The city's newest supply-chain service provider, Blu Logistics, arrives downtown.
illustration by Yurkaimmortal | Dreamstime
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South Main Street is home to upscale restaurants, fashion boutiques, and the staples of Memphis’ music culture. The stretch between Peabody and Union is populated by the likes of the Majestic Grille, Art on a Hot Tin Roof, the Center for Southern Folklore, and, perhaps slightly out of place, one logistics and transportation company that doesn’t mind the fact that the nearest thing to a railway is the Main Street Trolley.
Ask Paul Selvage, vice president of the newly rebranded Blu Logistics, and he’ll tell you he prefers the excitement of downtown to warehouse districts, though his Memphis office on the fifth floor of 119 South Main stays fairly quiet.
“One thing you notice in our Chicago office is the silence of phones not ringing,” says Selvage. “If the customer’s not calling that means they’re getting everything.”
The silence was a little eerie to Russell Grant, international accounts manager, who joined Blu Logistics in May. A Memphian with 18 years in the logistics industry, he says Selvage had to offer him some reassurances about the quiet.
But Selvage says that when things are done right the first time — when technology is fully utilized, when employees are properly trained, and when a company strategizes for a competitive future — there simply is no reason for a lot of chaos and panic.
“We’re downtown because we believe in downtown,” says Selvage, who opened the Memphis office in September. “We believe there will be a renewal. Cities are the soul of the area. A lot of the growth and the excitement in Memphis came from downtown.
“We don’t need to be at an airport,” he continues. “We don’t need to be at a warehouse. Our technology will feed us that data anyway. Right now my people are loading instructions from a warehouse in California. Do I need to be there?”
Blu Logistics, he says, will enter the Memphis market starting small — looking for small- to mid-size companies as clients and maintaining a small footprint. Currently there are only four employees working in the Memphis office, though one, Grant, is an in-house broker.
“That makes us fully integrated as far as the services we can provide,” says Grant. “Memphis is dubbed America’s distribution center. This is the fulcrum of transportation globally and domestically. As far as being neck-and-neck with our competitors, we have to have an edge. Our edge is technology.”
Specifically, Blu Logistics prides itself on an automated systems platform that alerts customers by email every time a shipment reaches a certain milestone along its route. Notices are sent each time a container changes mode of transportation or if a change in schedule is necessary.
Telephone calls are usually only made when the container is ready for pickup. Customers can also easily update who receives alerts via the Internet and can generate reports with a mouse click.
“We can’t make [boats and trains] go any faster or more efficiently,” says Selvage. “But all of the milestones the railways push out come into our database. We’ve linked up with the rail companies. Automatically, when a container is loaded, we know every stroke that goes on with that container.
“It saves tremendous time of telephone calls and the time of physically handling a shipment,” he continues. “It’s a total myth that technology will save you time; technology doesn’t save you time, it makes your boss give you more work for you to become more efficient. So if a client does call with a problem, you aren’t buried with the day-to-day, you’re more responsive.”
Blu Logistics was formerly known as Blue Cargo Group. Headquartered in Bogota, Colombia, the company started its South and Latin American operations in 1993 and now has offices in Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Mexico, and Costa Rica.
North American operations opened in 2009 with presences on both coasts, namely Los Angeles, Vancouver, and New Jersey, and its largest office in Chicago, with 34 employees.
Aside from the needs of natural growth between 2009 and the present, Selvage said the time was right to rapidly open operations in the Midwest and the Mid-South.
Along with the new Memphis office, a St. Louis office opened in October and an office in Indianapolis is almost ready to open.
The reasoning comes with a fairly bold prediction.