Charles Smith sorts through parcels at the new UWT Logistics expansion facility on Olive Ave. Tuesday afternoon. The new sorting and distribution facility will allow the company to add over 80 jobs in the underutilized industrial zone just north of South Parkway. (Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal)
A new transportation company started by UWT Logistics in Memphis has turned multi-million dollar revenues in its first year. How? Here’s part of what John Ozier, President, and Chris Williams, CEO, of UWT Logistics had to say!
UWT Logistics opened in 1934 as a simple operation called United Warehouse. It had about three clients and 150,000 square feet of warehouse space when Calvin Ozier bought the company in the mid-1990s. Ozier remains the majority owner. A couple years after the purchase, Ozier’s son John came on board and the company began branching out.
In January 2012, UWT Logistics began operating United Warehouse Transportation with about eight trucks and a handful of drivers, some of which came through the acqui¬sition of another small transportation company. Its initial revenue was just under $1 million, but a year later that has grown to about $6 million in revenue and 25 trucks. Chris Williams expects to have 45 trucks total in a couple months criss crossing the country and plans to end the year with $8 million to $10 million in revenue.
Now their strategy is to continue looking for growth op¬portunities. Ozier and Williams said diversification will also help them trump variables like fuel costs, which fluctuate dynamically
Repackaging is one area the company is exploring. We are strong in repackaging things for customers,” said Williams, the CEO, noting that he plans to add 15 full-time jobs in that area this year.
In sum, transportation afforded opportunities that warehousing did not, John Ozier concludes.
Article From the March 2013, Southeastern Warehouse Association Newsletter.
United Warehouse Transportation, along with parent company United Warehouse & Transit Logistics, is riding an impressive wave of success over the past 18 months.
Near the end of 2011, UWT acquired a small local transportation company and formed United Warehouse Transportation, with projected annual revenues of $895,000. By the end of 2012, that number had grown to $6 million, and company CEO Chris Williams expects it to top $10 million by the summer. “The success of both companies is really driven by three things: family, excellence and growth,” Williams said. “The Ozier family acquired UWT in 1994, and UWT has been a family-owned business since the 1930s.”
The growth means more local jobs. UWT currently employs about 160 people, up from a team of 100 one year ago, and Williams expects to have more than 200 employees by the end of the second quarter. UWT’s fleet has more than tripled in size during the past year, growing from eight trucks and eight trailers to 24 trucks and nearly 50 trailers now. Williams expects to have as many as 50 trucks by the end of the year.
UWT’s transportation side directly handles transport in a 500-mile radius that includes New Orleans to the south and Chicago to the north, and the company brokers out the majority of its business beyond to places like the West Coast. Recruiting the right people has been vital to UWT’s recent run. UWT employee John Jones is responsible for developing new clients and bringing new business to Memphis. “It’s an exciting time here, everyone is involved, and that excitement carries through to our customers. With a young management team here at UWT, the potential is awesome,” said Jones, who has 27 years of experience in the industry.
Jones just returned from Charlotte, N.C., where he signed a substantial new retail client for the company. The name of the client is confidential, but Jones did point out that the deal ensures the client will open one of its largest startup facilities here later this year. “The business design is flexible enough that we can do anything we need to do to accommodate new customers. Senior management is committed to providing the management team with the resources we need to develop the clientele,” he said.
During its recent surge, UWT’s client list has grown to more than 30 manufacturers, including new client FedEx and a diverse range of brands and products like Energizer batteries, Chic razors, Toyota automotive products, an assortment of commercial building products, tire materials, towels, light bulbs and plastic surgical gloves. “It’s a broad range of products. We do not specialize in any one segment,” Williams said. Jones is also working with the Port Authority of New Orleans to drum up new business. “We have a lot of freight going south, and they are working with us to get some business coming north,” Jones said.
UWT Logistics, involved with warehousing activities and operating more than 1 million square feet of space locally, is nearing capacity. “We are just about completely full and will be growing into some new space later this year, so it is exciting and fun,” Williams said.
UWT Logistics operates five facilities in the Mid-South, including a 500,000-square-foot Whitehaven location and more than 600,000 square feet of space at sites in South Memphis. As company revenues continue to grow, the company plans to reinvest in communities like Whitehaven and South Memphis. Williams attributes much of the recent success to the family environment that is fostered by the company. Employees enjoy a reward sharing program that features gifts, gift certificates, and special parties for staff members.
The company also provides educational opportunities for its employees by partnering with the University of Memphis to develop curriculum for UWT University, where team members can take classes after work from the U of M to receive GED and/or college credits in areas like career development, language skills, health and wellness, family counseling, legal issues and immigration. “There are many very impoverished areas of the city, and that’s why we as a company are so driven to help our employees receive educational options that will help lead to better paying jobs,” Williams said.
Planes, trains and automobiles aren’t necessarily the main components of the logistics industry.
Allan Bowden, who works for UWT Logistics and is serving as 2013 president of the Memphis World Trade Club, said relationships keep the industry moving as much as the many varied vehicles associated with it.
“Our company was looking for ways to get involved in the community,” said Bowden, referring to UWT Logistics. “My partner, John Ozier, is heavily involved in the (Greater) Memphis Chamber. I chose the Memphis World Trade Club to devote my attention to. We use both avenues to network.”
People, he said, fuel deals and partnerships the way diesel fuels trucks. In fact, networking was how Bowden found his way into the world of logistics five years ago.
Originally from Memphis, Bowden got a bachelor’s degree in religion and a master’s degree in counseling in California, taking time off to teach school and coach soccer in Memphis in between.
After a stint of teaching and coaching in Birmingham, Ala., he returned to Memphis in 2008 to seek employment in the business world to better support his growing family.
“I was going the education route and it’s a good deal because I can always go back to it if I ever need to,” Bowden said. “A lot of times your better teachers come from the business world and have a lot of wisdom to impart.”
He took a job with a logistics company but joined UWT Logistics after one year. The Ozier family, owners of the UWT Logistics, were family friends.
Then attorney Cannon Allen, who’s son played on a soccer team Bowden coached previously, introduced Bowden to the Memphis World Trade Club and helped him run for the group’s board.
UWT Logistics has been in operation since 1937. It was bought by the Oziers in the early 1990s and has had lengthy relationships with companies like Energizer.
One of Bowden’s chief projects has been developing the business growth of United Warehouse Transportation, a new carrier company started by UWT Logistics after purchasing one of their competitors.
Now with its own fleet of 25 trucks, both owned and leased, and about 40 trailers, the company offers services in both asset-based transportation and managed logistics.
“Initially we were only a broker,” Bowden said. “There’s probably more profit in the managed side of things because you don’t have the overhead of the trucks and so forth, but both sides are going well.
“We’ve grown the business from about a million dollars total revenue to about $5 million total revenue in one year. We quadrupled the amount of business that we inherited when we bought that company.”
Clients for the company are found on all layers of the logistics industry, not just manufacturers who need to move products. In some cases, other carriers use UWT to support their own operations, and out-of-town freight forwarders call when they need trucks in the Memphis area.
On the managed side, UWT Logistics manages freight using other companies’ trucks and equipment.
“That way someone who should really be a competitor becomes a partner,” Bowden said.
That’s also the idea behind the Memphis World Trade Club, which is made up of 300 members of the industry including air, rail, truck, and ocean shippers, bankers, attorneys, and financial advisers.
Bowden worked his way up through the board offices and was elected to president in November.
The club hosts monthly luncheons for members usually with a guest speaker. This year got off to a rocky start when a luncheon featuring Washington logistics industry advocate Melzie Wilson had to be canceled due to the threat of ice.
Bowden is using his first month of office to survey members on the overall mission of the group and the best means of achieving it.
“We’re going to talk about if somebody asks you the question, what really defines us as a club?”
The group is also preparing to roll out its own mobile app in March or April so that members can connect easily from smartphones.
In October, the group will host its largest event of the year, the two-day Southeast Freight Conference, which culminates in the Port of New Orleans Night, a lavish gala for about 1,000 at The Peabody hotel.
Both the conference and Port Night help members reacquaint themselves with clients and each other in the hope that new opportunities for business will come to light, said Bowden.
“The personal interaction – that’s how you grow your business and your club,” Bowden said.
There is a company in Whitehaven that deserves your attention — not just because of its business success, but because of its interest in, and follow-though on, empowering the community.
UWT Logistics may not be a familiar name to the average Memphian, but in the logistics industry the family-owned company, founded in 1934, is a leader.
This 150-employee company has two locations: one right around the corner from Whitehaven High School and the other at the corner of Louisiana Street and South Third.
I have had the privilege to get to know Chris Williams, UWT Logistics’ chief executive officer. His passion for social change is strong — and it’s helping shape the company’s culture.
UWT Logistics has been a world leader in supply chain services, helping manufacturers and retail distributors achieve competitive advantages in storage, control, and transportation flow of product. They serve clients in the areas of warehousing, transportation, repacking, and consulting. This is great commerce and activity, right in the heart of Whitehaven.
But it’s the economic and community development aspect to the company that has me impressed.
Company executives have created UWT University for career and personal development, providing instruction on everything from industry certifications to financial literacy, parenting, counseling, language, health and wellness.
You see, UWT Logistics realizes that just employing people is not enough; in order to create real sustainable impact they need to invest in people. The focus isn’t just on employees: UWT Logistics also endeavors to become more involved in its community.
This is the social empowerment that many times is missing in neighborhoods, not just in Whitehaven but all over the city.
Sure, one company alone is not going to be able to solve all of our social problems, but at least they have the right attitude. Their door is open to listening and learning how to help.
It’s vital that others active in the Whitehaven area reach out and collaborate — including leaders of the Graceland area redevelopment, Aerotropolis, area retail centers, and service and social groups like Whitehaven Kiwanis.
With civic-minded companies like UWT Logistics providing leadership, and the right results-driven attitude, it’s quite possible to bring more investment and commerce to communities like Whitehaven.
The seeds must continue to be planted.
A Memphis-based warehousing and distribution company is not only growing its operation — it’s growing it greener.
UWT Logistics LLC purchased more than $300,000 worth of electric lift trucks to add efficiencies and cost savings to its operations.
The company has been using all propane equipment, but decided it wanted to reduce maintenance costs and fuel costs while lowering its carbon footprint, according to Jim Browder, operations manager.
Electric lift trucks are not new to the industry, but improvements to the life expectancy of motors and batteries fueled UWT’s decision to buy.
“We felt like now it made a tremendous amount of sense to go ahead and leverage that technology into our operation,” Browder says.
Many companies also are trying to be greener, which has led to electric lift trucks becoming more popular, according to David Jones, account manager with Crown Lift Trucks of Memphis.
Also, electric lifts turn fuel into a fixed cost.
“With fuel costs constantly being volatile, when you buy an electric lift, you’re basically locking in your fuel costs for five years,” Jones says.
UWT Logistics currently has 30 forklifts that operate on liquid propane. It is selling off more than half of those and replacing them with 30 electric pallet jacks.
“Because the business has grown, we were faced with having to buy more equipment,” Browder says.
The pallet jacks, which only lift products high enough to move, cost $9,000 less than fork lifts.
“By bringing those in at a lower cost per unit, they achieved a front-end reduced investment cost over replacing them with forklifts,” Browder says.
The company will continue to have some fork lifts to load and unload trucks, but has moved its operations around to better utilize pallet jacks.
“The pallet jacks are specific for the order selection itself, where the pickers are going around picking individual loose cases of product and assembling them on to a pallet to complete a particular customer’s order,” Browder says.
The company spent $47,000 annually on fuel for forklifts. Although the electric pallet lifters required $15,000 in electrical work to put on chargers, maintenance manager Lee Reeves anticipates a savings.
“Just the fuel alone, you’re talking about saving several thousand dollars,” Reeves says. “You have to pay for the power supply, but it’s very minimal compared to fuel.”
The company also foresees savings since a forklift requires more maintenance.
“You’ve got more moving parts on the forklift,” Browder says. “The pallet jacks are simpler pieces of equipment.”
Browder anticipates a return on investment of less than three years.
Allan Bowden, transportation manager, says there will also be a noise reduction in the workplace.
“The warehouse gets pretty loud and I think that adds to the stress level of our workers,” he says.
Before starting work at UWT Logistics LLC, Allan Bowden was a teacher and coach. He coached girl’s and boy’s soccer at Evangelical Christian School in Memphis and at Briarwood Christian School in Birmingham. From there, he went on to teach geography at his alma mater, The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, Calif., where he was also a men’s soccer assistant coach and head coach of the women’s team.
After moving back to Memphis in 2007, he worked in the inventory, warehouse and sales departments at Graham’s Lighting. Bowden combines his experiences in coaching and recruiting with his warehousing, inventory and sales work to help develop the transportation side of UWT Logistics’ business.
Education: Evangelical Christian School; The Master’s College, B.A. and M.A.
First job: Teaching school at ECS
Family: Wife of 18 years, Lisa; son, Allan III, 8; daughter, Bailey, 6; daughter, Lainey, 3
What do you do: I manage transportation/logistics for our customers at UWT Logistics.
Like best about job: Opportunity to meet people and help them improve their company’s efficiency and productivity by providing logistics solutions to meet their needs.
Like least about job: Some people are not open to change, even for the better.
Pet peeve: Waiting on people to make decisions.
Most important lesson learned: Over time, excellent service, competitive rates and a lot of patience will eventually produce results.
Person most interested in meeting: Billy Graham
Most respected competitor: Buzz Fly, for his business and his golf game.
Career goals: To contribute to the long-term growth of UWT Logistics by increasing our client base.
First choice for a new career: Hunting guide, professional outdoorsman
Favorite quote: “Only one life will soon be passed. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” — Jim Elliot, missionary to the Auca Indians of Ecuador
Most influential book: Besides The Bible, Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
Favorite cause: Child Evangelism Fellowship
Favorite status symbol: Titleist
Favorite movie: “The Shawshank Redemption”
Favorite restaurant: Houston’s Restaurant
Favorite vacation spot: Kiawah, S.C.
Favorite way to spend free time: Hunting
Favorite stress reducers: Yard work
Favorite musician: The Eagles
Automobile: Ford Explorer
What do you know?
How do you see I-69 impacting Memphis’ distribution and logistics industry?
While some are opposed to the I-69 superhighway, I believe the positives outweigh the negatives. It is in our national best interest to support this Mid-South section of the NAFTA route between Mexico and Canada. In addition to benefits that will accrue to the national economy, the local/regional economy will receive millions of dollars from the completion of I-69 and bring much-needed stimulus to the Memphis metro area over the long haul. Although the impact on the environment should be considered in the discussion of the construction of this major thoroughfare, the identity of Memphis as the distribution capital of the U.S. will further be solidified by the intersection of I-69 and our other major highways. Our broader, external connections are the keys to our internal growth here in Memphis.