Rob Ten Brinke On What Makes A Successful Third Party Logistics Provider

Where do supermarkets get their food from? Some supermarkets get their products from distribution centers. Where do distribution centers get their products from? Often from other distribution centers or from the product’s manufacturer directly.

Large food manufacturing companies like ConAgra Foods, who manufactures Healthy Choice and other popular brands, use third party providers to distribute their products.


Rob Ten Brinke,  the Vice President of Service Freight Systems, a third party logistics provider, helps manufacturers to that to get their products to the appropriate destination on time and on budget.

Aaron Ralph Thomas:     Rob, you provide third party logistics. Why should a company use third party logistics and not just use their own in-house system?

Rob Ten Brinke:  For a number of reasons. Probably one of the main ones is not just a time focus but it’s a combination. We have the resources to find the right truck at the right time going to the right place for the right amount of money. We also have the backup support to see the process through.

Like you mentioned earlier, ConAgra Foods is a good example. When people buy groceries from the supermarket, there’s an awful lot involved to get it on the shelf. One package of frozen waffles needs to make it from manufacturing to the shipping dock and onto a truck, across the border into a distribution center, and finally onto the store shelf. There is major work that goes on there and we provide all that background work, but not just do it, we do it communicating and keeping companies in the loop on each order, 100% of the time.

Aaron Ralph Thomas:  Isn’t that something that would be expected that companies would be kept in the loop?

Rob Ten Brinke:  You would hope, wouldn’t you?

Aaron Ralph Thomas:  I would think so. What does Service Freight do that’s different than what’s typical in the industry?

Rob Ten Brinke:   Our edge is that we keep people in the loop and up to date 100% of the time. We provide proactive communication. In fact, Service Freight Systems will over-communicate because there’s a variety of things that need to happen and everybody knows this. In every job you do, any sport you do, anything you do in life, problems and challenges come up. It’s not a matter of will a problem come up, the problem will come up, but then it’s a matter of what do you do with those challenges and problems; it’s how you handle a problem.

We have people here trained to be on top of the supply chain cycle. They evaluate each load and anticipate problems before they occur. They’ll communicate with the client, the shipper, the receiver, the border agent or whoever it is, and have options available proactively to be able to keep it going and be on time. That’s the difference.

Aaron Ralph Thomas:  What type of problems can possibly happen?

Rob Ten Brinke:    There can be a myriad of problems. For instance, truckloads come in and they might want to do a triple stop delivery. Let’s say they want to put a stop in Ohio and a stop in Georgia and a stop in Florida, but they’ve set appointments. They want an appointment in Ohio at 10 o’clock on Friday night and then you’ve got an appointment in Florida at 10 am on Sunday morning and you have to stop in Georgia in between. It’s physically not possible to do that with hours of service, with what’s required, but all of this is done already in the client’s system. Computer systems don’t see this stuff. People don’t see this stuff, but we see this stuff and we will correct that in advance.

Aaron Ralph Thomas:     You provide, more or less, a more human touch versus just having a plain automated system where the computer decides how things go.

Rob Ten Brinke:   Beautifully said. When I thought about our chat today, I was thinking, what really is it? I started thinking, what stands us apart in terms of service for our clients? We concentrate on being real people on communicating. We’ll go to the moon and back for our customers.

Somebody said it here once really nicely and it took us, I want to say, probably 15 to 16 years to actually pinpoint because everyone talks about great service, what is great service. We were never able to pinpoint it, oh maybe even three years ago. What we pinpointed was, and we named it, our system runs around something that we call a culture of care and we’ve coined that topic and it’s really simple, to be honest.

The culture of care goes full circle. We truly care about our employees. Basically, we’ll do anything for our employees to accommodate them. We understand lives, we understand kids, we understand parents, and we understand doctor appointments. We don’t judge time off. We really, really, really care for our employees. That turns around and they truly care about our clients. Happy people produce great results and that’s what’s been driving us.

Shelly Van Poppel who heads up the Service Freight Supply Chain Solutions describes the culture of care as a warm fuzzy. She says, “You know, our team goes way above and beyond for our clients and our suppliers everyday, but what people really like, is dealing with us because we’re always happy and that’s something you can’t fake.”

A. Ralph Thomas

A. Ralph Thomas is a Contributing Writer to Business Innovators Magazine and a Host on Business Innovators Radio covering Business Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Business Success.