Chief Executive Officer Charles Hammel III (center) often looks outside the trucking industry for senior management in order to obtain diverse outlooks.
...While management was busy focusing on implementing new solutions, Justine Russo approached company Chief Executive Officer Charles Hammel III with an idea.
...Hammel and Ray Johnson, chief financial officer, embraced the idea.
The criteria for being invited to participate were fairly loose, but Hammel
and Johnson did impose one major rule: No managers or executives could join.
Rather, it presented one- or two-page summaries to Johnson and Hammel
Allowing productive workers to spend several hours a week each on unstructured research that might lead to nothing concrete might seem like an unaffordable luxury, but it fits with Hammel's
management style.As Hammel
sees it, one of Pitt Ohio's greatest strengths is its agility - the ability to research, develop and implement new initiatives before its competitors.
"Our service has not changed," Hammel
says."We have been a next-day carrier from the beginning."The beginning was 1979, when Hammel
brother launched Pitt Ohio Express.Although the company was new, the family was quite experienced in trucking.Hammel's
grandfather had started in the transportation business in 1919 with a horse and buggy, and Hammel's father had built a local trucking operation, Hammel's Express.
The focus on next-day service positioned Pitt Ohio
well for when just-in-time inventory scheduling started to take off."We knew we had a competitive advantage," Hammel
says."We were able to grow with that big wave.Creativity and looking at things differently has been rooted in our core for a long time."
The competition has become tougher since 1979.Today, Pitt Ohio
seeks to differentiate itself by capitalizing on trends early, Hammel
says.It does this by understanding the demographics and needs of the traffic managers, rather than just focusing on developing products and services to sell across its entire customer base.The company is continuously looking at how it does business with different groups of customers, and how it connects with people, both in terms of technology and customer loyalty.
"The younger generation is electronically motivated," Hammel
says."From a demographic standpoint, what may appeal more to a 30-year-old traffic manager based on what they are used to?"The company offers a full menu of e-commerce options and has seen rapid growth in the number of customers using its website to handle most, if not all, of their transactions.
In looking for ways to differentiate itself, Pitt Ohio
focuses on flexibility and willingness to deliver custom solutions, Hammel
"We are developing a slogan to ‘just say yes,' " Hammel
"We can stand each customer on their own merits and see the value we provide to them and the value they provide to us," Hammel
says."We never had that precision visibility before.Now we do."
Information to - and from - the peopleHammel
and other key executives understand that the value of competitive tools is limited if few people use them, and the culture at Pitt Ohio Express is one of empowering the entire organization by "democratizing" information.
...Years earlier, Chief Executive Officer Charles Hammel III had suggested that the company consider smaller equipment so it could hire drivers who didn't need commercial driver's licenses.
"When we presented it to Chuck
, he said, ‘See, I told you so,' " Johnson says.
asks."Not by running 53-foot trailers around [for every shipment].You might as well match the size of the equipment to the size of the shipment."And besides providing lower costs for customers, the delivery vans have allowed Pitt Ohio
"to go after a nontraditional work force," Hammel
...As the concept matured, Pitt Ohio Chief Executive Officer Charles Hammel III realized that trucking operations, including direct competitors, would be more comfortable doing business with Thought-Drivers' business units if it were a separate company.
The impetus behind ThoughtDrivers
was the trend toward consolidation in the LTL business and a desire to diversify and remain independent, says Hammel
."We wanted to become less of a pure-play LTL company and more of a transportation services provider."
One ThoughtDriver venture, launched in November, is The TruckGuardian Group
(www.truckguardian.com), a joint venture with The CEI Group to provide safety and risk management services to trucking companies.Pitt Ohio
has won numerous awards for its safety management, and executives saw an opportunity."There's no competitive advantage to being safe," Hammel
says."We want to push that out to the industry."
ThoughtDrivers also launched BI3 Solutions
(www.cubeitsolutions.com) to market Cube-IT, the business intelligence software the company has developed, and other similar systems.And the company is refurbishing used trucks and renting them to fleets.Hammel
and others continue to explore new opportunities.
now hopes to parlay the concept into a driver leasing program through ThoughtDrivers