Navigating the Changing Waters of Shipping via Reefer Containers

While some of our clients have reported improvements in their business for 2021, others are clearly happy the year is over. So, as we begin to navigate through 2022, what’s likely ahead for clients who use “reefer containers” to transport their goods?

First, though, a bit about the terminology for those who don’t deal with this element of our shipping industry day-to-day. So, what exactly is a reefer storage container? In nautical use, a “reefer” is a person who “reefs” such as a midshipman or a commercial fisherman. But in the world of logistics, reefer storage containers are those equipped with a refrigeration device to create the proper temperature, humidity, and atmosphere for perishable goods.

Reefer storage containers can safely transport fresh fish, seafood, meat, vegetables, dairy products, frozen food, flowers, pharmaceuticals, and other perishables. They’re placed on reefer cargo ships, which continue the goods’ comfortable, temperature-controlled journey across oceans and between continents.

Trends in 2022 and Beyond

So, examining that “reefer storage container marketplace,” here are trends that Prime Logistics sees for 2022 and beyond:

Certainly, the market is growing. In 2019, the reefer container market was estimated at 3,169.2 thousand TEUs and by 2030, it’s projected to be 7063.3 thousand TEUs, according to a Prescient Strategic Intelligence report. A TEU is a 20-foot equivalent unit of cargo capacity for container ships. Each TEU is based on one 20-foot-long intermodal container.

Given the 2020-2021 shortages of reefer shipping containers, it’s also good news that shipping container manufacturers in the U.S., Europe, China, Taiwan, and elsewhere are now producing more new reefer containers than pre-pandemic. That’s helped reduce the length of shipping backlogs and improve availability in some regions.

The Perfect Storm

That said, the reality early in 2022 is that reefer containers are still scarce in many spots. So, continuing shipping delays are likely in 2022, particularly from certain regions. “People often ask us why the increased production of new reefer containers isn’t doing the trick to balance supply and demand,” notes Yulieth Onofre, Prime Logistics Group Sales Manager based in Miami. “Well, it’s a combination of factors that have created ‘the perfect storm.’”

For example, businesses stung by delays in shipping the past two years due to container shortages have increased their orders in a big way. “Many of our clients are shipping many more goods than in the past as they work to rebuild their inventories,” she emphasizes. Clients fearful of shipping delays are also ordering on a longer lead-time.

While Prime Logistics saw evidence late last summer that supply and demand were inching closer together, then the rise and spread of the Delta and Omicron variants of the COVID-19 virus reversed that dynamic. During this pandemic era, increased pharmaceutical transport of biologics, vaccines, cellular therapies, and blood products – all requiring temperature-controlled containers – is increasing.

Early in 2022, reefer cargo ships, both large and small, are fully utilized and in short supply in some regions. Separately, some vessels previously designated for reefer container business have been shifted by their owners to carry dry cargo instead.

Most notably, though, is that pandemic-weary consumers are in a “buy, buy, buy” mode.” Many retail establishments have reopened, and e-commerce is strong. Consumers are ordering “at will” on a day-to-day basis to reward themselves, often from the comfort of their living rooms. Product import levels, as a result, are record setting.

After more than a year of those record imports, month after month, the system is stressed to the max. “We’ve seen delays in port terminal access, ship schedules, rail services, truck transport, and also a shortage of equipment availability,” says Onofre. New ocean trade routes are also putting a strain on ocean reefer container ship availability.

“Yet, despite those supply chain issues beyond our control, our Prime Logistics team works around the clock to assist our clients,” she points out.  “We’re creative and solution-focused, and while we obviously can’t ‘fix’ the world’s supply chain issues, we’re committed to ensuring that our clients know all their options and keeping them informed.”

Demand is Off the Chart

Unfortunately, the cost of transporting goods continues to zoom higher as imports reach record levels and demand is “off the chart.” Thus, reefer container operators continue to raise prices for transport. In the December 2021 edition of “Drewry’s Container Forecaster” report, Drewry Maritime Financial Research (DMFR) projected higher freight rates in 2022 for businesses using reefer containers.

Trend-wise, Prime Logistics is seeing a bit less price inflation (although it’s still happening, for sure) on North-South trade routes for ocean transport of reefer containers; that’s particularly the case for export transport from some regions of South America and Central America. In contrast, East-West routes such as those between the U.S. and Asia are increasingly experiencing a bit higher price inflation.

Globally, Asia-Pacific (APAC) accounts for the largest share in the global reefer container market, and that’s expected to continue, according to a recent Prescient Strategic Intelligence report. But with rapid urbanization, Latin America (LATAM) is expected to post the highest growth rate in the market moving forward. Look for the most growth in the 40-foot reefer container category.

Supply Chain Challenges

Between 2020-2030, Prescient also projects global reefer container market growth at 8 percent. But can customers expect those pesky supply chain issues to disappear? Previously, Drewry had projected that ongoing supply-chain issues within the reefer container marketplace would begin easing by mid-2022. Now, it’s adjusted that projection to sometime in 2023.

“While we’re hoping that conditions will improve as the year progresses, this year is still likely to deliver many challenges for businesses,” acknowledges Onofre. “Definitely, give us a call if we can assist your business. We’re a solid, proactive asset to have on your side. We’ll assure you’re doing all possible to navigate successfully through the volatile reefer shipping marketplace in 2022.”

About Prime Logistics

One of four divisions of Prime Group, an international logistics services conglomerate founded in Ecuador in 2001, Prime Logistics serves to streamline, optimize, and expedite freight to and from the U.S. for a wide range of major industries.

With offices in Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Bogota, Quito, and Amsterdam, Prime Logistics capitalizes on its long-time relationships with the major air carriers and ocean lines to offer competitive rates in securing ample space to destinations all around the world.

For information, call 305-592-2044 or visit www.primelogisticsgroup.com.

A Message from the CEO…By the Light of a New Dawn

As countries around the world slowly recover from the long battle against COVID-19, I am reminded of a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. – “We are always on the threshold of a new dawn.”

And by the light of this new day, we’ve seen something quite profound happen, particularly within the global logistics industry. There has emerged a heightened sense of “community” among our peers and customers.

The notion that “we are all in this together” has given rise to the realization that only by having our own house in order can we better support each other now and over the long term. After all, the world relies on logistics professionals like you and I to aptly manage the supply chains that bring needed products to distribution centers, warehouses, and ultimately the consumer’s doorstep.

We ensure markets have food on shelves, retail outlets have ample stock, businesses get essential parts and equipment, and that hospitals and health care centers have fast access to the critical medicines and supplies that keep us alive. All eyes are on us and there is pressure to perform.

So Perform We Must

On the business side, uncertainties in worldwide logistics this past year have certainly created enormous challenges for Prime Group, but also myriad opportunities to “be there” for our customers and the industry in general. We’ve weathered the COVID-19 storm together, yet still clouds remain – in the form of pervasive interruptions along global supply chains, equipment and capacity shortages, and higher shipping costs, among other significant market pressures.

If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that resiliency is how you play the long game – and not to just survive, but to thrive. Along this line, Prime Group is continually strengthening and expanding its four business units by introducing new services and products, by adding new talent in specific and measured ways, and by building up the company to ensure an overall smoother operation over the long haul.

Enhanced Communications

Bolstering relationships across all industries is also a winning strategy that will ensure success through resilience in 2022. The continued development of our marketing communications program is now paying dividends by attracting new business and by strengthening existing customer loyalties.

We will stay focused on growing the presence of each division by continually “refreshing” our digital presence in the marketplace via enhancements to our corporate web sites; and aggressive, sustained social-mail and enews campaigns. These efforts are of course geared to support the planned expansion of our global sales and marketing staff so that they may convert and nurture all the new business we are stirring.

Four Prime Companies

On the retail food side, our Prime Planet team we will continue to seek innovative and unique product lines not just in response to customer demand, but also in anticipation of their needs and desires for high quality better-for-you snacks.

On the Prime Logistics side of the house, we will continue to seek out globally recognized trade certifications for the transport of pharmaceuticals and other sensitive commodities. This is key to giving Prime Logistics the competitive edge it needs to grow.

We will cotinine to respond to the growing customer demand for charter operations through our PrimeAir division. In addition, we will focus on building up our Prime Fresh Handling service readiness at our gateway hubs – like at LAX, which emerged in 2021 as the largest and busiest field station in our entire global network.

Growing Through Technology

Overhauling software systems in-house with the latest technology and refining business processes will allow Prime Group to become even more operationally efficient and “customer centered” in 2022. We are engaging with a specialized firm at present to head up a program to unify all of our business units via one overarching system. This in turn will make way for the next natural step in the evolution of our global service excellence – artificial intelligence.

The prime objective here is to heighten the entire customer experience by providing fast and easy access to our wide-ranging service offerings, so that they can directly perform their own bookings, tracking, and more – whenever they need to, 24/7.

This will also serve to free up our Operations, Sales, and Customer Service people to focus on what they do best – expertly manage the safe, efficient, and cost-effective international shipment and handling of our clients’ commodities.

At the same time, we will be adding a news sales director for the Group and other key support staff to support the much more robust commercial structure we are building out in the coming year.

External Opportunities

Although our four companies have realized steady organic growth, in 2022 we will be adjusting course to more aggressively pursue opportunities through acquisitions that will positively impact our business growth plan in a swift and well-planned fashion.

By diversifying revenue, acquiring new customers, and expanding business among existing customers, Prime Group will be in a much stronger position to compete on the global stage – and in the process enhance the value of each company.

This “inorganic growth” will take the form of buying other businesses, opening new locations, and expanding global service lines.

For instance, in addition to the international freight services we currently offer via scheduled carriers, we are now identifying a wider range of air cargo transport options for our customers – such as going from only providing ad hoc charters to operating comprehensive and customized long-term charter programs. So stay tuned for exciting news on this front!

Doing Our Part

The year 2022 is presenting the global community with new challenges. Going forward, Prime Group will continue to proudly do its part shipping medical supplies, vaccines, and test kits internationally. We remain committed to doing more of these missions for as long the world needs us.

There is truly one thing that unites us – it is the basic human spirit that tomorrow will be a new day. And we are united in the belief that 2022 will be just that.

 

~ Roger Paredes, Prime Group CEO

Managing New Normal Pressures to Perform in Global Logistics

People working in cargo logistics and transport are under more pressure right now than during any other period in the history of the industry. The pressure to perform on the job, and the feeling that we’ve always got to “be there” for the team and dare not “drop the ball,” creates stressors that can be counterproductive and troubling on multiple levels. That’s why it is crucial that to consider the many tried-and-true ways available to manage pressure at work during this high anxiety time.

COVID is placing huge internal pressures on workers, from the front line to the head office. Ironically this added stress is more likely to make us even less efficient in what we do. And keep in mind, stress is not always negative. At times, it may also bring out the best in individuals – by inducing us to discover innovative and smarter ways of doing things. This positive dimension of stress is referred to as “enstress.” But let’s face it, usually the term “stress” has a negative implication – and this negative aspect of stress is termed as distress.

So what is stress and how does it rear its often-ugly head? As described by Manufacturing & Logistics IT Magazine, “stress can be defined as a lively circumstance in which people face constraints, opportunities, or loss of something they desire and for which the consequence is both unpredictable as well as crucial. Stress is the response of people to the unreasonable/excessive pressure or demands placed on them.”

How Stress Manifests

Symptoms of stress in the workplace include:

  • Absenteeism, escaping from work responsibilities, arriving late, leaving early, etc.
  • Deterioration in work performance, more error prone work, memory loss, etc.
  • Cribbing (nonstop complaining), overreacting, arguing, getting irritated, anxiety, etc.
  • Deteriorating health, accidents, etc.
  • Improper eating habits (overeating or undereating), excessive smoking and drinking, sleeplessness, etc.

It is thus essential to have effective stress management strategies in an organization so that the potentially detrimental repercussions on the employees as well as their performance can be minimized.

Individual Strategies for Managing Stress

It is generally understood that persistent worrying is not good for your mind or body. Therefore, it is important to be aware of stress at work and manage it efficiently. Consider these 16 anti-stress tips:

  1. While it may seem like everything coming at you must be addressed “right this minute,” it’s just not possible. Pay heed to basic time-management skills – take a moment to prioritize and do the most important things first. Then step back, reassess, and do the next most important thing.
  2. Make a “to-do” list daily, prioritize the acts on the list, and plan the acts accordingly. Achieving short-term targets in a timely fashion beats down work pressures and, thus, allows you to better avoid stress.
  3. Strive to achieve your longer-term goals but do not do it at the expense of family, health, or peers.
  4. Remember to take regular breaks to relax. And know that working through lunch makes you less effective in the afternoon, meaning you will achieve less overall.
  5. Listen more: The answers may be elusive, but are often right there in front of you – you just need to listen for them instead of arguing your point.
  6. Indulging in physical exercises helps in effective blood circulation, keeps you fit, and diverts mind from work pressures.
  7. Promote relaxation techniques such as yoga, listening to music, and meditation.
  8. Have plenty of water and actively engage in healthy eating habits. This takes planning, but it is so important.
  9. Encourage a healthy lifestyle and get more sleep: A well-rested body makes it easier to put proper perspective on your problems – and your client’s problems.
  10. Laughter is nature’s stress reliever. So crack jokes and try to laugh more. Having fun is a proven way to release stress.
  11. Also, engage in office banter – a bit of this throughout the day can actually create a better workplace overall.
  12. Strive to have an optimistic approach to your work. It helps to avoid connections with negative-approach employees.
  13. Another way is to cultivate close connections with trustworthy peers who can listen to your problems and boost your confidence. Such a social network will help you to overcome stress when and if it becomes acute.
  14. Employee counseling is a very good strategy to overcome stress. It allows you to become aware of your strengths and how to better develop those strengths; your weaknesses and how to eliminate them; and to develop strategies for changing your behavior.
  15. Do not remain pre-occupied with yourself. Turn your focus outwards. Help others. This is often a fail-safe way to release some stress.
  16. And keep in mind that, although predictions are that the problems facing the logistics industry may be here for the long haul, always remember this too shall pass.

Impact on “Deskless” Employees

While the pandemic has sometimes been a catalyst for some positive change across office-based industries, such as widespread acceptance of working-from-home and use of virtual meetings technology, not so much for employees outside traditional office settings – as in in many cases they are experiencing a higher prevalence of pressure-packed and stressful conditions.

That’s according to findings of an annual international State of the Deskless Workforce study exploring the attitudes and habits of non-office-based employees – everyone from truck drivers and warehouse operatives to care managers, cashiers, and restaurant staff.

Administered by Workforce Management Solutions provider Quinyx, their survey of 10,000 people in the Health and Social Care, Fashion, Transportation and Warehousing, Shipping & Distribution, Retail and Hospitality sectors shows that working conditions among “deskless” workers are being significantly negatively impacted by the continuation of COVID – as is their work performance.

Other key findings: A staggering 55 percent of the 1,500 respondents say they have gone to work when sick because they believe they can’t afford to stay home; and 53 percent didn’t attend social events and holiday celebrations, while nearly one-third missed major family and friend milestones – such as weddings, births and funerals – due to scheduled work or extra requests from their employer.

The same 16 steps above could certainly benefit those remote and/or “frontline” workers so that all employees within the overburdened logistics industry might achieve the job satisfaction that they so deserve.

Organizational Strategies for Managing Stress

Rule Number One: Put employees first. The pandemic and its impact on the workforce have reminded management teams that employees are not a cost item that can be optimized during a crisis. Instead, they are a major—if not the major—asset of an organization.

Since the beginning of the crisis, those companies that prioritized employee well-being and engagement during the pandemic sent a clear message to their workers and as a result-built loyalty.

  1. Encouraging more of organizational communication with the employees so that there is no role ambiguity/conflict.
  2. Effective communication can also change employee views. Managers can use better signs and symbols that are not misinterpreted by the employees.
  3. Encourage employee participation in decision-making. This will reduce role stress.
  4. Grant the employees greater independence, and meaningful and timely feedback.
  5. Remember that organizational goals should be realistic, stimulating, and particular. The employees must be given feedback on how well they are heading towards these goals.
  6. Appreciate the employees on accomplishing and over-exceeding their targets.

 

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

These are interesting times to say the least. The growing demand for service in an ever-changing environment requires constant communications with clients to diffuse their angst and puts pressure on logistics employees to put their best face forward – while trying to manage a higher degree of personal and organizational pressure.

It was conventionally perceived that reasonable levels of stress would boost the employees and improve their work performance. But this perception no longer holds true. According to Management Study Guide, a certified education provider of tutorials for management students, today it is believed that even a little bit of stress will inhibit employees’ work performance.

And so, we must be cognizant of the realities that the new normal in the world of logistics presents. The price of continuous unmanaged pressure on employees is lost creativity and innovativeness – and these have long been the very hallmarks of success in this industry.

CEO Message: Holiday Well Wishes – People Matter

As we head into the end-of-year holidays, the world is far different and our world more uncertain than it was just 22 months ago. Yet, during this season, it’s also an excellent time to remember that it’s the faces of life – our cherished families, good friends, helpful colleagues, and valued customers – that truly matter.

And we’re certainly all yearning for more social contact, right? In fact, according to Mintel’s summer 2021 survey about  “COVID-19’s Impact on U.S. Consumers,” 56 percent of people say the pandemic has made them want to spend more time with family, while 41 percent also want to spend more time with friends.

Why? It’s simple. These people can provide a solid foundation for our lives. They make us smile and laugh. They bring the joy of life. They help us cope with ever-changing uncertainties in both our personal and professional worlds.

This year hasn’t been easy on many fronts. From a personal perspective, we’ve seen the rise of new variants in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but we’ve also seen that vaccination rates are climbing, booster shots are now available, and protocols are – in many cases – working to help stem the spread of the virus.

On the business side, uncertainties in logistics this past year have certainly created mind-boggling issues for the Prime Group of companies as well as our customers. Together we’ve weathered the storm, though, as we’ve worked through shortages of containers and air/ocean/truck/train shipping capacity, higher shipping costs, pervasive labor shortages, a shortage of popular manufactured goods, and a litany of other supply chain challenges.

When Life Gives You Lemons

But one of the only constants in worldwide logistics – and in life too – is the need to adapt to changing circumstances. Yes, marketplace ripples and shortages of most goods are certainly being felt by retailers and consumers alike during this traditional gift-giving period. At the end of the day, though, it’s about doing our best, packing an added dose of patience and “going with the flow.”

It’s also about celebrating and living one’s faith, as well as counting one’s blessings. If you’re able, please join me in giving back and assisting the communities in which you live and work. Even if you only have an hour or two of time to contribute, it could mean a lot. Separately, during this holiday period, help your families but also your neighbors or others who are still struggling. So many people this year have lost cherished friends or beloved family members to this terrible virus. Let’s all pull together to assist each other in weathering the storm.

Getting Down to Business

From a business perspective, I’m happy to report that all of the Prime Group business units expanded this past year with new services and new products. Successes through our major expansion of marketing communications efforts are paying off. We’ve grown the presence of each division through “refreshing” corporate Web sites. We’ve unveiled an aggressive, sustained social-mail campaign, and we’ve introduced a robust, e-news program for three divisions.

On the product side, our Prime Planet division, the hot news is we introduced a new Tostones BBQ flavor, and we’re getting ready to roll out a new product (still under wraps!). We also made packaging enhancements so our snack chips stand out better on often-crowded supermarket shelves.

Our Prime Logistics division posted the highest volume ever in company history for kilos of shipped cargo, plus it earned the World Cargo Association’s (WCA) first “Responsible Person” certification in all of North America.

Our PrimeAir division celebrated a first-ever charter flight between South America and Tokyo. Also, after months of work establishing required qualifications, that division’s Bogota station also has been awarded the “CEIV Certification for Pharmaceutical Transport” issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

And even with global logistics capacity restraints, I’m happy to report that in 2021 Prime Fresh Handling at LAX emerged as our fastest growing, largest, and busiest field station throughout our entire global network. All these steps combined across the various divisions helped make 2021 our biggest sales year ever.

Warm-felt Thanks to Our Team

Thanks to all our employees including the new team members who’ve joined us this year. Across all divisions, we increased headcount by 25 percent to accommodate our strong growth. Also, we want to thank our employees’ families too. Without their support during Prime Group’s busiest time of the year, our employee team couldn’t do what’s needed for our customers.

As the year winds down and we all get into the holiday season of gift giving, yes, we may not have the holiday season’s usual full bounty of goods and gifts to purchase. But we’ll have what matters most – the human touch. It’s a great month to give thanks for friends, families, work colleagues and customers and tell them how much they mean in your life.

Most of all, celebrate the concrete steps taken in 2021 by societies across the globe to begin controlling and preventing this challenging virus. We’re doing our part – shipping medical supplies, temperature sensitive vaccines and 50,000 COVID-19 test kits weekly. And hope to continue to do more of these missions going forward.

So, as we trim the Christmas tree, light the Hanukkah menorah, enjoy Kwanzaa, or celebrate other holiday or faith traditions, stay positive. Think good thoughts, and take time to breathe, relax, reflect, and enjoy life.

~ Roger Paredes, CEO

Let’s Get On the Road with Technology’s Influence on the Cold Chain

The future of the cold chain looks like it will be technologically advanced from not just sourcing to warehousing, but all the way out to delivery. So let’s take a look at the emerging technologies impacting ground transport and warehousing – because there is a lot of ground to cover in between the air and ocean stages of international cargo handling and transport.

No matter whether the pandemic will end soon, the picking and delivery of food along the cold chain remains key. And it is here, in food logistics, where a wide variety of opportunity for new technologies is emerging, as digital innovation became even more widespread due to the continued impact COVID-19 on the industry.

Cutting across multiple global cold supply chains, emerging technologies make a difference on the industry as well as individuals’ jobs. While some may be more inclined to adapt and shift than others, there will still always be change.

It’s About Time, It’s About Place

One of the more prolific technologies is visibility and traceability solutions, as the perishable element makes location and time of delivery even more important than shelf-stable goods. In addition, as food has become less and less local throughout the past few decades, the pendulum of consumer demand has swung the other way.

Consumers now want more transparency on where their food is coming from, and with severe outbreaks of foodborne illnesses happening in the United States, traceability has become a necessity. Not to mention the ease of operation that can exist when every partner knows exactly where a shipment is and has come from in real-time.

There has been a continued focus on providing proof of chain of custody. Technology that clearly shows end-to-end movements (from pick-up, transit, cross-docking, and final mile delivery) is becoming a necessary feature in the cold chain sector. Having the ability to show such data points in real-time along with a predictive delivery time is of great value to all stakeholders.

Sophisticated barcodes, RFID sensors and block chain are a variety of technologies that help bring visibility to life. Adding that together with a user-friendly, easy-to-read dashboard, for instance, can make a real impact on warehousing and transportation operations along cold supply chains.

In addition to these technologies, telematics (the use of GPS and diagnosis technology to optimize routes) is becoming important in the food chain. Utilizing a comprehensive telematics system is crucial to gathering the data required to visualize improvements and optimize an organization to meet increased demand.

Mapping Out Foodborne Illness

Advanced technological solutions can also help stop the effects of a foodborne illness outbreak faster by tracing the contaminated shipment as well as preventing food waste by pinpointing the exact pallet or group of food that needs to be disposed. Past outbreaks such as deadly salmonella and E. coli outbreaks and massive food product recalls may not have had as severe consequences thanks to traceability technology.

In one recent study,  measuring consumer sentiment toward food safety – more than 50 percent of the respondents reporting that safety was their main concern when buying food. The data also showed that while only about 20 percent of consumers use QR codes displayed on food packaging right now, that number would increase to 65 percent if the code led to information regarding traceability.

Transforming Technologies

While traceability is an important part of technology in the food chain, it is not the only emerging technology making a difference. Other technologies include picking, sorting and storage automation, electric lift and high-capacity forklifts, augmented reality and camera systems, and temperature control solutions.

In the warehousing sector, challenges within the cold supply chain are driving innovative electric lift truck offerings and integrated technologies designed to meet the industry’s evolving needs and harsh temperatures. As the labor gap widens and in a world that wants things now, these innovations will continue to be instrumental in shaping the way facilities operate and stay competitive – especially for the food and beverage industries.

The industry has become more vertical rather than horizontal in the physical warehouse space, with companies building up rather than out, requiring forklifts and reach-trucks to handle heavier capacities at increasingly higher heights. These systems also need to be able to maneuver extremely well, as the warehouse increases capacity and optimizes its space.

In addition, facilities in cold storage and transportation are home to harsh temperatures that can be uncomfortable for human workers. Several tech providers have started introducing heated wearables and equipment to make working in these cold temperatures more comfortable for its employees. This equipment also has batteries that last longer in cold environments, where in the past, the temperature would affect battery life.

Camera systems also help avoid mishaps, injuries, and accidents within the warehouse and on the road by providing more visibility for operators to better see their surroundings, also pushing efficiency. Augmented reality wearables help efficiency by assisting workers through the integration of technology into their actual field of vision.

A Pandemic’s Impact on Technology

As new technologies emerge, the solutions they provide will continue to impact the food supply chain as well as consumer demand. COVID-19’s swift effect on the food industry also influenced what technology is growing fastest and how it is implemented, as social distancing and food safety became a top priority.

Robotics and automation helped those in the cold chain who were plagued with sick employees and had to adjust to social distancing guidelines. Those who did not have these solutions in place have since turned a keen eye toward these technologies for the future to help in similar situations.

While restaurants and eateries were forced to close or provide limited service, consumers started ordering a wide variety of food and beverage products online – and expecting they be delivered fast. Consequently, warehouse inventory expanded at an overwhelming rate, causing space constraints, picking errors and stocking inefficiencies. Additionally, with social distancing regulations in place, it became increasingly important for operations to understand human movement throughout a facility. And in this environment, crucial lessons were learned.

As companies competed to meet demands, automated vehicles were introduced at an accelerated rate to help with lane stacking, horizontal towing, and conveyor interfacing to increase efficiency and accuracy. These trucks are ideal for repetitive and time-consuming tasks — allowing plant managers to re-allocate operators’ time to more value-added jobs.

Additionally, semi-automated solutions began making production and distribution processes quicker while helping operators reach higher proficiency levels faster and making operations run more effectively.

Automation and telematics solutions such as real-time location systems allow companies to better understand and monitor the movement of people and products throughout a facility.

The future of the cold chain looks like it will be technologically advanced from sourcing to warehousing and delivery. These technologies will remain important in the picking and delivery of food along the cold chain long after this pandemic passes ends.

Thanks for Our Blessings, During a Year of Continued Challenges

A message from the CEO

As we approach this year’s Thanksgiving holiday, let’s take time to reflect and give thanks for the many blessings the year has brought us, despite the seemingly unending pandemic-era challenges. Certainly, for many of us, the biggest thing to be thankful for is the progress made on the medical front across the world in the battle against COVID-19.

It’s easy to forget that last year at this time there was no viable vaccine, in contract to today as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is reporting that nearly 200 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. And worldwide, 2.9 billion people are fully vaccinated. That’s fabulous progress. So, while the global fight to keep people safe still continues in earnest – and much remains to be done for sure – what a positive difference a year has meant!

On the Home Front

Here at home in Miami, we’re also thankful, of course, for our dedicated clients who were able to hunker down, pivot, adapt, and take aggressive steps over the past year to keep their goods flowing and their customers happy, even in the midst of these anything-but-normal business times. The Prime Group family also has been appreciative of their patience and ability to “go with the flow,” as together we’ve faced unprecedented logistical and operational challenges – most beyond our collective control.

In addition, I’m deeply appreciative of our employees across all four corporate divisions whose can-do attitude has helped us assist our valued clients despite global shortages in shipping containers, limited air capacity, shortages in ground handling resources, and other challenges.

I’m proud to say that even under immense pressure, our operations, sales, and support teams have all performed admirably in achieving our prime task – creating strong customer satisfaction and keeping their everyday products and essential goods flowing.

Troubling Times for Turkey Day

It’s not been an easy time, finding and securing cargo space at affordable rates, due to the ongoing supply chain disruptions – and now it’s even started impacting core grocery items for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. As a result of the lack of availability, some of our down-line customers at the retail and wholesale level are already warning of rising out-of-stock rates and higher prices on big demand items like canned pumpkin, stuffing, liquid gravy, bakery pies, and even whipped cream… Now there’s a crisis!

But the beat goes on. This year our Prime Fresh Handling employees have succeeded in shipping everything from fresh produce, fish, fresh-cut flowers, and myriad other time-sensitive perishables, to handling COVID-19 supplies, masks, antigen test kits, vaccines, and a wide range of pharmaceutical products to customers all across the globe.

Bouncing Back Better

We’re also thankful that in spite of COVID 19-era pressures put upon the logistics industry that we were able to bounce back bigger and stronger in 2021. In fact, we are actually well on our way to reporting our highest ever volume of kilos of cargo in company history. This was also our biggest year ever for sales, and as a result we’ve expanded our employee group by 25 percent, to help us serve customers better and assure we are meeting and exceeding client expectations.

Nowhere else is this success better seen than in our LAX Station. It’s actually the youngest field operation in our worldwide system, but now our fastest growing. Granted, we’re also expanding our facilities at JFK, AMS, and MIA, but Los Angeles has emerged as the year’s biggest and busiest station.

So, as you sit down to the traditional Thanksgiving Day meal – albeit with perhaps a couple side dishes missing – to enjoy a day with family, friends, and football, let’s take time to examine the year, its challenges, and successes, as well as the opportunities yet-to-be-discovered ahead.

Please stay safe – and get stuffed!

 

~ Roger Paredes, CEO

Prime Logistics Celebrates MIA’s Winning Achievements

The recent release of Miami Dade Aviation Department’s annual report on “U.S. and Worldwide Airport Rankings” serves to underscore that it truly is all about “location-location-location” in the world of logistics. It also reaffirms Prime Logistics’ right choice to establish its base of operations here 17 years ago, from which it could grow and prosper on the global stage. 

The big news is, for the year 2020, Miami International Airport (MIA) continued to be the Number 1 airport in the U.S. for international freight (followed by Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles). The report also highlights that MIA ranks 4th in total cargo (freight plus mail). In addition, MIA is Number 3 in total freight in the U.S., behind Memphis and Louisville, the hubs for FedEx and UPS, respectively. Miami Dade Aviation Department’s Marketing Division issued the report in August 2021.

On the global operations front, MIA came in at Number 9 in total cargo (freight plus mail), Number 8 in total freight, and Number 9 in international freight. Wow, three cheers for MIA!

Yet Another Powerful Report

Not coincidentally, following in the footsteps of this report was the release of the annual ranking by JD Power of the “Top 10 Mega Airports in North America,” with Miami international leading the pack here as well, at Number 2 in international passengers. This achievement reflects that over 100 airlines at MIA contribute to the year-round, two-way cargo traffic linking the Americas with high growth markets in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and beyond.

“We congratulate Miami Dade County leadership for its continued role in managing this world-class airport facility in a fashion that best serves the powerhouse of trade and commerce in the region,” said Omar Zambrano, COO of Prime Group, under which Prime Logistics operates.

It is also worth noting that the continued growth and success of MIA by default fuels the growth and success of the bordering City of Doral, the 11th fastest growing city in the entire country – and home of Prime Logistics’ global headquarters.

In the Shadow of MIA

Just minutes from the company’s Doral-based headquarters and warehouse is the MIA Cargo Hub. It serves as the world’s largest gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean, and controls the north/south cargo flows in the Western Hemisphere. Handling 79 percent of all air imports and 74 percent of all exports from the Latin America Caribbean region, MIA serves as the hub for distribution of perishable products like fresh flowers and produce, high-tech and telecommunications equipment, textiles, industrial machinery, and pharmaceuticals such as vaccines and medical supplies.

“Not surprisingly these are the very commodities that Prime Logistics has specialized in transporting over its 20 year history, the last 17 of which from Doral following the company’s move here from Quito in 2004,” says Zambrano. “As one of Prime Logistics’ most logical decisions ever, it is certainly paying off!”

At Home in Doral

Initially, Prime Logistics set up shop in a small warehouse of just 2,500 sqft. But as business grew, they continued to double their warehouse and office space over the years until moving into our current 20,000 sqft facility in 2018, just three miles from the MIA cargo zone. According to Zambrano, “In the warehouse, we offer 500 positions on rack, which is the right way to keep the cargo in good condition, as well as ample freezer capacity, and lot space designed to accommodate 53-foot trailers.”

Situated within the city limits of Doral, this light industrial area flanked by two major interstate highways and the western line of the airport also serves the company’s needs well due to the fact that so many of their local customers are likewise located here. “And obviously not all are in need of air cargo services alone – as such, Prime Logistics offers expert transport of a multitude of goods for customers worldwide via its ocean freight department,” he added.

It helps that the company’s Doral facility is also within just a half hour drive to PortMiami – another strong selling point for customers in the Southeast regional market.

Zambrano points out anther important fact mentioned in the Aviation Department report, one of key importance to the company’s international pharmaceutical industry customers: “MIA is the first airport in the Western Hemisphere and only the second in the world to be designated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as a pharmaceutical freight hub and a trusted industry leader in the transport of pharmaceuticals.”

Since the company’s founding in 2001, Zambrano says that Prime Logistics’ goal has been to provide direct access to all of the world’s major markets for commerce and trade – “and MIA has been key to putting us on a pathway to doing just that.”

Read the entire Miami Dade Aviation Department Report.

[LINK: https://www.miami-airport.com/library/pdfdoc/Rankings/2020%20Rankings%20-%20US%20and%20Worldwide.pdf]

About Prime Logistics

One of the four divisions of Prime Group, an international logistics services conglomerate founded in Ecuador in 2001, Prime Logistics serves to streamline, optimize, and expedite freight to and from the U.S. for a wide range of major industries.

With offices in Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Bogota, Quito, and Amsterdam, Prime Logistics capitalizes on its long-time relationships with the major air carriers and ocean lines, to offer competitive rates in securing ample space to destinations all around the world.

For information, call 305-592-2044 or visit www.primelogisticsgroup.com.

Hope Continues to Bloom

With springtime comes flowers and Easter, typically one of the largest floral holidays on the calendar – which means, this is one of the busiest times of year for the Prime Group of companies.

Traditionally, Easter Sunday and spring weddings make this one of the highest demand periods for growers, florists, flower importers, and shippers, and of course logistics companies such as Miami-based Prime Logistics, Prime Fresh Handling, and PrimeAir.

Last year, coronavirus shut down churches and restaurants – two major consumers of flowers for Easter services and brunches. Shelter-in-place orders meant fewer families could host Easter dinners at home. Spring weddings also were postponed, all severely impacting growers across the world.

But this year, hope is in the air – in the form of the new life-saving vaccines developed to help control the spread of virus that has plagued us for so long. Company names like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna now play large in the world of pharmaceutical logistics. These names have also become part of our everyday conversation, signaling an awakening from the darkest period of the pandemic and providing overwhelming sense of relief, re-emergence, and renewal.

Aren’t these the very themes of Spring itself? The season associated symbolically with dramatic changes such as rebirth, resurrection, and waking from sleep.

Turning the Corner

What a difference a year makes – in stark contrast with April 2020, when the pandemic was in full swing, international trade had altogether halted, and the entire global economy was collapsing before our eyes. Like most business in the world economy, needless to say, the cut-flower industry was very severely impacted.

Thankfully though, we’ve turned the corner, as traditional importers who sell to wholesalers who sell to retailers, supermarkets, big box retailers, online distributors, as well as to traders at the world’s largest trading site in Amsterdam – are all now enjoying the resurrection of the industry.

Of course, this also includes a resurgence of businesses at the root of the flower industry: the farms, in-country forwarders, and shippers serving the verdant regions of Colombia and Ecuador. Great news for those local economies.

Rosier Outlook

Today, global sales related to the spring-time floral business are now booming because of the weddings and other events that had been rescheduled after long delays. This upward trend is expected to continue, reaching the same economic levels as compared to late 2019.

Even rosier is the outlook for the worldwide market for flowers and ornamental plants over the next five years. It is expected to grow roughly 6.3 percent, reaching $57.4 billion USD in 2024, up from $42.4 billion USD in 2019.

While the global floral market is faring better than initially anticipated, the economy will no doubt continue to be impacted by the consequences of the pandemic. Nonetheless, consumers are thankful they are getting back to being able to brightening the day of their loved ones with flowers this spring.

“Let Hope Bloom”

In the midst of the crisis last year, the Dutch Flower Council created a social media campaign called, “Let Hope Bloom.” This uplifting message reminded consumers of the importance of flowers in their lives and in fact did lift spirits – and sales!

But for me, it also reflected the resilience of an industry that has endured unexpected turns in the economy, the environment, and a multitude of other unpredictable forces over the years.

I am confident hope will continue to bloom this year, and that the floral industry will be stronger than it ever has been as the world continues to emerge from this crisis, and well into the future.

Happy Spring – and please stay safe.

~ Roger Paredes – CEO