In this episode, Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez, CSO + President of Ascent On-Demand at Ascent Global Logistics, joins Host Brian Glick, CEO of Chain.io, to discuss:
- How technology has powered their supply chain operations
- The challenges of leading on-demand supply chains
- The difference between a digital platform and a logistics operation
- How to approach change management in supply chains
- The differences in workplace culture across the world
- Their strategy for embracing a digital experience
Mauro is an experienced supply chain executive with over 25 years in the industry. He led and transformed one of the top countries within the Kuehne + Nagel Network, and now serves as the CSO and President of On-Demand operations at Ascent Global Logistics. In his current role, he works with the M&A team to search, analyze and execute potential operations around the world to keep growing their business platform.
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Brian Glick 00:05
Welcome to supply chain connections. I'm Brian Glick, founder and CEO of chain IO. On today's episode, we're going to talk to Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez from ascent global logistics. Ascent specializes in critical freight and what they call on demand, which is all of the really complex things that most of us in the freight forwarding industry are afraid to touch. So we're going to talk a little bit about what it takes to implement technology in that space and change management, the difference in working with different company sizes, all in all, just a great conversation. So I hope you enjoy it.
Brian Glick 00:48
Mauro, thank you so much for joining me today.
Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez 00:50
My pleasure. Thank you very much for having me, Brian.
Brian Glick 00:53
So why don't you just give us a little bit of your background and kind of how you ended up with the Senate.
Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez 00:58
Okay, so, as you already know, I'm Argentinian, living in Europe for a while before living in Mexico for the last almost 20 years and having roles in the US, always working in the logistic industry since I was 18 years old. I was the president of Mexico, and also was in charge of the strategy of North America, Canada, US and Mexico as well. So after serving for a while, I decided to change and start my own adventure about innovation, you know, transformation and supply chain with my own company. And then I met the team of Ascendance who slowly started first as an external consultant for them, and then managing US Mexico and also the strategy for the single chief for the company. Right. So currently leading the on demand division in the US and Mexico. And we are very happy and excited because the business has been booming, like crazy, I think like everyone in logistics for the last couple of years. But the performance of said ascent is outperforming the rest of the market with the on demand and liquidity and service
Brian Glick 02:15
provision. So I have a whole bunch of questions. But I think the most important one is where in the US are you planning to come to see Messi play? Are you gonna go to Miami and wait to tell it comes to another city where you have a work trip?
Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez 02:29
Definitely Miami, right. We need to go and see. So I don't think that the interior of Miami realise that they will be swamped by Argentinians, flying to Miami every weekend. So I think they need to change that stadium for that for sure.
Brian Glick 02:47
I think they'll be happy to have you. So explain to me what on demand is in the world.
Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez 02:53
Yes, we have three divisions in the company, an international division company, then we have the growth region transportation within the USA for all the ground services and more that we perform. And the third one is the biggest organization's biggest one. And the oldest one is the on demand in which we organize the political, you know, logistics services, or charter OVC, or unbury, depending how you call it, and ground expedite solutions for our key customers or Gucci customers from, you know, the marketplace and working their need on this critical service because it's like the shutdown or a critical situation in their operations. And the team we execute, you know, all the operations with people working 24/7, guaranteeing the performance and the delivery of the parts of the service for keeping their supply chain up and running. So mainly the difference between the three divisions that one is focused on, predict and expedite solutions. And the other two are more for plan or schedule logistics services. Now with the structure and the real integration that we did a couple of years ago, we now are integrating everything into one single platform, which we call peak, it's our operational platform for the customers. And they could have every transportation mode or integration or digital experience for the integration into one single place.
Brian Glick 04:30
So I've seen a lot of different companies who work in expedited or project frayed or critical where each customer is so unique, and the demands and the needs are, you know very particular that it makes it sometimes hard to add technology to that because it's hard to find the commonalities and the common threads. So kind of how you kind of approach tech from that critical space.
Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez 04:56
We have a very strong you know, it In, they have been doing a fantastic job to integrate our whole operational system, you know, each division, they work with different TMS or operational platforms. But the connector or the fronting that we have with P, it's what makes us unique, and also the capability that we have sold the building and the marketplace solution. And from there connecting with the real execution of the freight service and the monitoring 24/7. That's our strength. It was a very important decision that the company took a couple of years ago, and now is paying off because for the customer, it's awesome to have everything in one single place. But interconnected. I mean, you just mentioned there is a lot of companies that they are very good in vendor management, or for leading solutions are the ones are very good for visibility, that analytics, but you don't have anyone that really integrate into the marketplace to the $3 payment I've seen along the 24/7 having people in US Mexico, and now we are opening Europe, that can be the operations and integrate the traditional logistics with the lychee goat solution. So I think it's the biggest advantage that we have over the rest.
Brian Glick 06:22
So that's really interesting, because I was having a conversation with someone the other day, and I'm trying to describe what I think the perfect IT environment looks like for a freight forwarder. And I described sort of an egg. And I said the inside of the egg should be software, you by right the ability to create a house bill or send an invoice or do accounting is not the things that your customer cares about. But that very thin eggshell around it is what makes everyone unique. It's how they bring those pieces together and package them for the customer. So it sounds like Does that kind of match how you guys have approached this, that you kind of buy the pieces that do the work and then build the shell around it? Does that make sense? So
Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez 07:03
Moreover, the business model that we are following, you know, some of my colleagues, they will have fun with what I'm going to say. But it's like a fly with a model, because of the way that we set up the technology. And we are growing the business, every time that we are onboarding a new customer, or we are onboarding a new carrier, a new provider into our ecosystem, you know, the solution gets stronger and stronger, because we optimize all the loads of the freight, all the volumes. We are certifying all our operators and everyone's winning. It's not only that the customer is getting a better price on their service, but also the couriers and the people that are working in the environment, they find themselves that they're much more busy than working independently. And the other important thing is that they can grow and they can get more operations. And moreover, right now within nearshoring, this is booming. And I think that will be one of the bottlenecks. So the strategy, as you correctly said about the eggs around every single aspect of the digital experience is what we are embracing and then connecting the systems to that from Denon that opportunity to optimize the loads on the freight.
Brian Glick 08:24
So you just actually brought up something else that I'm very curious about, because I don't have personally as much experience on the surface transportation side that the trucking, but I've always sort of heard different providers, when they talk about the actual carriers moving the loads, either be very, very passionate about being the sort of provider of choice and the best to work with, and others who are saying, like, it's like it's never even occurred to them. And there seems to be just very, very different attitudes there. So it sounds like you're in that first camp, right, that you kind of build partnerships with those with companies that are actually on the assets, but kind of what kind of thinking goes into that? Or am I making that completely up?
Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez 09:07
So no, no, no, no, I think that you're right and, you know, introduce the view, you don't have right or wrong, you have different strategies and different ways to lead the business. Our strategy is to make sure that the customer gets the best partners for the shipment and for the operation. And we are making sure that we are putting all options into the table for the customer, or the first obligation is to make sure that they are not failing. You know that everybody's delivering, as I said, on demand, alright, as I'd work, there is no room for failure. So we need to make sure that no piece or that part or that you know, machinery for the production gets to the right place at the right time. So you cannot serve the entire market by yourself. So that's why we are having these hybrid models in which we have our own asset As for the aircraft and for the ground services as well, then the customer has always the freedom to choose to assign the cargo to someone else. But the idea is to serve the customer in a way that they can optimize the market and they can really organize, making sure that they are getting the best benefit for what they are paying, right? We are working with carriers in air freight, for the aircraft piece from, you know, partners that we have in Mexico and USA internationally paying for the ground services. As I said, we are a very weird mix between a digital platform and logistic Operation 24/7. Right. So that's what I would say that we are setting ourselves apart from a traditional garden, we are more like an Uber solution, and maybe a traditional free beer.
Brian Glick 10:55
So I would imagine that, you know, given that a sense been around, you know, in in various forums, but then the last two years, that there's been some change management and bringing new technology and everything in, you know, and again, I my experiences with critical have been that the employees get very passionate about the customers and very passionate about, it has to be done this way, because we can't screw up the next shipment. So we can never change anything, because I can't screw up the next shipment. And this can't be the first one where I try the new process. And every single one of them is a heart monitor going to somebody or you know, or a critical part that's going to shut down a line, someone whose job is to drive change. How do you approach change management?
Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez 11:42
And what do you tell us about this driver is what has been going on in the company for the last couple of years, we have a great mix of personalities. And we have people that have been with the company over 2030 years delivering on demand and critical services from our previous name at the arrow. And they are very proud of what they're doing. And they're really, really expert, then we have a group of people coming from different companies, such as myself, that are trying to bring innovation change and also make sure that we are growing the business globally. I used to work with a chairman, a very famous repeal. So the mindset is completely different to what maybe the people are used to. So the idea is to start driving change based on clear opportunities that we are detecting. And because of customer obsession, as our chairman is always saying, we try to be, you know, pushing ourselves to improve and to change. It's not hard when you can show that right when you can show reality, not feeling. And this has been the angle that we have been taken advantage based on the technology show that there's still room for improvement in different areas, and people has been very receptive, create a roadmap and start making changes one of the time and make sure that this feeds into our global vision of becoming the Number One On Demand logistic provider,
Brian Glick 13:14
right? Do you think that newer employees or younger employees are more embracing of this change? The reason I ask is I got corrected a few years ago, we're just doing a warehouse systems project. And we always had this kind of rule that you had to be very gentle with bringing any tech into the warehouse because the employees would literally destroy it if they didn't like it. And that I was corrected. Nowadays. A lot of them embrace the tech, you know, they've grown up with it. It's a different thing and that maybe I was getting a little old in my thinking or do you see the same thing that employees were newer to the business maybe or just expect a lot of tech change?
Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez 13:53
In a way? Yes, I agree with your comment. You know, younger people are much more interconnected on their day to day stuff with technology and they know that this is evolving and changing all the time. On the other side, I think that also has to do with the mentality not only from the culture or the companies face when I joined and I found a team that was prepared to welcome new ideas in your way operating SMR that's what they were looking for. So of course you always have you know more friction with people that have been doing the same for many years. And sometimes you have these sharp you know blindness that you have been doing this for so long that you cannot see you know, the forest because you are seeing so close with three you know it's aware of it then you also have very young people that they are not expert and they think that everything will be changed with our computer or system. And honestly logistic has been proven for the last couple of years that we are not there yet to really do everything with only, you know, having one seat extended, definitely we are going into that direction. But it's so fragmented all the operations with customs clearance, you know, with transload, with PD DS and so on, I mean that this is still a people business, that you can, you know, empower and you can potentialize with the right platform, definitely. And nowadays, it's becoming more and more important to be interconnected. And to have everybody in the same picture, when I'm saying the same picture. It's not only from what I'm doing as a logistic provider, but also from understanding the data and information coming from the customers and their final customers or other plants or whatever. So we can make sure that we can see the whole ecosystem, and this will not stop. But still, human beings are making the difference in customer service on resolution of problems. So I think that you have some pushback from poor people, but it's more about the pride of what you're doing. And if you are the best at doing what you're
Brian Glick 16:05
doing, right. You know, I remember on the customs brokerage side, talking to one of my colleagues one time about the difference between what it took to do data entry on a paper customs filing, versus reviewing a customer's electronic data. And that, what we found was that it was actually much harder to do the automated filings in the sense of auditing the data and paying attention and looking at the date on the screens, versus the sort of raw data entry and that, you know, the people who were our best people got better with the automation, because they spent their time thinking about the customers problems, instead of just typing whatever was on the paper, it's at the computer. So all of these smart people who've been doing it a long time still have a lot of value when it comes to making sure that the computer is doing what it's supposed to be doing. So tell me a little bit about and we'll make a call to anyone out, but you know, going from, you know, an organization that was, you know, an excess of 40,000 employees to one that's significantly smaller than that, was that a cultural whiplash for you? What are some of the pros and cons between big and small,
Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez 17:20
As I said, you know, it's not so much about being big or small, or to the global or more regional niche player, it's more about flexibility and the willingness to grow. You know, working in a company like us, gives you the freedom to create, and to transform things much more closely to not only the customer, but also related to the people in a very big established organization as well. It used to work, people lost the driver, people were making the change, but it was like, if you already have all the processes and all the systems in place, so it was more like a repetitive job. This one in my particular case is much more fun in the sense of creating from scratch all the solutions that we had been presenting potentialized In what we used to have, because it was not by chance that the company had so many years and so much success, especially in the on demand division on international as well, but we were much smaller. In the ground, he was much more fragmented, these the brokerage fees. But what really caught my attention is the difference in the culture between a German organization and an American organization. The point of views, the way to feel these last hour to grow to embrace the changes are completely different, you know what it's more like, you know, process driven and, you know, planning, the other one is more about growing the market and the ability to whatever it takes to make the changes, and then we can do the reverse engineering how we are going to build the process. And it has been very fun. So far, at least, from my personal point of view, which one's better? I don't know, I had been learning things from the two sides already.
Brian Glick 19:21
I'll tell you, I just got back from a week in Germany. And it is always something that as an American, I have to remind myself that not every decision has to be made in the first meeting in the first 30 seconds. Sometimes as Americans, it takes a trip to Europe to kind of help me realize that sometimes we're just running around screaming all the time. We feel like if we're not two steps ahead of the problem sometimes that we are behind it, and that I have to remind myself to slow down and that there's a lot of value in long term thinking and being methodical and how you make a decision. So I think there's a lot to be said for both arches. So
Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez 20:01
Trust me, I have been working in German culture almost all my professional life, so I know them quite well. But also the American way of thinking sometimes creates that disruption that the business and the industry needs. And then from there follow, so I think that you have the right things in science, right? Absolutely. The point is try to be balanced, you know, and try to get order to that disorder and bring some chaos to that organization, because otherwise you get compliance. And because you already have the process, it's very difficult to adapt to change. So I think that it's a good blend when you have both things in your background.
Brian Glick 20:44
What are you excited about? What's coming up soon? Or what do you see in the industry that's got you kind of worked up nowadays?
Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez 20:51
Well, personally, I'm much more focused on science, if you want, I can make the answer to, I'm really excited about the opportunity that now we are developing about taking us and to be around the world to not only the regional player in North America, has been for the last years. But now, you know, opening offices in Europe, in Asia, in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East for serving our customers, and interconnecting these on demand and international forwarding, or, you know, expedite and scheduled services into one. This is really exciting. And I think that for the next five to 10 years, the company will be in this, you know, transformation process all the time. And for me, that's really fun. In terms of the industry, they think that technology is definitely disrupting everything. And we are seeing more and more integration and need to move, aside from being traditional Threepio and become more like a data analytics and data driven company, right? This mesh concept about, you know, being able to bring everything together and from there make better decisions is in the way that the industry is operating. And because of the unfortunate current scenario that we are seeing in the geopolitical situation. And also, you know, with all this disruption in the supply chain, and climate change, and so on, I think that on demand services, or a resilient supply chain are going to be more and more necessary. So I think it's an exciting time and opportunity for a company like ours, to continue growing and blending these technologies with the expertise that we already have for many years. I think that's the most exciting thing for me at this moment.
Brian Glick 22:58
Awesome. Well, I think that might be a really good time to wrap, we'll end on a note of optimism. I've always been fascinated, you know, having grown up in the very methodical retail space by any time I ever got to work on anything that was on demand or expedited. It was always the fun stories that you got to tell at parties. So I'm a little bit jealous. And thank you so much for joining me on the show today.
Mauro Rodrigo Gonzalez 23:20
My pleasure, right on February, March. And thanks to your team, you're doing a fantastic job.
Brian Glick 23:26
Thank you. Thank you so much to my art for that wonderful conversation. Again, it's just so exciting to hear about all these different parts of the industry and the different perspectives that people get to bring when they work on unique niches inside of the space. And I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Make sure to subscribe to the channel blog if you haven't already. We have a lot of big announcements coming up and some really, really cool things going on across the industry. Until next time, I'm Brian Glick, founder and CEO of Chain.io.