliable than it once was. It looks and feels a lot more like a truck move, with a little bit of extra transit time. The price advantage and the other advantages that come along with getting those trucks off the road make a lot of sense.
In this industry, you have asset-based providers who have their own fleets, and the biggest one is J.B. Hunt [Transport Services Inc.], followed by Hub Group, and it trails off from there. So you really have two big fleets that are operated by single entities. The J.B. Hunt fleet and what we call the rail-box fleet – which is the combination of boxes that ride with CSX, the Norfolk Southern and the UP [Union Pacific] – are each somewhere in the 88,000- to 90,000-container range.
We provide access for shippers to that rail-box fleet. Shippers need somebody to get that container to and from the door, to deal with the railroad and operations. That’s the product that started the industry out, this group of intermodal marketing companies that were bundling the drayage, the rail and the box to give the shipper a door-to-door product.
What evolved, really through the leadership of Hunt, were companies that decided to do the whole thing end to end, and I call those integrated operating companies – like a J.B. Hunt or a Hub Group or a Swift [Transportation] or a Schneider [National] – and they own the trucks, the box, they contract with the railroads, they get the door-to-door shipment as well.
So there are two channels in the industry for how you can move freight on the rail. You can go to an integrated operating company or an intermodal marketing company. Both are very viable.
We at Yusen Logistics are one of the biggest and I think one of the best intermodal marketing companies out there. We know that our service door-to-door is equal to or better than the companies who have their own boxes. And the way we know that is from shippers’ scorecards, and we see where we rank.
We give shippers access to multiple fleets. They don’t want to put all their eggs in one basket, as they shouldn’t. If you’re a shipper, you always want to have somebody in your portfolio that’s bringing you that gigantic rail-box fleet of 88,000 boxes.
We are still seeing truck-to-rail conversion, especially in the East where the railroads have recently invested in opening up service in traditional highway-only lanes. We have recently seen some lanes where truck has won back share from intermodal on price driven by excess truck capacity and lower fuel costs.
Another emerging trend is shippers looking for multiyear intermodal agreements with price adjustments tied to specific market indices. It is a clear sign that shippers rely on intermodal capacity and are looking for longer-term commitments from providers.
In what ways is your company increasing its presence in Mexico in particular, and why do you see this as a significant growth market?
Mexico is a place where we are doing a lot of investing. Mexico is one of the most important logistics markets in our network, and we have been operating there with an experienced Yusen Logistics team since 1997.
In addition to the cross-border truck and intermodal, air and ocean freight forwarding services we provide, we are investing in facilities and integrated supply chain services to support highly reliable just-in-time delivery capability for our automotive and other manufacturing clients who rely on international inbound components to support their operations.
Yusen Logistics has recently opened new warehouses and air freight operating centers in Monterrey and Guadalajara to complement our existing operations in Mexico City and Celaya and at the border in Laredo, Texas. Guadalajara is quickly becoming the critical hub for automotive air freight shipments into Mexico.
Our Bajio Logistics Center near Celaya, Guanajuato, will be completed later this year and is dedicated to the automotive manufacturing logistics cluster in the Bajio region. Yusen Logistics’ new 60,000-square-foot warehouse sits on 17 acres inside the Amistad Industrial Park and will include container and trailer staging capability to provide a total logistics offering to our customers. Major automotive manufacturers have already announced plant construction in the region, and we expect this trend to continue.
With all your duties as chief strategy officer for Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc., how do you find time for your extensive involvement with IANA and other industry entities, such as the University of Denver’s Intermodal Transportation Institute?
It’s always a balancing act and requires prioritizing schedules and current projects needing attention, but I think that’s normal for everyone these days. I just consider myself fortunate to be in a position where I can make a contribution and meaningful positive impact on others and the industry. To be honest, I would not want it any other way.
It is extremely rewarding to work with so many talented people in our industry, and I feel honored to be involved with not only IANA and the Transportation Institute at the University of Denver, but also local and regional organizations where a sense of community involvement is both greatly needed and personally very gratifying.
As you have impressive credentials both in your education – with a bachelor’s in systems engineering from Princeton University, an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and post-graduate work at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management – and in your more than 25 years in logistics – including at CSX and Pacer International before joining Yusen in 2011 – which do you see as more important in preparing you for your present position in third-party logistics?
Education is important, no doubt, but the most important part of being prepared for any position is the experience you bring to the opportunity and your personal desire to learn and understand in a new role.
I’ve had the opportunity to work in consulting, two U.S. Class 1 railroads, and for a U.S. domestic and now an international logistics company. Every job has taught me new things and has given me perspective that helped me in my future roles.
Asset-based and non-asset-based businesses are very different, and understanding the difference from direct experience makes a third-party provider a more effective partner to both its clients and its vendors.
Realizing it may be a sensitive question, are you encouraged by the growing number of women in a field that traditionally has been dominated by males, and, if I may ask, how did you find yourself getting into this field?
My journey into transportation started in college working as a research assistant to [Princeton] professor Alain Kornhauser – the founder of ALK Associates – during a summer break. We were digitizing and analyzing bus routes for N.J Transit. My major was systems engineering, concentrating in transportation networks.
After I graduated, I landed a job in Boston working for a consulting firm called Temple Barker & Sloane, which is now Oliver Wyman.
I’m very grateful to have had great mentors and support in my career.
You are right, we have not had the diversity we need in this industry, but you can feel and see it changing. Logistics is an excellent career opportunity for anyone who loves solving problems, and our industry will face a real talent gap in the coming years. Companies that attract and retain the best talent from all sectors of the population will be the winners.
If you ever manage to get any nonwork time, how do you most enjoy spending it?
My husband, Tim, and I love to travel and spend quality downtime in the mountains of North Carolina.
I also enjoy cooking and experimenting with new food ideas and recipes. It’s a creative outlet that allows me to slow down and unwind and very gratifying when people enjoy the end result. Relaxing with good friends and family over a meal and great conversation is one of my favorite things.
Anything in particular you like to cook?
I do love to make turkey – like the whole Thanksgiving shebang. We have it several times a year just because like turkey so much.