Supply Chain Now
Episode 1210

Run towards, and embrace technology. It's there for a reason. Race towards it, embrace it, use it, and understand it.

-Michael Schember

Episode Summary

If optimizing cash flow and making more timely and confident decisions are goals for 2024, then listen up to today’s episode!

Listen as host Scott Luton welcomes Michael Schember and Lorraine Balog with American Group and Water “Mitch” Mitchell with Tai Software to the show. Michael, Lorraine, and Mitch emphasize the benefits of embracing technology to streamline manual processes, particularly in invoicing and paying carriers, to support business growth and success.

Learn more as the panel discusses:

  1. The importance of cultivating a harmonious company culture to promote team success
  2. Asking the right questions and having the courage to make bold decisions critical for growth and adapting to industry shifts
  3. How technology plays a pivotal role in streamlining operations, especially in automating invoicing and carrier payments to enhance the efficiency of cash flow management
  4. How optimizing cash flow allows for more confident and timely business decisions, which is vital for maintaining a competitive edge and facilitating growth

Episode Transcript

Intro/Outro (00:03):

Welcome to Supply Chain Now, the voice of global supply chain. Supply Chain Now focuses on the best in the business for our worldwide audience, the people, the technologies, the best practices, and today’s critical issues, the challenges and opportunities. Stay tuned to hear from those making global business happen right here on Supply Chain Now.

Scott Luton (00:32):

Hey, good morning, good afternoon, good evening wherever you are. Scott Luton here with you on Supply Chain Now. Welcome to today’s live stream. Hey, we’ve got a great conversation teed up here today. We’re going to be talking about a big, big topic in business for any business cashflow, right? We’re going to be speaking with a trio of business leaders that are going to offer up effective, practical, innovative ways to simplify cashflow management, especially for freight brokers out there across industry. So, stay tuned for a great conversation.

 

Scott Luton (01:04):

But folks, we want to hear from you, so drop your comments in the cheap seats throughout the show. We’re going to work those into the conversation as well, just like Vanessa here. So, Vanessa, thanks for joining us via LinkedIn. Let us know where you’re tuned in from. I’m looking forward to hearing from our panel of experts as well. Speaking of which, we’re not going to waste time here today, so let’s get to work and welcome in our featured guests here today. I’m going to introduce all three and then we’re going to swoosh them in, starting with Walter Mitchell, a.k.a., Mitch, CEO of Tai Software. He’s joined by Michael Schember, CEO of American Group, and Lorraine Balog, general manager with American Group as well.

 

Scott Luton (01:45):

Hey, hey. Mitch, how you doing?

Mitch Mitchell (01:46):

I’m doing great. Hey, thanks for having me today, Scott.

Scott Luton (01:49):

You bet. And I love that lighthouse image right behind you. You’re like a beacon of good news. How about that, Mitch?

Mitch Mitchell (01:56):

Yes, thanks. It’s actually the pier in Huntington Beach where our office is located.

 

Scott Luton (02:01):

OK.

 

Mitch Mitchell (02:01):

So, this pier is actually right in front of me, about a quarter mile.

 

Scott Luton (02:04):

Man, that is — we’re going to come visit. Supply Chain Now road trip —

 

Mitch Mitchell (02:07):

Come on down.

 

Scott Luton (02:07):

— coming to see you. Well, Mitch, you joined — you’ve brought some great friends and guests and business leaders with you. Michael, how are you doing today?

 

Michael Schember (02:15):

I’m doing great, thank you.

 

Scott Luton (02:17):

We had to pry you off the off-roading tracks to get you to come talk supply chain with us. Is that right?

 

Michael Schember (02:22):

That is true. That’s my favorite hobby. I do it as much as I can.

Scott Luton (02:26):

We can’t wait to get some pictures of that. And, Lorraine, great to see you here today. How are you doing?

Lorraine Balog (02:31):

Good morning. I’m well. Thanks for having me.

Scott Luton (02:33):

You bet. And of course, we also learned that when you’re not doing big things in the industry that you’re hiking, jogging, really soaking in all the beautiful landscape that’s out there in Arizona, right?

Lorraine Balog (02:44):

Absolutely.

Scott Luton (02:46):

Wonderful. All right. So, we got a big conversation to get to. So, Mitch, Michael, and Lorraine, great to have you all here. Let’s start with this though. I like to have a little fun warmup question so we can really get to know you all a little bit better before we dive into our business discussion. So, with that in mind, as you all know, it’s holiday season. Hanukkah starts later this evening, Christmas in a few weeks amongst other special holidays around the world. And my family, they’ve already begun making different holiday foods, breaking out the cedar force, scented candles, decorating the house, you know, you name it.

 

Scott Luton (03:19):

So, I’m going to ask each of you all with that as a backdrop. And Lorraine, I’m going to start with you. With that as a backdrop, what is one special seasonal tradition that you’re looking forward to in the coming days?

Lorraine Balog (03:30):

Well, talking about decorations, I will say a tradition is the kids helping decorate. So, we — before we finished the turkey, we had our decorations up. So, we always enjoyed doing that. And then the other thing that I look forward to because our kids are just getting older and everybody’s going in their own direction, is cooking just a good meal and having everyone together, you know, for a good meal during the holiday.

Scott Luton (03:52):

I’m with you. You and I were talking about the immense value of harmony in the pre-show, and that’s kind of what — where my mind’s going with your description. And you don’t waste any time. Michael, did you hear that? Lorraine, their family has the decorations up before even the last bit of the turkey has gone from Thanksgiving. So, Michael, how about you? What are you looking forward to?

Michael Schember (04:10):

Well, my favorite thing to do is make split pea soup with the hand bone that’s leftover. But my kids constantly remind me that it doesn’t taste anything like grandma’s, but still trying to perfect that.

Scott Luton (04:22):

Oh, so grandma did perfect it, but you’re getting better and better each year. Is that right, Michael?

Michael Schember (04:27):

That’s correct. It doesn’t stop me from trying. So, every year I add a little something new to it. So, I’ll get it eventually.

Scott Luton (04:34):

Well, you had me at hand bone — using the hand bone and soup, that’s one of our favorite things to do here in our house as well.

 

Scott Luton (04:40):

All right. Mitch, those two things are going to be tough to top, but what’s one tradition you’re looking forward to in the coming days?

Mitch Mitchell (04:45):

Yes. I’m right in line with Lorraine. I’m a little later than getting the lighting up, but outside lights are what I do. So, I go for the full Griswold Family Christmas. My kids are getting older, so they’re starting to not like it as much as they did, but I figured while my kids are young, I’m going to go and we light up our house like it’s the Griswolds and everybody on our street knows it. We’re way more lit than anyone else just because I want to make sure my kids know that, you know, we’re taking it seriously.

Scott Luton (05:14):

That is awesome. Does the electricity bill spike over the next couple of months too?

Mitch Mitchell (05:19):

I won’t even look at it. That’s not part of the Christmas spirit. So, we just let the bill go on auto pay and we pretend like everything’s fine.

Scott Luton (05:27):

Oh, Mitch, I love it. All right. So, folks, we got to get some pictures. So, if we don’t get pictures, it didn’t happen. From the Griswold lighting job, Mitch to the soup, Michael — to Lorraine, some of your decorations as well. So, a lot of good stuff there.

 

Scott Luton (05:42):

  1. We got a lot to get into. And then really a lot of good news to get into as your respective organizations are doing really well and growing and succeeding and then you’ve got a great partnership here. And we’re going to be offering up a lot of best practices and ideas and innovative approaches to help a lot of other businesses out there. So, before we get to all that, let’s — the world can’t get enough context.

 

Scott Luton (06:03):

So, Michael, I want to start, if you could share briefly what American Group does and a little bit about your background.

Michael Schember (06:10):

Yes, certainly. So, I started in the industry at 19 years old as a dock worker at Overnight Transportation back in the day. And I worked way up through director of freight claims for two companies back in — that are no longer there. The three companies I worked for are no longer in business, unfortunately, but that’s the way the industry is going right now. A lot of mergers and acquisitions.

 

Michael Schember (06:33):

But I started American Group in December of 2006 with my business partner Dan Krivickas. And we were both sales reps for a trucking company and really thought we could do a good job of taking care of customers on our own. So, we jumped in headfirst and about four years ago we joined the R&R Family of Companies based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And we really hope to continue to grow. So, things have been going well for us.

Scott Luton (06:58):

Man, I love that story. I love that story. And hey, it sounds like you’ve been in business for at least 10 years, if I do the math right? Is that right, Michael?

Michael Schember (07:07):

Yes, coming up. I think it’s coming up on 18 now. So, it’s been — I mean, the last 10 years have been a blur though. It just goes by in a blink of an eye it seems, so.

Scott Luton (07:16):

Well, so I was trying to make a poor joke since you started an industry at age 19. You’ve been in industry for about 10 years, is that correct?

Michael Schember (07:24):

Oh, do I look not young?

Scott Luton (07:26):

Well, to that end, Michael, we’ve got a two decade rule here. We don’t break. But suffice to say you’ve been out there in industry for quite some time. And I bet your customers and your colleagues really leverage that expertise and experience quite a bit.

 

Scott Luton (07:39):

So, Lorraine, how about you? So, tell us — since we know now a little bit more about American Group and Michael’s background, tell us about your background

Lorraine Balog (07:46):

You know, hearing Michael say, he’s on the dock at 19, I have to confess that I did start in the industry around the same time with him at overnight and doing billing and invoicing and whatnot for overnight transportation. But I left the industry and have been in operations outside of the industry for over 20 years. Had an opportunity to work with Mike and Dan that I couldn’t refuse basically. And so, I’ve been with them for seven years and loving it. We have great people here and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Scott Luton (08:19):

Man, you paint — you all paint a great picture. Seven years of bliss. And again, to bring back that harmony thing. So, we’re doing our homework about how you all build a culture there at American Group, building a culture that is full of harmony where everyone can be successful across the team. It seemed to really be really important to you both and the organization. So, I’m looking forward to learning more in just a second.

 

Scott Luton (08:39):

But Mitch, we’re going to round things out. I love the Griswold reference already. You and I may be third cousins or something with just that reference alone. Tell us briefly about Tai Software and your background.

 

Mitch Mitchell (08:52):

Yes, so at Tai we’ve been fortunate to work with the American group for a long time. And even in some previous places we worked with American Group and they really do an amazing job as a freight broker and representing our industry in a really great way. And so, I’m fortunate to be able to work with them for a pretty good amount of time.

 

Mitch Mitchell (09:09):

But at Tai we build a TMS for freight brokers, focused mostly on LTL full truckload. I got in the industry pretty close to a couple decades ago, maybe a little longer now. I don’t know, we’ll keep your two decade limit there. But building TMS the whole time, I have a software background and got into freight to build an LTL rating engine back before any of the APIs were a thing, back before the word API really meant anything.

 

Mitch Mitchell (09:36):

And so, that was my first introduction into the freight business. And then from there it turned into A TMS and I haven’t looked back, and along the way really fell in love with freight as a — it’s just such an important part of our country’s infrastructure, and so important to everything that we do. So, I feel really honored to get to be a part of it and build products for logistics companies.

Scott Luton (09:57):

Mitch, I love that. I heard a lot of passion, your response there, and I love your — kind of, dual background both in industry and supply chain, but also technology. I’m sure that’s powerful to leverage the two there in what you’re building.

 

Scott Luton (10:09):

  1. So, we’re all referencing industry and we are painfully, in some cases, aware of kind of the environment out there — here as we approach the new year. I want to start the conversation by adding a little bit more context and getting some of your observations from what our great panel here is seeing out in industry and out in this challenging freight environment., So Michael, let’s start with you. What are a couple of things you’re seeing out there?

Michael Schember (10:32):

Well, you know, the one thing we like about Tai Software is it really does handle both those modes very well. So, we have been able to grow our truckload business, but we are seeing that a lot of our truckload customers just aren’t shipping out the volume that they once used to. So, that’s where the LTL comes into play.

 

Michael Schember (10:49):

So, we’re able to keep the customer on board and offer different solutions based upon their needs, whether it’s good or bad. And right now, you know, it’s no secret that the industry is facing some tough times, but we’ve been able to pivot that and offer our LTL services to those truckload customers. And that’s just what’s — what keeps us going. I mean, we’re really particular on not having one or two accounts be more than four percent of our overall book of business. My philosophy going back to being an LTL sales rep is I would rather have five, $10,000 a month accounts than one $50,000 a month account. Doesn’t hurt as much and they’re easier to replace if you need to.

Scott Luton (11:28):

Yes, Michael, that balance, that book of business or portfolio of balance is so important, especially when it comes to mitigating risk of the ups and downs of industry. Good stuff to start with. Lorraine, what would you add in terms of what you’re seeing out there in the freight environment industry?

Lorraine Balog (11:43):

You know, I would add — and this is no surprise to anybody who’s listening is, you know, credit and risk mitigation, making sure that you have processes that allow you to fully vet customers to understand their credit worthiness. And Tai Software, you know, there are many points in the accounting life cycle that Tai helps us do our job easier. And one of them when onboarding credit is setting up those credit terms and conditions and making sure that the right people are getting invoices is really important and close monitoring of your aging. So, we can speak to that. I’m a huge fan of the collection summary, but just credit risk being close.

Scott Luton (12:25):

Yes, Lorraine, that’s a great point you made. And in particular when it comes to making sure you’re doing smart business, right? Smart business, making sure that as you vet customers, especially new customers, that the business you’ll do that they’re going to pay those bills. Otherwise, man, it — not only do you lose money, but it can risk — the risk can permeate across the rest of the business. So, I love that your emphasis on making sure we’re bringing on good customers that leads to good, smart, appealing business.

 

Scott Luton (12:54):

  1. Mitch, Michael and Lorraine kind of painted an interesting picture of what they’re seeing both, kind of, inside the four walls and outside industry. What else are you seeing out there across the freight environment?

Mitch Mitchell (13:04):

Yes, I love the alignment between their answers too, right? I mean, definitely very much in line with a little more detail on how the difficult economy and how the changing times impact the customer side. But I would also say that we’ve been hearing a lot over the last year about the carrier risk management as well, especially obviously on the full truckload side, but we got to be careful on that side too and make sure we’re dealing with the risk on the carrier side.

 

Mitch Mitchell (13:32):

And then one of the other things that I would say, and this is just me putting on the technology hat, is over the last couple years even what we’ve really seen is kind of a revolution in the full truckload technology space. There are so many more technology products available that are doing so many things that are so much better across the entire industry from places like the digital freight matching around claims, which we see some great products out there on that side of it. You know, the whole process around full truckload has really taken a big revolution in having technology support it throughout the life cycle.

 

Mitch Mitchell (14:09):

So, I think that also talks and leans in on the care risk management, the customer risk management, but then also just a product that’s supporting you through that entire process and making sure that we are taking advantage of technology to help our operations teams.

Scott Luton (14:26):

Yes, what a great point to finish in on there because it’s — any risk management approach has got to be holistic, right? Are you going to really have some gaps that you’re not going to be visible — not be watching and managing and it’s going to bite you eventually. So, I love your point there about holistic, both the customer carrier and really and beyond. And then secondly, what you wrapped — the point you wrapped on there is leveraging technology, not only to make for stronger, better, efficient dynamic business operations, but making the job easier every day for the team so they can even bring more value to the table and, frankly, in more fulfilling ways for them. So, a lot of good stuff there, Mitch, Michael, and Lorraine.

Mitch Mitchell (15:08):

One of the phrases I really love to use lately is that this especially came up with generative AI and the OpenAI conversations that have happened earlier in the year. And everybody’s worried about, well, is technology going to replace people? Is the OpenA — is generative AI going to replace us? And the answer is, no. We — because we know that because we’ve been using technology for long enough. But one thing I love to say is that technology’s not going to replace your job, but the people who use it well will replace your job. And I think that to me is a super important point that I think summarizes it really nicely.

Scott Luton (15:43):

Excellent point. If you raise your hand and volunteer, one — learn new things and do new things and lean into this technology age we’re in, you’ll probably have a place for a long time. Always have an opportunity in global supply chain. Excellent point there, Mitch.

 

Scott Luton (15:58):

  1. So, I want to shift gears a bit. We’re going to dial it in more on accounting. Now, I’ll be honest with you, Mitch, Michael and Lorraine, it took me about three tries to pass my accounting classes in college. So. hopefully there’s not a quiz after today’s conversation, but let’s talk about accounting, especially in the freight brokering environment.

 

Scott Luton (16:17):

So, Lorraine, let’s first start with you as a subject matter expert, shed some light on just how important it is beyond the obvious.

Lorraine Balog (16:24):

Oh, my gosh, it’s super important. I like to tell my team, we talk about the lifecycle of a load from, “To dispatch tracking and tracing and delivery”. But then after that load is delivered, you have the full lifecycle of the accounting of every load. And it begins with — you know, it includes in that loop you have obviously the customer vetting to make sure that you have a credit worthy customer and they’re going to get invoice as well. But you have the AR, the AP. You have commissions. And so, making sure that you’re able to manage all of those areas every day.

 

Lorraine Balog (17:02):

I could speak to that in terms of receivables in the Tai Software. Every day I open up my dashboard and I can see very clearly real-time where we stand from an AR and AP perspective. When you’re talking about payables, you’re not paying your carriers on time. Those don’t help to instill good relationships and confidence with your carriers and customers. Invoices, timely invoicing, it’s critical commission payments. So, all of those things.

Scott Luton (17:30):

All of it —

Lorraine Balog (17:32):

All of that lifecycle.

Scott Luton (17:33):

Yes, to solve that daily Rubik’s cube, but that way that a lot of businesses do. Accounting is just so massively critical. And that balance across all the different aspects of the business. Lorraine, the picture you’re painting there, it’s critically important. Before I move to Michael, I didn’t mean to interrupt you, Lorraine, did you have one more point?

Lorraine Balog (17:52):

No, I was going to say, I appreciate what Mitch said about technology because without the software and the options we have within the platform, it would take much more resources, human resources to do. And while technology doesn’t eliminate the need for people, it’s a different skillset. So, just being comfortable with using the software and the technology available to make your job easier is critically important.

Scott Luton (18:17):

Lorraine, I’m with you. Because they’re doing it the old manual way, it’ll take all your time and it’ll give you all the headaches, right, and beyond.

 

Lorraine Balog (18:25):

Right.

 

Scott Luton (18:25):

So excellent point to finish on there, Lorraine.

 

Scott Luton (18:27):

Michael, what would you piggyback in terms of the importance of everything Lorraine just described, especially from that accounting and even accounting technology standpoint? What would you add, Michael?

Michael Schember (18:36):

Well, I would just say it’s important for your sales team to get involved in their collections efforts too and to keep track of their statements and watching how their customer’s payments are coming in. I mean, we really try to head it off with a pass. If we start to see somebody that was consistently on time, go from 30 days to 40 days to 60 days to 90, we want to be ahead of that and try to correct it before they either book more loads in or we don’t get paid. So, we really get the sales team involved in the collection process. And they do a really good job with the tools that are available in Tai. You know, they could see their collection report in just a few clicks.

Scott Luton (19:13):

I love that. Just a few clicks away. When you said head off — head it off at the pass, Michael, I can see you now doing 120 miles an hour in your off-road vehicle of choice, heading been off in the past. Very uniquely you, Michael.

 

Scott Luton (19:28):

All right. So, Mitch, bring it home. Lorraine and Michael both were sharing a variety of different ways that accounting is so important, especially in the freight brokerage environment. What else would you add, Mitch?

Mitch Mitchell (19:39):

Yes, I think they’ve — they put it together really nicely. And Lorraine was making a point about order entry to delivery is typically what we think about for the ops side of freight and of the brokerage process, but that’s not what the shipment lifecycle is. The shipment lifecycle is from the time you start with the customer up until cash is received. You know, we assume that we’re going to pay the care before cash comes in. We’d love it to be the other way around, but I don’t think that’s the reality of the world for now. So, we’ll just keep that where it is.

 

Mitch Mitchell (20:28):

But that’s the lifecycle of the shipment. And as a TMS provider, we think it’s really important to bring that process all the way from the start and make sure that we’re thinking about accounting and that we’re thinking about cash collection at the time of order entry, not just after the shipments delivered.

 

Mitch Mitchell (20:29):

And that ties really nicely into what Michael was saying too about the sales team. We need the sales team to be aware. Is this customer that you’re booking freight for over their credit limit? Are they a slow pay? Are they a credit card payment customer? Do they have high claim rates? Do they have a high rebuild rate? These are all things that we want to make available to the sales team, not just to the accounting team because everybody in the process needs to be involved from order entry all the way through till cash receipt. That’s the shipment lifecycle for a freight broker.

Scott Luton (21:05):

Yes. Gosh, you shared so many good points there. But, you know, to what the — we need the sales team to know that powerful information, we needed them to have it today, not next week, not next month today so they can make decisions and make smart decisions for the business. OK.

Mitch Mitchell (21:22):

In real-time is where we want it, right? We want it —

 

Scott Luton (21:24):

Right.

 

Mitch Mitchell (21:25):

— we want them to see it right when that order’s being entered because it’s so much easier to have a conversation with a customer when they’re giving you the order and say, hey, you know, you got a pretty big outstanding balance with us. What’s that look like, you know? And make a light collections call during a sales call or even if we know they have a high rebuild percentage to be able to train our salespeople and say, I appreciate you giving me this LTL shipment, but you got a really high, like, rate on change on the weights. Can you just weigh this thing one more time for me?

 

Mitch Mitchell (21:58):

Because if you have that conversation right then when you’re entering the shipment, you save that rebill. And on the — I’m sure Mike and Lorraine can talk to this a little bit more too, but when it comes to LTL, a rebill is devastating to the process. So, anything we can do to reduce those is super important.

Scott Luton (22:17):

Excellent point. It’s like the little mistake that the gift that keeps on giving, Mitch, you go back to Christmas vacation, right?

 

Mitch Mitchell (22:24):

Right.

 

Scott Luton (22:24):

The little thing you do here that has a big ripple effect across the operation in a bad — in a negative way, right?

 

Mitch Mitchell (22:30):

Right.

 

Scott Luton (22:31):

All right. So, Mitch, Michael and Lorraine, this next part of the conversation, we’ve kind of already put our one foot in it because there is a better way in all three of our guests here have really been speaking to that. Mitch, you’re kind of just referencing there, not just accounting optimization but really cashflow optimization which is one of the big themes we’re going to be — we’re talking about here. So, when it comes to that better way, tell us first — and Mitch, you’ve already kind of started, but tell us more about the role of the TMS in accounting optimization.

Mitch Mitchell (23:00):

Yes. So, I mean I think I’ll just continue in a little bit deeper into the part I was talking about where operations flows all the way to freight op and accounting ops needs to be one continual process. And so, what that means to Tai and it means to our product is that we’re showing things like collections data to the sales team, to the operations team. So, it’s visible through the whole process. We’re trying to do things to try to prevent errors from happening, like, for example, showing if a lift gate’s required, to try to warn you if something’s over dimensional or if the DIMMs don’t match up with an NMFC number. You know, trying to capture some of these things. And these are all, each of those a small little piece, but all those small components we want to tack on together to try to get it to the point where we can reduce these rebuilds and help keep the cashflow moving along.

 

Mitch Mitchell (23:57):

And so, as a TMS provider and what we’re trying to do is really focus those components on the operations team and make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make Lorraine’s job easier. And especially, I, you know, might be wrong to say, but I think accounting has probably the hardest job in the whole process. They do tend to get neglected a little bit and, you know, the — it’s a little later in the process.

 

Mitch Mitchell (24:24):

So, trying to give her the tools, and we want to do it for everybody in the organization, but thinking about accounting first and thinking about how do the people use the product? How does the technology serve the team? How can we make it to Lorraine’s point before so that the collections data is there? That’s something that technology can do. But the other part of how Lorraine uses the collections report and how Mike pushes that collections data through to the sales team and makes sure to communicate it there. That’s — what we love to see, from a technology provider, is that the tools that we’re providing are adding value to the way it’s being executed by the sales team and by the accounting team.

Scott Luton (25:07):

Excellent point, Mitch. And we’re going to get into — we’re going to learn more about how American group’s doing it from Lorraine and Michael in just a moment. I want to go back to kind of some of the major themes I heard you describe there, Mitch. That visibility, that timely data, that better decision making, preventing errors. All of those things. We’re talking about cashflow optimization and stronger businesses and all of that is critical. Where we can leverage technology and better process to have more success and more profitable success.

 

Scott Luton (25:36):

So, Mitch, I told you we might be third cousins because I think we’re tracking a lot together right now. As you look out in industry, what are some other ways — you’ve, kind of, described some of the advantages and some of the bells and whistles and some of the outcomes that you and the Tai Software team are bringing to the table. What else comes to mind when it comes to truly enhancing accounting practices out the industry? And by the way, you’re right, accounting is really hard. My academic track record proves that. So, Mitch, what else before we move to the American Group story, what else do you see out there that where you and your team are really moving the needle?

Mitch Mitchell (26:13):

Yes, there’s a — there’s so many places that we can take advantage of technology to make the accounting process a little easier. One of the oldest ones, EDI is a great example of it. We — receiving carrier bills through EDI, especially on the LTL side is still very predominant and something that we want to be taking advantage of because we can bring in a carrier bill from the EDI.

 

Mitch Mitchell (26:38):

And one of the things that’s really cool to do is we can also put a threshold, a range in here. So, we can say. for example, a plus or minus $10 range on that incoming carrier bill so that we can ignore some small deviations that come in. We don’t want to spend our time, you know, it’s the chasing after pennies, right? We want to be spending our time focused on the bigger jobs. So, what we do in the platform is we’ll bring in a carrier bill, maybe it’s $6 variance and that’s within that $10 threshold, but we’ll adjust the carrier bill by the right amount so that the carrier is getting paid the correct amount, even though what we had was different.

 

Mitch Mitchell (27:16):

And the goal with that is we want to make sure that we’re not just passing the work down the line to the other side, right? Just like we don’t want to pass the work from our freight ops team to the accounting ops. We want to make sure everybody’s thinking about it. And that’s an example of where we think that we’re — we also want to take responsibility for our carriers and be thoughtful about our carriers. Because as a freight broker, and at Tai obviously, we don’t — we think freight broker is not a dirty word, right? It’s a — we embrace it and we think everybody should because — I mean, brokerages add a tremendous value. But part of the value that freight brokers bring is building good relationships with carriers. So, be a good partner to your carrier. And that’s one of the ways we can do it. We can make their accounting easier, which means when they come back and want to work with us some more or work with the broker, they can do that without having extra work.

 

Mitch Mitchell (28:08):

And another thing that’s a really cool component is document processing. So, when we’re talking about truckload, no EDI for truckload for the most part, I mean there’s some, but in general these are coming in via e-mail. And so, I’m sure Lorraine gets thousands of e-mails a week. It’s unbearable. And that’s where Tai can really help too, is we can bring these document — the e-mails, we can read the e-mails from the TMS. Extract carrier bills and automate the processing of the carrier bill directly from the e-mail.

 

Mitch Mitchell (28:41):

So, that way when we take it, we attach the carrier bill to the appropriate shipment and we’ll use that same threshold we use on EDI to determine if we can post that bill and allow that process to happen in just one or two clicks rather than a lot more labor that was — that’d be involved the other way around. So, those are a couple of the components. I can keep going on all day, but —

 

Scott Luton (29:02):

Mitch, yes.

 

Mitch Mitchell (29:03):

— we’ll stop it there.

Scott Luton (29:04):

I know you can because there’s clearly a lot of things you and your team are doing. And what I heard there from avoiding deviations, we don’t want to be chasing after pennies or as I’ve heard it put stepping over dollars to pick up pennies or something like that. I think I’m messing up that analogy.

Mitch Mitchell (29:18):

That was pretty good, Scott. I liked it. Well done.

Scott Luton (29:20):

Carrier experience, you put a big emphasis there. I love that. And then of course automation. Automation. Effective automation.

 

Scott Luton (29:28):

All right. But let’s get to — I mean, Lorraine and Michael. Lorraine, you were nodding your head a lot as Mitch was walking through that. Talk to us about —

Lorraine Balog (29:37):

I was because, I — so let me speak to accounts receivables. So, obviously the load has to be delivered and we’re expecting the carrier charges. And I heard the word rebill and I think it makes us all, you know, a little crazy.

 

Mitch Mitchell (29:51):

Crazy, yes.

 

Lorraine Balog (29:53):

Yes, yes.

 

Scott Luton (29:54):

That’s right.

 

Lorraine Balog (29:54):

We wish — yes. We wish that that was really — there was no such thing. But what I will say is our team, I don’t know what we would do without EDI, the abilities, the capabilities with EDI because it allows us to identify, if you will, the vanilla transactions as Mitch described. There’s great satisfaction in pulling up your queue and clicking on those parameters and being able to, in one click, approve and create invoices. And that is — I could save my resources for people — for the people to review those potential rebills a little more critically because I have that easy button, if you will, in Tai that’s going to go out there and say what’s matching? What is currently within the parameters I’ve set and get them done and get them out of the queue?

 

Lorraine Balog (30:41):

So, we do use EDI for that. And we’re always, if something, if we are aware that a carrier has EDI capabilities and if there’s any issue with that, we’re all over that because that automation is a huge lift to our operations team and our ability to get invoices out timely. The other thing I like is the stuff that is potentially a rebill. It goes into a variance queue. So, in that variance queue, I’m able to prioritize by date and work those items and if need be, put them in a dispute.

 

Lorraine Balog (31:16):

You guys spoke about building relationships. We place a high value on that and that begins with our carriers. You know, we pay — we take a lot of pride in paying them on time. And the way that the workflows work in Tai allow me to approve bills and get them paid. And if necessary, pay them at a later date depending on the outcome of that rebill. So, those queues allow me to do that and have visibility on the dashboard to see it.

Scott Luton (31:45):

You shared a lot of things there, Lorraine. The one click to make accurate invoices, not just invoices but accurate invoices. You mentioned the easy button. I think we all — I’m not sure what company came out with those easy button commercials, but now everyone knows exactly what we’re talking about when we say easy button. And then the ability to GSD, you know, get stuff done so you can get to what — the last points you made there was that relationship building.

 

Scott Luton (32:10):

You know, when we can leverage technology and automation and just better process too, when we can do all that to free up our teams and our people’s time so they can then invest that freed up time into building relationships, man, that’s some of the secret sauce out there in the industry.

 

Scott Luton (32:27):

All right. Anything up — before I get Michael to weigh in, anything else to share in terms of how you all have really been able to change the game, Lorraine?

Lorraine Balog (32:35):

You know, I would say that the ease with which to receive payments and make — and pay carriers is it’s intuitive. My team has embraced the platform. We have used other platforms in this. It’s very intuitive and easy to use. Easy to enter an update and retrieve reports very quickly, so.

Scott Luton (32:55):

You got to take care of those carriers, right? You got to take care of — build those relationships there too, right, Lorraine?

Lorraine Balog (33:00):

Yes. One thing that people don’t, if you’ve never been exposed to the back office, you don’t realize that every load represents, I would say, no less than three to six inquiries and that’s from carriers and current companies alike. So, you want to make sure that you’re using everything as much as possible — true through the lifecycle. Uploading documents, making sure they’re there timely because once that load is delivered, you’re going to get all kinds of inquiries from factoring companies and carriers alike about the status of the payment ultimately. And so, the better your systems and processes can allow you to manage that data, the quicker you can answer those folks and keep people happy and paid.

Scott Luton (33:45):

And maintain that harmony the — I know is so important, right? So, you can grow and make it — and empower and enable everyone to win.

 

Scott Luton (33:53):

  1. So, Mitch and Michael, both of you all, I think, in the pre-show told me Lorraine is the rock and roll star and knows this stuff best, and she is delivering, no pun intended, just like you all told us. Michael, so what — I mean, Lorraine touched on a lot there and I really can appreciate how you all run your organization based on a lot of what she shared. What else would you add in terms of how you’ve been able to, you know, enhance not just the accounting practices but the operations, kind of, in general?

Michael Schember (34:21):

Well, you know, I think it all starts at the first sales call with the customer, right? So, how you load that customer in the system? What kind of — what things can you expect at time of delivery? Do they need the lift gate? Do — are there NMSC and classes matching what the NMSC says that class should be? And we try to mitigate that risk right from the jump and really get that front side information when we set up the customer and the Tai system.

 

Michael Schember (34:48):

So, we verify their product catalog. We verify delivery addresses to make sure they’re not residentials or high-cost delivery areas. And we want to make sure that the customers are aware when they do, we want to make sure we share that information right up front. So, the whole objective is to prevent those problems, but then the TMS will take you and help you solve those problems if those problems still arise, but it all starts at the beginning.

Scott Luton (35:11):

I love that, Michael.

 

Michael Schember (35:12):

That’s all really important.

 

Scott Luton (35:14):

I appreciate that. And, you know, your response there, kind of, brought to my mind, not only do our team and our team members need to make better decisions, more timely decisions, confident decisions, but to your point there, we want our customers making really good decisions as well. That’s part of building these strong relationships out there. So, I love your response there, Michael.

 

Scott Luton (35:35):

So, Mitch based on what Lorraine and Michael have shared, all of that — all of the improvements and the priorities kind of roll up to not just optimizing cashflow but also simplifying how that works and making it more successful. Mitch, your final word in terms of the really great story that Lorraine and Michael have shared from American Group?

Mitch Mitchell (35:56):

Yes, it’s amazing to hear from their perspective too, right? Because as a technology provider, you know, we view ourselves as a partner to our freight brokers, and we want to be making sure that our product is supporting them. But hearing it from Lorraine and hearing how it’s interacting with her on daily basis is really cool to see and to hear that the tools and the things that we’re building are having that kind of an impact because it does matter, right?

 

Mitch Mitchell (36:22):

And when we talk about cashflow, some simple things in cashflow make a really big difference. For example, the easy button, we’ll go cycle right back to the easy button. If we can make it fast to get out 80% of the invoices, and we like to call it the fast lane and the slow lane when it comes to the easy shipments and then the ones that go into variance, those ones hit the slow lane a little bit. But those fast lane shipments, if we can keep that percentage as high as possible if fast lane shipments and we can get those out so you invoice on delivery, if we can get those out on delivery date and get the invoices delivered the same day, that improves your cashflow.

 

Mitch Mitchell (37:02):

If you’re holding those for 48 hours or 72 hours, or we’ve run into customers that are waiting eight to 10 days to get an invoice out the door after delivery, well that has a tremendous impact on cashflow. And so, we want to help make sure that those fast lane shipments keep moving just like Lorraine was talking about. So, I was really glad to hear the way she articulated it and talked through it. It makes us — it makes me glad that our product is helping that and keep those things moving. But still allowing the diligence needed for the accuracy, still allowing the diligence needed for the variances, but allowing those to separate a little bit so that you can manage both really effectively.

Scott Luton (37:43):

Yes. Yes, Mitch. I love it. Invoicing velocity is the phrase that’s coming to my mind as you’re talking about —

 

Mitch Mitchell (37:48):

There it is.

 

Scott Luton (37:48):

— protecting that fast lane and it’s really important. This was — if supply chain, if moving freight was really easy, everyone would jump in it, but it’s really important that with that variance queue, you’re going to have some times that slower lane. You got to call time out and make sure we all know what we’re doing and all making the right decisions. And the ability to do that and spend some time there to protect and grow the business, it’s a lot easier to invest that time if you can really automate and you leverage technology for the 80% to be so much more effective and optimize and efficient.

Mitch Mitchell (38:20):

And just add a little bit there, we’re not going to get rid of claims and disputes, right?

 

Scott Luton (38:24):

Right.

 

Mitch Mitchell (38:24):

Those aren’t going to go away. But if we can manage the claims in a good way and we can manage the disputes in a good way, and we’re looking at working with some tools to help make the claim management process really fast and effective too, like, even things like that are where I was talking about technology evolving and these things make a big difference. We’re not going to get rid of claims. We’d love to make the numbers as low as possible, but let’s make sure that when we do get to a claim, that’s also not going to hold up anything else in the process.

Scott Luton (38:53):

Yes, Mitch, I appreciate you keeping it real because if there is a solution out there that works for a hundred percent of the time and eliminates any even need to think, man, let me know if you’re working on something like that, OK?

Mitch Mitchell (39:07):

Yes, yes. For sure. We’re trying but —

Scott Luton (39:09):

I believe it. Well —

Mitch Mitchell (39:11):

— no magic wand.

 

Scott Luton (39:12):

There is no magic wand, there is no magic wand. So, I appreciate you keeping it real there.

 

Scott Luton (39:17):

  1. So, as we start to kind of come down to home stretch, I got a couple more questions I want to pose to all three of you all. And, Mitch, I want to start with this. This is one of my favorite questions. When we’re talking about, you know, everyone’s dealing with change, right? And a lot of that change is business leaders trying and practitioners out there trying to find a practical way to improve the business. And as we all know, the famous quote that I’m probably going to butcher here is, the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.

 

Scott Luton (39:44):

So, if other folks out there, Mitch, if you could speak to the folks in our global audience that’s trying to do what Michael and Lorraine are doing, right? They’re trying to not just transform operations, but specifically transform their own accounting practices and truly optimize that cashflow, what would you suggest is that first step, Mitch?

Mitch Mitchell (40:03):

You know, I think the first step is to step away from I’ve been doing this for a long time, or some phrases along those lines, this is the way we do it. And taking a step back and taking a look at your overall process, and just deciding, are the tools that I have helping me or are the tools I have hindering me? What can I do in my process to make it a little bit better? And maybe even asking questions of why do I do have this in my process? Why do we bother with this step? What value does it add? Is there a better way?

 

Mitch Mitchell (40:37):

Just pick off any one of those things, but don’t be afraid to remove or change a process that’s been in place for a long time. And to be a little bit shameless on this too, the same thing applies to your TMSs, right? I mean, we’ve been using TMS — your TMS for a long time and that doesn’t necessarily mean you should continue using it. But the same thing applies to the internal processes that you have. Don’t be afraid to change them. Spend the time. Take a look at those processes and maybe rip them out if you need to.

Scott Luton (41:08):

Right. Right. Mitch, well said. Be bold, folks. Ask those questions, especially that important question of why, right?

 

Mitch Mitchell (41:16):

Yes.

 

Scott Luton (41:16):

Because even if you’re scared of the answers that might come back, it’s so important to ask those questions. There’s so many better ways of doing things out there.

 

Mitch Mitchell (41:24):

It is.

 

Scott Luton (41:24):

  1. I’m going to shift gears over to Lorraine and Michael. So, I really — thank you all, both. By the way, congrats on all the growth. Thank you for taking the time to share a lot of what you are doing with our audience here. So, now you all might send me a consulting invoice. I don’t know. But I’m going to get you to offer one piece of advice to folks out there based on your experiences and outcomes from working with the Tai TMS at American Group. What is one piece of advice that you would share with our audience?

 

Scott Luton (41:52):

And Lorraine, our rock and roll star, our subject matter expert, just like was promised, tell us what’s that one piece of advice you’d offer up?

Lorraine Balog (41:59):

I would say make sure that you take full advantage of every bit of automation that’s available within the platform. From EDI to POD indicators, we’ve talked about rebills, but POD is something that also can slow down your invoicing lifecycle and using other integrations with TriumphPay and Melio. Anything that will allow you to use technology to make things go smoother and more quickly, use it and make sure that you align your written processes around the capabilities that you have available on the platform.

Scott Luton (42:33):

It’s excellent advice, Lorraine. I appreciate that. And really appreciate, again, you sharing a lot of what you all have been doing to improve the ecosystem there at American Group. Michael, what would you add? What would your one piece of advice be?

Michael Schember (42:47):

I think it was touched on earlier, but it’s run towards and embrace that. It’s there for a reason and it’s making inroads on the manual process. So, if you’re still — if there’s still some — a lot of manual process in the way you’re handling invoicing and paying carriers right now, the technology will be that gift that you always wish you had. And race towards it and embrace it and use it and understand it, more importantly.

Scott Luton (43:10):

Excellent point. Excellent point. Not just embrace it, race to it. I love that, Michael.

 

Scott Luton (43:15):

All right. So, let’s do this. I want to make sure, I bet some folks out there will want to compare notes and talk shot with all three of you all or maybe do business with you, who knows. So, I want to start with Lorraine. Lorraine, how can folks connect with you and the American group team?

Lorraine Balog (43:30):

They can connect with me via LinkedIn. I’m easy to find.

Scott Luton (43:34):

It’s just that easy. We’re going to drop that in the chat and encourage you all to do that. Thanks again for being here, Lorraine. Michael, when — if they can’t catch you and they probably can’t catch you, we had a lot of fun with the off-roading passion of yours. But if they can’t catch you out there, where can they connect with you, Michael?

Michael Schember (43:50):

Well, I usually ride the same few trails every weekend. So, usually at the Superstition Mountain, somewhere here in Arizona, but I’m definitely on LinkedIn. And then you can visit our website @shipag.com and get ahold of me through there as well.

Scott Luton (44:04):

Awesome. Well, I know this — you know, the journey continues, but congrats to both of you all on the outstanding business that you all have been building at American Group, and we look forward to an update really, really soon.

 

Scott Luton (44:17):

All right. Mitch, I love — I really have appreciated your perspective. I love hearing about the partnership and how your — and you and your team are making life easier for many organizations out there more profitable, like here at American Group. How can folks connect with you, Mitch?

Mitch Mitchell (44:31):

Yes. So, you can connect with me at — on LinkedIn as well, but also at our website, tai-software.com. That’s T-A-I-software.com. And just to add onto there, Mike’s being a little bit coy there, but he is a true freight broker. And I’m sure even when he is off-roading, he’s still answering his phone to help make sure his customers are being handled.

 

Michael Schember (44:52):

Absolutely.

 

Mitch Mitchell (44:52):

So, don’t let him fool you. He can be reached pretty easily.

Scott Luton (44:55):

Hey, I believe you and I look forward to getting some documentation on those super — did you say Superstition Mountains, Michael? Did I get that right?

 

Michael Schember (45:06):

Yes, you do. Yes, the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is there if you ever want to try to find it.

Scott Luton (45:11):

Oh, OK. When you first said it, I was thinking “Superstitious” by Stevie Wonder. I love the opening end of that sign, but Superstition Mountains, we’ll check it out. And folks, just like we said, we dropped the LinkedIn to both Lorraine and Michael and Mitch all in the chat. And like Mitch said, definitely encourage you all to check out taisoftware.com, Tai and then a hyphen software.com where you’re going to want to do beyond talk and shop with Mitch and his team. You can take a demo, you can learn a lot more of how you can leverage the same things that Lorraine and Michael have been able to do at American Group. A lot of good stuff there.

 

Scott Luton (45:51):

Well, I wish we had a couple more hours to chat. Really, I’ve enjoyed meeting all of you and sharing all of what you’re doing there with our audience. But big thanks to our panel for joining us here today. Michael Schember with American Group. Thank you so much, Mike.

Michael Schember (46:04):

You’re welcome. Thank you.

Scott Luton (46:06):

You bet. Lorraine Balog with American Group as well. Lorraine, happy trails to you as hopefully you’re able to get out this afternoon.

Mitch Mitchell (46:15):

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Scott Luton (46:16):

And we look forward to reconnecting soon. And Walter Mitchell, a.k.a, Mitch with Tai Software. Mitch, really enjoyed our chat here today.

Mitch Mitchell (46:25):

Yes, thanks for having us today, Scott. Really appreciate it. And thanks for being such a great host, Scott.

Scott Luton (46:29):

Hey, we enjoy it. I love conversations like this, right? I can just see other folks out there in the trenches where we’re making life easier for them and allowing them to have more successful days, and that’s a big part of what we got to be doing as business leaders right now. So, thanks for sharing this story with us.

 

Scott Luton (46:45):

Folk, hopefully you enjoy this conversation as much as I have. But here’s the challenge. You got to take at least one thing from today’s conversation with Lorraine, Michael, and Mitch, and share it with your team. Put it into practice, hey, your team’s going to appreciate it. I promise. As will leadership. we’ve got to do something with it. Deeds not words, right? So with all of that said, Scott Luton here on behalf of the Supply Chain Now team, challenging you to do good, to give forward and to be the change that’s needed. And on that note, we’ll see you next time. Right back here at Supply Chain Now. Thanks everybody.

Intro/Outro (47:19):

Thanks for being a part of our Supply Chain Now community. Check out all of our programming at supplychainnow.com and make sure you subscribe to Supply Chain Now anywhere you listen to podcasts. And follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. See you next time on Supply Chain Now.

Would you rather watch the show in action?

Featured Guests

Walter “Mitch” Mitchell is CEO of Tai Software, a transportation management system for freight brokers to manage quoting, booking, and shipment tracking. Mitchell has more than 17 years of experience architecting software applications and leading teams that build business software applications. Passionate about technology and continuous growth. He embraces change to deliver high-quality results. Walter’s tenacious drive ensures project success, setting clear objectives from conception to completion. A hands-on technology leader, he boasts a track record of guiding diverse teams in development, sales, and customer service while prioritizing their well-being. Beyond work, he relishes family time with his wife and two children, engaging in active outdoor pursuits like snowboarding, wakeboarding, biking, and ice hockey. Connect with Mitch on LinkedIn.

Lorraine Balog is an experienced operations manager, passionate about customer service excellence and focused on metric-driven success. Her commitment to efficiency is unparalleled, understanding that they are the cornerstone of operational excellence. Lorraine’s sharp focus on metrics empowers her team to surpass benchmarks and achieve remarkable results. Lorraine’s dedication goes beyond numbers; she embodies the role of a supportive ally for her team. Count on her to stand by her colleagues, providing unwavering support and guidance whenever necessary. Her proactive leadership style ensures a harmonious work environment where everyone feels valued and empowered to thrive. Connect with Lorraine on LinkedIn.

Michael Schember is an expert in the transportation and logistics industry, boasting over two decades of expertise since 2001. He is the Founder and CEO of American Group, a shipping and logistics company looking to simplify transportation processes. Under Michael’s guidance, American Group offers a personalized, concierge-level transportation experience, emphasizing hands-on visibility and live customer support over automated systems. His team comprises industry veterans, providing a unique perspective on supply chain operations and enabling American Group to secure shipping capacity reliably for its clients. Additionally, as CEO of Freight Claims, Michael streamlines logistics processes by automating claims, enhancing tracking, managing documents, and providing data analytics. His innovative solutions minimize errors, reduce paperwork, and empower businesses with actionable insights. Michael Schember’s visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to simplifying shipping experiences and optimizing logistics operations have solidified his position as an influential figure in the industry, driving innovation and delivering seamless solutions for global businesses. Connect with Michael on LinkedIn.

Hosts

Scott W. Luton

Founder, CEO, & Host

You May Also Like

Click to view other episodes in this program

Additional Links & Resources

Learn more about Tai Software

Learn more about Supply Chain Now

Check Out Our Sponsors

Demo Perez

Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol

Demo Perez started his career in 1997 in the industry by chance when a relative asked him for help for two just weeks putting together an operation for FedEx Express at the Colon Free Zone, an area where he was never been but accepted the challenge. Worked in all roles possible from a truck driver to currier to a sales representative, helped the brand introduction, market share growth and recognition in the Colon Free Zone, at the end of 1999 had the chance to meet and have a chat with Fred Smith ( FedEx CEO), joined another company in 2018 who took over the FedEx operations as Operations and sales manager, in 2004 accepted the challenge from his company to leave the FedEx operations and business to take over the operation and business of DHL Express, his major competitor and rival so couldn’t say no, by changing completely its operation model in the Free Zone. In 2005 started his first entrepreneurial journey by quitting his job and joining two friends to start a Freight Forwarding company. After 8 months was recruited back by his company LSP with the General Manager role with the challenge of growing the company and make it fully capable warehousing 3PL. By 2009 joined CSCMP and WERC and started his journey of learning and growing his international network and high-level learning. In 2012 for the first time joined a local association ( the Panama Maritime Chamber) and worked in the country’s first Logistics Strategy plan, joined and lead other associations ending as president of the Panama Logistics Council in 2017. By finishing his professional mission at LSP with a company that was 8 times the size it was when accepted the role as GM with so many jobs generated and several young professionals coached, having great financial results, took the decision to move forward and start his own business from scratch by the end of 2019. with a friend and colleague co-founded IPL Group a company that started as a boutique 3PL and now is gearing up for the post-Covid era by moving to the big leagues.

Connect on :

Mary Kate Love

VP, Marketing

Mary Kate Love is currently the VP of marketing at Supply Chain Now focused on brand strategy and audience + revenue growth. Mary Kate’s career is a testament to her versatility and innovative spirit: she has experience in start-ups, venture capital, and building innovation initiatives from the ground up: she previously helped lead the build-out of the Supply Chain Innovation Center at Georgia-Pacific and before that, MxD (Manufacturing times Digital): the Department of Defense’s digital manufacturing innovation center. Mary Kate has a passion for taking complicated ideas and turning them into reality: she was one of the first team members at MxD and the first team member at the Supply Chain Innovation Center at Georgia-Pacific.

Mary Kate dedicates her extra time to education and mentorship: she was one of the founding Board Members for Women Influence Chicago and led an initiative for a city-wide job shadow day for young women across Chicago tech companies and was previously on the Board of Directors at St. Laurence High School in Chicago, Young Irish Fellowship Board and the UN Committee for Women. Mary Kate is the founder of National Supply Chain Day and enjoys co-hosting podcasts at Supply Chain Now. Mary Kate is from the south side of Chicago, a mom of two baby boys, and an avid 16-inch softball player. She holds a BS in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Connect on :

Joshua Miranda

Marketing Specialist

Joshua is a student from Institute of Technology and Higher Education of Monterrey Campus Guadalajara in Communication and Digital Media. His experience ranges from Plug and Play México, DearDoc, and Nissan México creating unique social media marketing campaigns and graphics design. Joshua helps to amplify the voice of supply chain here at Supply Chain Now by assisting in graphic design, content creation, asset logistics, and more.  In his free time he likes to read and write short stories as well as watch movies and television series.

Donna Krache

Director of Communications and Executive Producer

Donna Krache is a former CNN executive producer who has won several awards in journalism and communication, including three Peabodys.  She has 30 years’ experience in broadcast and digital journalism. She led the first production team at CNN to convert its show to a digital platform. She has authored many articles for CNN and other media outlets. She taught digital journalism at Georgia State University and Arizona State University. Krache holds a bachelor’s degree in government from the College of William and Mary and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of New Orleans. She is a serious sports fan who loves the Braves. She is president of the Dave Krache Foundation. Named in honor of her late husband, this non-profit pays fees for kids who want to play sports but whose parents are facing economic challenges.

Connect on :

Vicki White

Controller

Vicki has a long history of rising to challenges and keeping things up and running. First, she supported her family’s multi-million dollar business as controller for 12 years, beginning at the age of 17. Then, she worked as an office manager and controller for a wholesale food broker. But her biggest feat? Serving as the chief executive officer of her household, while her entrepreneur husband travelled the world extensively. She fed, nurtured, chaperoned, and chauffeured three daughters all while running a newsletter publishing business and remaining active in her community as a Stephen’s Minister, Sunday school teacher, school volunteer, licensed realtor and POA Board president (a title she holds to this day). A force to be reckoned with in the office, you might think twice before you meet Vicki on the tennis court! When she’s not keeping the books balanced at Supply Chain Now or playing tennis matches, you can find Vicki spending time with her husband Greg, her 4 fur babies, gardening, cleaning (yes, she loves to clean!) and learning new things.

Connect on :

Ben Harris

Host

Ben Harris is the Director of Supply Chain Ecosystem Expansion for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Ben comes to the Metro Atlanta Chamber after serving as Senior Manager, Market Development for Manhattan Associates. There, Ben was responsible for developing Manhattan’s sales pipeline and overall Americas supply chain marketing strategy. Ben oversaw market positioning, messaging and campaign execution to build awareness and drive new pipeline growth. Prior to joining Manhattan, Ben spent four years with the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Center of Innovation for Logistics where he played a key role in establishing the Center as a go-to industry resource for information, support, partnership building, and investment development. Additionally, he became a key SME for all logistics and supply chain-focused projects. Ben began his career at Page International, Inc. where he drove continuous improvement in complex global supply chain operations for a wide variety of businesses and Fortune 500 companies. An APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), Ben holds an Executive Master’s degree in Business Administration (EMBA) and bachelor’s degree in International Business (BBA) from the Terry College at the University of Georgia.

Connect on :

Page Siplon

Host, The Freight Insider

Prior to joining TeamOne Logistics, Page Siplon served as the Executive Director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, the State’s leading consulting resource for fueling logistics industry growth and global competitiveness. For over a decade, he directly assisted hundreds of companies to overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities related to the movement of freight. During this time, Siplon was also appointed to concurrently serve the State of Georgia as Director of the larger Centers of Innovation Program, in which he provided executive leadership and vision for all six strategic industry-focused Centers. As a frequently requested keynote speaker, Siplon is called upon to address a range of audiences on unique aspects of technology, workforce, and logistics. This often includes topics of global and domestic logistics trends, supply chain visibility, collaboration, and strategic planning. He has also been quoted as an industry expert in publications such as Forbes, Journal of Commerce, Fortune, NPR, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, American Express, DC Velocity, Area Development Magazine, Site Selection Magazine, Inbound Logistics, Modern Material Handling, and is frequently a live special guest on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Radio Show. Siplon is an active industry participant, recognized by DC Velocity Magazine as a “2012 Logistics Rainmaker” which annually identifies the top-ten logistics professionals in the Nation; and named a “Pro to Know” by Supply & Demand Executive Magazine in 2014. Siplon was also selected by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Georgians” for 2013, 2014, and 2015. He also serves various industry leadership roles at both the State and Federal level. Governor Nathan Deal nominated Siplon to represent Georgia on a National Supply Chain Competitiveness Advisory Committee, where he was appointed to a two-year term by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and was then appointed to serve as its vice-chairman. At the State level, he was selected by then-Governor Sonny Perdue to serve as lead consultant on the Commission for New Georgia’s Freight and Logistics Task Force. In this effort, Siplon led a Private Sector Advisory Committee with invited executives from a range of private sector stakeholders including UPS, Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Delta Airlines, Georgia Pacific, CSX, and Norfolk Southern. Siplon honorably served a combined 12 years in the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force. During this time, he led the integration of encryption techniques and deployed cryptographic devices for tactically secure voice and data platforms in critical ground-to-air communication systems. This service included support for all branches of the Department of Defense, multiple federal security agencies, and aiding NASA with multiple Space Shuttle launches. Originally from New York, Siplon received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering with a focus on digital signal processing from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned an associate’s degree in advanced electronic systems from the Air Force College and completed multiple military leadership academies in both the Marines and Air Force. Siplon currently lives in Cumming, Georgia (north of Atlanta), with his wife Jan, and two children Thomas (19) and Lily (15).

Connect on :

Kristi Porter

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Kristi Porter is VP of Sales and Marketing at Vector Global Logistics, a company that is changing the world through supply chain. In her role, she oversees all marketing efforts and supports the sales team in doing what they do best. In addition to this role, she is the Chief Do-Gooder at Signify, which assists nonprofits and social impact companies through copywriting and marketing strategy consulting. She has almost 20 years of professional experience, and loves every opportunity to help people do more good.

Connect on :

Sofia Rivas Herrera

Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol

Sofia Rivas Herrera is a Mexican Industrial Engineer from Tecnologico de Monterrey class 2019. Upon graduation, she earned a scholarship to study MIT’s Graduate Certificate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and graduated as one of the Top 3 performers of her class in 2020. She also has a multicultural background due to her international academic experiences at Singapore Management University and Kühne Logistics University in Hamburg. Sofia self-identifies as a Supply Chain enthusiast & ambassador sharing her passion for the field in her daily life.

Connect on :

Katherine Hintz

Sales and Marketing Coordinator

Katherine is a marketing professional and MBA candidate who strives to unite her love of people with a passion for positive experiences. Having a diverse background, which includes nonprofit work with digital marketing and start-ups, she serves as a leader who helps people live their most creative lives by cultivating community, order, collaboration, and respect. With equal parts creativity and analytics, she brings a unique skill set which fosters refining, problem solving, and connecting organizations with their true vision. In her free time, you can usually find her looking for her cup of coffee, playing with her puppy Charlie, and dreaming of her next road trip.

Connect on :

Kim Winter

Host, Supply Chain Now

The founder of Logistics Executive Group, Kim Winter delivers 40 years of executive leadership experience spanning Executive Search & Recruitment, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Advisory, Motivational Speaking, Trade Facilitation and across the Supply Chain, Logistics, 3PL, E-commerce, Life Science, Cold Chain, FMCG, Retail, Maritime, Defence, Aviation, Resources, and Industrial sectors. Operating from the company’s global offices, he is a regular contributor of thought leadership to industry and media, is a professional Master of Ceremonies, and is frequently invited to chair international events.

He is a Board member of over a dozen companies throughout APAC, India, and the Middle East, a New Zealand citizen, he holds formal resident status in Australia and the UAE, and is the Australia & New Zealand representative for the UAE Government-owned Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), the Middle East’s largest Economic Free Zone.

A triathlete and ex-professional rugby player, Kim is a qualified (IECL Sydney) executive coach and the Founder / Chairman of the successful not for profit humanitarian organization, Oasis Africa (www. oasisafrica.org.au), which has provided freedom from poverty through education to over 8000 mainly orphaned children in East Africa’s slums. Kim holds an MBA and BA from Massey & Victoria Universities (NZ).

Connect on :

Adrian Purtill

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Adrian Purtill serves as Business Development Manager at Vector Global Logistics, where he consults with importers and exporters in various industries to match their specific shipping requirements with the most effective supply chain solutions. Vector Global Logistics is an asset-free, multi-modal logistics company that provides exceptional sea freight, air freight, truck, rail, general logistic services and consulting for our clients. Our highly trained and professional team is committed to providing creative and effective solutions, always exceeding our customer’s expectations and fostering long-term relationships. With more than 20+ years of experience in both strategy consulting and logistics, Vector Global Logistics is your best choice to proactively minimize costs while having an exceptional service level.

Connect on :

Kevin Brown

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Kevin Brown is the Director of Business Development for Vector Global Logistics.  He has a dedicated interest in Major Account Management, Enterprise Sales, and Corporate Leadership. He offers 25 years of exceptional experience and superior performance in the sales of Logistics, Supply Chain, and Transportation Management. Kevin is a dynamic, high-impact, sales executive and corporate leader who has consistently exceeded corporate goals. He effectively coordinates multiple resources to solution sell large complex opportunities while focusing on corporate level contacts across the enterprise. His specialties include targeting and securing key accounts by analyzing customer’s current business processes and developing solutions to meet their corporate goals. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.

Connect on :

Jose Miguel Irarrazaval

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Jose Manuel Irarrazaval es parte del equipo de Vector Global Logistics Chile. José Manuel es un gerente experimentado con experiencia en finanzas corporativas, fusiones y adquisiciones, financiamiento y reestructuración, inversión directa y financiera, tanto en Chile como en el exterior. José Manuel tiene su MBA de la Universidad de Pennsylvania- The Wharton School. Conéctese con Jose Manuel en LinkedIn.

Connect on :

Nick Roemer

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Nick Roemer has had a very diverse and extensive career within design and sales over the last 15 years stretching from China, Dubai, Germany, Holland, UK, and the USA. In the last 5 years, Nick has developed a hawk's eye for sustainable tech and the human-centric marketing and sales procedures that come with it. With his far-reaching and strong network within the logistics industry, Nick has been able to open new avenues and routes to market within major industries in the USA and the UAE. Nick lives by the ethos, “Give more than you take." His professional mission is to make the logistics industry leaner, cleaner and greener.

Connect on :

Allison Giddens

Host, Logistics with Purpose

Allison Krache Giddens has been with Win-Tech, a veteran-owned small business and aerospace precision machine shop, for 15 years, recently buying the company from her mentor and Win-Tech’s Founder, Dennis Winslow. She and her business partner, John Hudson now serve as Co-Presidents, leading the 33-year old company through the pandemic.

She holds undergraduate degrees in psychology and criminal justice from the University of Georgia, a Masters in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University, a Masters in Manufacturing from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Certificate of Finance from the University of Georgia. She also holds certificates in Google Analytics, event planning, and Cybersecurity Risk Management from Harvard online. Allison founded the Georgia Chapter of Women in Manufacturing and currently serves as Treasurer. She serves on the Chattahoochee Technical College Foundation Board as its Secretary, the liveSAFE Resources Board of Directors as Resource Development Co-Chair, and on the Leadership Cobb Alumni Association Board as Membership Chair and is also a member of Cobb Executive Women. She is on the Board for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s Northwest Area Councils. Allison runs The Dave Krache Foundation, a non-profit that helps pay sports fees for local kids in need.

Connect on :

Billy Taylor

Host of Dial P for Procurement

Billy Taylor is a Proven Business Excellence Practitioner and Leadership Guru with over 25 years leading operations for a Fortune 500 company, Goodyear. He is also the CEO of LinkedXL (Excellence), a Business Operating Systems Architecting Firm dedicated to implementing sustainable operating systems that drive sustainable results. Taylor’s achievements in the industry have made him a Next Generational Lean pacesetter with significant contributions.

An American business executive, Taylor has made a name for himself as an innovative and energetic industry professional with an indispensable passion for his craft of operational excellence. His journey started many years ago and has worked with renowned corporations such as The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (GT) leading multi-site operations. With over 3 decades of service leading North America operations, he is experienced in a deeply rooted process driven approach in customer service, process integrity for sustainability.

A disciple of continuous improvement, Taylor’s love for people inspires commitment to helping others achieve their full potential. He is a dynamic speaker and hosts "The Winning Link," a popular podcast centered on business and leadership excellence with the #1 rated Supply Chain Now Network. As a leadership guru, Taylor has earned several invitations to universities, international conferences, global publications, and the U.S. Army to demonstrate how to achieve and sustain effective results through cultural acceptance and employee ownership. Leveraging the wisdom of his business acumen, strong influence as a speaker and podcaster Taylor is set to release "The Winning Link" book under McGraw Hill publishing in 2022. The book is a how-to manual to help readers understand the management of business interactions while teaching them how to Deine, Align, and Execute Winning in Business.

A servant leader, Taylor, was named by The National Diversity Council as one of the Top 100 Diversity Officers in the country in 2021. He features among Oklahoma's Most Admired CEOs and maintains key leadership roles with the Executive Advisory Board for The Shingo Institute "The Nobel Prize of Operations" and The Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME); two world-leading organizations for operational excellence, business development, and cultural learning.  He is also an Independent Director for the M-D Building Products Board, a proud American manufacturer of quality products since 1920.

Connect on :

Lori Sofian

Marketing Coordinator

Lori is currently completing a degree in marketing with an emphasis in digital marketing at the University of Georgia. When she’s not supporting the marketing efforts at Supply Chain Now, you can find her at music festivals – or working toward her dream goal of a fashion career. Lori is involved in many extracurricular activities and appreciates all the learning experiences UGA has brought her.

Connect on :

Chantel King

Social Media Manager

My name is Chantel King and I am the Social Media Specialist at Supply Chain Now. My job is to make sure our audience is engaged and educated on the abundant amount of information the supply chain industry has to offer.

Social Media and Communications has been my niche ever since I graduated from college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. No, I am not a West Coast girl. I was born and raised in New Jersey, but my travel experience goes way beyond the garden state. My true passion is in creating editorial and graphic content that influences others to be great in whatever industry they are in. I’ve done this by working with lifestyle, financial, and editorial companies by providing resources to enhance their businesses.

Another passion of mine is trying new things. Whether it’s food, an activity, or a sport. I would like to say that I am an adventurous Taurus that never shies away from a new quest or challenge.

Connect on :

Trisha Cordes

Administrative Assistant

Trisha is new to the supply chain industry – but not to podcasting. She’s an experienced podcast manager and virtual assistant who also happens to have 20 years of experience as an elementary school teacher. It’s safe to say, she’s passionate about helping people, and she lives out that passion every day with the Supply Chain Now team, contributing to scheduling and podcast production.

Connect on :

Clay Phillips

Business Development Manager

Clay is passionate about two things: supply chain and the marketing that goes into it. Recently graduated with a degree in marketing at the University of Georgia, Clay got his start as a journalism major and inaugural member of the Owl’s football team at Kennesaw State University – but quickly saw tremendous opportunity in the Terry College of Business. He’s already putting his education to great use at Supply Chain Now, assisting with everything from sales and brand strategy to media production. Clay has contributed to initiatives such as our leap into video production, the guest blog series, and boosting social media presence, and after nearly two years in Supply Chain Now’s Marketing Department, Clay now heads up partnership and sales initiatives with the help of the rest of the Supply Chain Now sales team.

Connect on :

Amanda Luton

Vice President, Production

Amanda is a production and marketing veteran and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience across a variety of industries and organizations including Von Maur, Anthropologie, AmericasMart Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Amanda currently manages, produces, and develops modern digital content for Supply Chain Now and their clients. Amanda has previously served as the VP of Information Systems and Webmaster on the Board of Directors for APICS Savannah, and founded and managed her own successful digital marketing firm, Magnolia Marketing Group. When she’s not leading the Supply Chain Now production team, you can find Amanda in the kitchen, reading, listening to podcasts, or enjoying time with family.

Connect on :

Constantine Limberakis

Host

Constantine Limberakis is a thought leader in the area of procurement and supply management. He has over 20 years of international experience, playing strategic roles in a wide spectrum of organizations related to analyst advisory, consulting, product marketing, product development, and market research.Throughout his career, he's been passionate about engaging global business leaders and the broader analyst and technology community with strategic content, speaking engagements, podcasts, research, webinars, and industry articles.Constantine holds a BA in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MBA in Finance & Marketing / Masters in Public & International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh.

Connect on :

Mary Kate Soliva

Host, Veteran Voices

Mary Kate Soliva is a veteran of the US Army and cofounder of the Guam Human Rights Initiative. She is currently in the Doctor of Criminal Justice program at Saint Leo University. She is passionate about combating human trafficking and has spent the last decade conducting training for military personnel and the local community.

Connect on :

Kelly Barner

Host of Dial P for Procurement

Kelly is the Owner and Managing Director of Buyers Meeting Point and MyPurchasingCenter. She has been in procurement since 2003, starting as a practitioner and then as the Associate Director of Consulting at Emptoris. She has covered procurement news, events, publications, solutions, trends, and relevant economics at Buyers Meeting Point since 2009. Kelly is also the General Manager at Art of Procurement and Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. Kelly has her MBA from Babson College as well as an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and she has co-authored three books: ‘Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals’, ‘Procurement at a Crossroads’, and ‘Finance Unleashed’.

Connect on :

Enrique Alvarez

Host of Logistics with Purpose and Supply Chain Now en Español

Enrique serves as Managing Director at Vector Global Logistics and believes we all have a personal responsibility to change the world. He is hard working, relationship minded and pro-active. Enrique trusts that the key to logistics is having a good and responsible team that truly partners with the clients and does whatever is necessary to see them succeed. He is a proud sponsor of Vector’s unique results-based work environment and before venturing into logistics he worked for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). During his time at BCG, he worked in different industries such as Telecommunications, Energy, Industrial Goods, Building Materials, and Private Banking. His main focus was always on the operations, sales, and supply chain processes, with case focus on, logistics, growth strategy, and cost reduction. Prior to joining BCG, Enrique worked for Grupo Vitro, a Mexican glass manufacturer, for five years holding different positions from sales and logistics manager to supply chain project leader in charge of five warehouses in Colombia.

He has an MBA from The Wharton School of Business and a BS, in Mechanical Engineer from the Technologico de Monterrey in Mexico. Enrique’s passions are soccer and the ocean, and he also enjoys traveling, getting to know new people, and spending time with his wife and two kids, Emma and Enrique.

Connect on :

Kevin L. Jackson

Host of Digital Transformers

Kevin L. Jackson is a globally recognized Thought Leader, Industry Influencer and Founder/Author of the award winning “Cloud Musings” blog.  He has also been recognized as a “Top 5G Influencer” (Onalytica 2019, Radar 2020), a “Top 50 Global Digital Transformation Thought Leader” (Thinkers 360 2019) and provides strategic consulting and integrated social media services to AT&T, Intel, Broadcom, Ericsson and other leading companies. Mr. Jackson’s commercial experience includes Vice President J.P. Morgan Chase, Worldwide Sales Executive for IBM and SAIC (Engility) Director Cloud Solutions. He has served on teams that have supported digital transformation projects for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the US Intelligence Community.  Kevin’s formal education includes a MS Computer Engineering from Naval Postgraduate School; MA National Security & Strategic Studies from Naval War College; and a BS Aerospace Engineering from the United States Naval Academy. Internationally recognizable firms that have sponsored articles authored by him include CiscoMicrosoft, Citrix and IBM.  Books include “Click to Transform” (Leaders Press, 2020), “Architecting Cloud Computing Solutions” (Packt, 2018), and “Practical Cloud Security: A Cross Industry View” (Taylor & Francis, 2016). He also delivers online training through Tulane UniversityO’Reilly MediaLinkedIn Learning, and Pluralsight.  Mr. Jackson retired from the U.S. Navy in 1994, earning specialties in Space Systems EngineeringCarrier Onboard Delivery Logistics and carrier-based Airborne Early Warning and Control. While active, he also served with the National Reconnaissance Office, Operational Support Office, providing tactical support to Navy and Marine Corps forces worldwide.

Connect on :

Tyler Ward

Director of Sales

Tyler Ward serves as Supply Chain Now's Director of Sales. Born and raised in Mid-Atlantic, Tyler is a proud graduate of Shippensburg University where he earned his degree in Communications. After college, he made his way to the beautiful state of Oregon, where he now lives with his wife and daughter.

With over a decade of experience in sales, Tyler has a proven track record of exceeding targets and leading high-performing teams. He credits his success to his ability to communicate effectively with customers and team members alike, as well as his strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

When he's not closing deals, you can find Tyler on the links or cheering on his favorite football and basketball teams. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing pick-up basketball, and traveling back to Ocean City, Maryland, his favorite place!

Connect on :

Chris Barnes

Principal, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain is Boring

Talk about world-class: Chris is one of the few professionals in the world to hold CPIM-F, CLTD-F and CSCP-F designations from ASCM/APICS. He’s also the APICS coach – and our resident Supply Chain Doctor. When he’s not hosting programs with Supply Chain Now, he’s sharing supply chain knowledge on the APICS Coach Youtube channel or serving as a professional education instructor for the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistic Institute’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) program and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Center for Professional Education courses.

Chris earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University, an MBA with emphasis in Industrial Psychology from the University of West Florida, and is a Doctoral in Supply Chain Management candidate.

Connect on :

Greg White

Principal & CMO, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain Now and TECHquila Sunrise

When rapid-growth technology companies, venture capital and private equity firms are looking for advisory, they call Greg – a founder, board director, advisor and catalyst of disruptive B2B technology and supply chain. An insightful visionary, Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams in creating breakthroughs to gain market exposure and momentum – increasing overall company esteem and valuation.

Greg is a founder himself, creating Blue Ridge Solutions, a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader in cloud-native supply chain applications, and bringing to market Curo, a field service management solution. He has also held leadership roles with Servigistics (PTC) and E3 Corporation (JDA/Blue Yonder). As a principal and host at Supply Chain Now, Greg helps guide the company’s strategic direction, hosts industry leader discussions, community livestreams, and all in addition to executive producing and hosting his original YouTube channel and podcast, TEChquila Sunrise.

Connect on :

Scott W. Luton

Founder, CEO, & Host

As the founder and CEO of Supply Chain Now, you might say Scott is the voice of supply chain – but he’s too much of a team player to ever claim such a title. One thing’s for sure: he’s a tried and true supply chain expert. With over 15 years of experience in the end-to-end supply chain, Scott’s insights have appeared in major publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and CNN. He has also been named a top industry influencer by Thinkers360, ISCEA and more.

From 2009-2011, Scott was president of APICS Atlanta, and he continues to lead initiatives that support both the local business community and global industry. A United States Air Force Veteran, Scott has also regularly led efforts to give back to his fellow veteran community since his departure from active duty in 2002.

Connect on :