RLS Logistics, a third-generation cold chain solutions provider in the U.S., recently created a joint venture that will offer customers the ability to work with regional family-run cold storage providers on a national basis. The cornerstone of the plan is to partner with existing best-in-class operators in ten to twelve megaregions of the U.S., as well as Eastern and Western Canada. These operators, referred to as Partnering Regional Operators (PROs), will maintain significant equity in their respective regions and will continue to oversee operations, customer relationships, and team member development. As RLS builds out this network, food manufacturers will be able to expand into new markets with the benefit of trusted relationships, hands-on involvement, and the commitment of a family-run company.
Small- and medium-sized manufacturers of frozen and refrigerated foods will now have an entrepreneur-led alternative to the larger and more bureaucratic providers. "Food producers who are used to dealing directly with the owner of the business will be able to continue that tradition. Customer relationships and customized solutions are at the foundation of our business model, and we believe keeping key business decisions local will speed our responsiveness and differentiate our offering," explains Tony Leo, CEO of RLS Logistics, Warehousing Group.
Today over 60 percent of public cold storage operations in the U.S. are owned by only a handful of companies. After seeing the impact of consolidation in the cold chain industry in recent years, RLS decided it was time to innovate and create a better alternative for its customers. "For manufacturers that are too small to be a priority at a larger provider, the RLS network provides the ideal combination of responsive service and scalability," says RLS Chief Investment Officer, Tom Casey. "There are multiple opportunities to invest capital for new facilities, acquisitions, and other growth initiatives with our regional partners and their customers."
Through this new program, RLS is combining the regional expertise and commitment of successful family-owned companies with the capital resources of a much larger provider. "There are a lot of small- and medium-sized companies who want to do business with a network of family-owned service providers," said Russell Leo, CEO of Transportation for RLS Logistics. "This especially allows mid-market food manufacturers carrying multiple inventories access to reliable family-owned cold storage where they will be able to get the service levels they require."
Today, family-owned operators must decide between competing with the larger providers or joining forces with them. RLS' approach is designed to appeal to owners who want to continue to play a vital role in the company strategy and maintain their autonomy—in other words, keep doing what they love.
The agile nature of family-owned cold chain companies and their sharing of best practices in the new RLS network could be just what food manufacturers need. Together with proven transportation programs, modern facilities, and integrated technology, customers will have access to a new distribution network with the benefits of an entrepreneurial partner.