By Mike Beggs, Mississauga Business Times
Crossborder shopping in Buffalo is, by now, a tradition well-ingrained in Toronto types. But the Buffalo-based JBF Express is one trucking and distribution/warehousing company which has found its forte by looking across the border in the opposite direction.
According to president Jim Brewer, more than 70 per cent of their business is derived from Canadian companies within the Golden Horseshoe – many of them situated in Mississauga, or within the shadow of Pearson International Airport. This family-run business specializes in less than truckload (LTL) transportation services between the U.S. and Canada, offering expeditious and secure next day service, along with customized warehousing and distribution services at its 20,000-squarefoot facility in the Buffalo suburb of Depew.
“We give them the ability to access the U.S. market, exporting and selling to the U.S.,” Brewer says. “And conversely we do some of the same, providing access to make purchases in the U.S.”
“One of the key things is, we consolidate, or cross dock freight. We tend to do it a little bit quicker than other companies do.” And because goods received in Buffalo and bound for the GTA are handled once at most at the warehouse, he points out, “their freight is in such good shape when it gets to their door. There’s very little damage.” Another of JBF’s calling cards is providing same day service for UPS and FedEx, for its Canadian customers.
“We will bring it down, turn it over to FedEx or UPS in Buffalo the same day,” he explains. “It’s entering the U.S. commerce that same day. They’re getting the same transit time as if they were in the U.S.” They also help True North customers with mailing services, making deliveries to the Buffalo post office.
JBF utilizes a state-of-the-art, RF-based warehouse management system, which allows customers real time, up-to-date access to inventory and orders. They provide full service fulfillment, and pick and pack service, and can customize a plan to suit the company’s warehouse and distribution needs.
All this enables customers to right size their shipping costs, and focus on their core competencies, in these times of escalating freight and fuel prices, recession and recovery.
Essentially, JBF Express provides a stateside shipping centre for its Canadian customers, even for companies that may already have a physical presence in the Buffalo area, or the U.S. in general.
“We can provide a link between these two business locations,” says Brewer’s son Jeff, company vice president. And while JBF has serviced its share of major manufacturers (auto, etc.) over the
years, Jim finds, “we actually tend to do better with sma ll to medium-sized companies, because we’re a really good fit (for them).”
Large freight forwarders and third party logistics providers also utilize its services. Jim launched JBF Express in 2000, with more than 20 years experience in the business (and a business degree from the U. Buffalo) under his belt. He has built the company up with a “whatever it takes” attitude to customer service that resonates through the ranks of their 20 employees. He finds JBF is large enough to satisfy the diverse needs of its customers, but small enough to give each one special attention. ‘We’re a family business, so we’re really hands-on and we know exactly what’s in our
warehouse. We have very good and tight control over their freight,” he explains.
“They get answers right away,” Jeff adds in. “Here, they talk to the same people every day. They get a direct answer from the same person each time.” Both father and son hold a commercial
“If it takes one of us to jump in the truck to get the product to the customer, that’s what we do,” Jeff adds. JBF’s full list of warehousing and distribution services includes: order fulfillment; pick and pack; consolidation and deconsolidation services, storage/ inventor y control, northbound and southbound consolidation, inventory management web-based access for each
customer to real-time inventory and orders (including history), returns processing, warehouse management system, cross dock and storage (long and short-term).
Its trucking services take in: cross border trucking carrier (USA and Canada bonded); less than truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FTL) and small parcel delivery and pickup service; same day service from Canada to FedEx and UPS Buffalo; trucking service throughout the entire U.S. and Canada; tractor trailers, straight trucks, and lift gate and tail gate service.
With a population of 2 million, Buffalo has proven to be a “great location” for them as a gateway for goods going northbound and southbound across the border. JBF Express is situated just 17 minutes from the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, and just 1.5 hours from the Greater Toronto Area. What’s more, it’s less than one day’s travel away from more than 50 per cent of the U.S. population, and 60 per cent of the Canadian population. Buffalo accommodates 38 per cent of the total trade conducted between the U.S. and Canada, and the Buffalo-Niagara gateway is the second-busiest
crossborder gateway (behind DetroitWindsor).
“It’s a main hub,” Jim says. “There are probably three or four competitors (based in Buffalo). What makes us unique, we have both the warehouse and the trucks.” And these days he finds transportation and logistics “all go hand in hand”. “We’re an extension of the supply chain for a lot of companies,” he adds. “We’re alink in the chain for them.”Some of the biggest changes to the
business over the past decade relate to the modernization of the customs process, and the tightening up of security (particularly since 9/11).
“On both sides of the border they keep moving with it,” Jeff comments. “For us, it’s really keeping up with the times on it.” JBF Express is a certified C-TPAT, and PIP partner ensuring the safe and secure movement of cargo across the border, and is fully compliant with the CBSA e-Manifest program (which will require carriers in all transportation modes to e-mail advance information to the Canadian Border ServicesAgency).
“They can electronically let them know prior to arrival, this is what’s coming on this truck,” Jeff explains. “It’s more work, but that really has great potential for speeding
up processing at the border, without compromising security.”
While the transportation industry is super-competitive, with its flexibility and full-service philosophy, JBF Express has managed to ride the highs and lows of the economy, the evolution of the global marketplace, and the stricter rules and regulations, to record “pretty steady growth every year.”
And with its high percentage of customers located in Mississauga and its immediate neighbours, JBF may soon be doing more than paying regular visits to its customers here.
“The biggest thing for us is to go up there, and set up a warehouse/trucking/logistics facility. That would be huge,” Jim says. “It’s probably even bigger for us up there than here.”
“We’ve talked about it for a while. We’re actually in the planning stages of it.” With Toronto the largest city in Canada, and just 90 miles away from Buffalo, expanding into this market is “the next
“I really think Toronto is next, just because of the commercial market of southern Ontario through New York state. Our business exists to service the needs of Canadians,” Jeff adds.
“Our economy has really become an extension of the economy of southern Ontario. It’s easier to see the Leafs in Buffalo than Toronto.”