Atlas Amplifier PDF (2 MB)
An executive based in Los Angeles takes an assignment in New York City. She needs to relocate immediately to fill a temporary, critical role. Even though the possessions she plans to ship weigh only 3,000 pounds, she finds it will take three weeks or longer for them to be delivered. There are many variations on this scenario. All of them involve a customer who needs to transport belongings quickly. Until recently, these customers have had little choice but to rely on the traditional delivery channel. But that is rapidly changing.
During the summer of 2006, Atlas began testing Accel, a premium service option for expedited delivery. As the name implies, the essence of Accel is speed. "Our customers told us they wanted a faster delivery option," says Atlas Sr. Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Greg Hoover. "So we developed a solution that responds to their request...a swift and practical alternative to the traditional transportation pipeline."
A standardized shipping container provides the critical piece in the Accel solution. The specially designed unit features a 270 cu. ft. capacity. Its strong polymer construction gives it a maximum rating of 3600 pounds. The weight when loaded is typically around 1400 pounds. "However," says Greg, "it's important to note that this is not a weight-based model in terms of pricing — it's a flat 'per container' fee." "The container is also lockable and comes with GPS tracking," says Greg, "providing added measures of confidence for the customer."
The Accel container measures 7.5' long x 6.0' wide x 8.0' high — a size that accommodates most household furnishings. For items over 88 inches long, such as large sofas, customers may request optional crating at an additional cost. Greg explains that Accel is typically best suited for customers with smaller shipments, usually under 5000 pounds.
"Now, for an additional cost, anyone can dramatically reduce the time between when their goods are picked up and when they are delivered."
"A primary challenge in bringing this idea to life was the need for a partnership with the right transportation provider," says Atlas World Group Vice Chairman, President and COO Jim Stamm. "We knew we could proceed only if our partners were committed to integrity, quality and solutions — hallmarks of the Atlas brand."
Atlas developed a short list of potential container partners in commercial transit. At the head of that list was Smart Move, a containerized transit company based in Denver.
"This partnership dovetails nicely with our agency service network," says Greg. "It expands our capability with an alternate capacity outside our traditional interstate network and enables us to leverage our agency strengths for packing and loading. This reassures our customers of the quality they expect from Atlas."
As you would expect, Accel carries a premium price for service. But it brings added value that can produce significant savings for customers by drastically cutting temporary living expenses.
"It's not unusual for a couple, for example, to incur costs of $300 or more a day for lodging and food," says Greg. "So if a customer cuts ten days of expense that can amount to over $3000 dollars. In other words, the sooner a family can settle into the new home, the less their total temporary living expense will be."
To make it easy to evaluate the potential for savings in any given situation, Atlas is developing an automated pricing model that customers can access on the Atlas web site. By entering basic information on what they wish to transport and their destination, customers will get an instant answer on the cost and timing for their shipment.
"Obviously, there is a correlation between enhanced service and price," says Jim. "The savings vary for people in different situations. Accel is not designed to replace the traditional service model and its economies. Rather, it's one more option that can help people relocate in a way that works best for them."
On any given day, a visit to the dispatch area at Atlas headquarters will find a group of professionals choreographing an intricate dance. Their job: to bring efficiency to the movement of shipments with vastly different sizes, weights, origins and destinations. Traffic is heavier on some days than on others. And the challenge is always greatest during the summer months.
"We strive to operate as efficiently as possible to serve the interests of every customer," says Dennie Lynn, Senior Vice President of Transportation, Atlas Van Lines. "Matching our customers' shipments to available equipment is like putting together a big puzzle while the sizes and shapes of the pieces keep changing."
A fully loaded tractor-trailer typically carries around 25,000 pounds. The average household goods shipment weighs about 8,000 to 10,000 pounds, although smaller shipments can weigh as little as 2,000 to 3,000 pounds.
"Larger shipments tend to take precedence, simply because they maximize the volume the system can handle," says Dennie. "Conversely, smaller shipments can take longer — not because they are any less important, but because their size makes them more challenging to fit into the overall puzzle."
Seen another way, the distribution system is somewhat like a restaurant with a waiting list. You would expect a party of two to be seated before a party of six. But, depending on the sizes of available tables, that isn't always the case. Like the conscientious restaurateur, Atlas has to manage its capacity to provide the best overall service for every customer.
During each of the last two years, the puzzle has become a little more challenging with the largest volumes Atlas has ever handled. However, with the introduction of Accel, Atlas now brings customers a premium service option that dramatically reduces transit time. "Obviously, there is a correlation between speed and cost," says Dennie. "Accel won't — nor can it — replace the traditional service model, which works well for the vast majority of customers. "While Accel is not an answer to the dispatch puzzle, it may bring a modicum of relief. By giving customers another choice, Accel takes a little pressure off the system. "Smaller shipments will probably always present a challenge for the van line infrastructure," says Dennie. "But Accel offers a workable option for those who want to consider a premium service."