Unified Logistics Holdings LLC CEO Geoff Davis describes his company’s operation as resembling a shopping mall food court. Unified Logistics’ four major and seven total affiliated companies operate in a manner similar to the court’s fast-food brands – as individual brands with distinctive products serving different customer bases, but with the same infrastructure behind it.
“Most people don’t realize that the back storage areas and kitchens at most food courts are the same, shared service,” Davis notes. “That’s what Unified Logistics is – a shared support system. We help our companies sell across their markets and back them up with the same IT backbone, working capital and procurement process.”
The majority of Unified Logistics’ affiliates’ customers are unaware of the greater organization. “Our companies operate independently, but take advantage of any opportunity they have to work together,” he adds. “Our businesses always come first – you’ll never see a Unified Logistics logo on one of our trucks.”
A New Opportunity
Davis and a group of investors began forming Unified Logistics in 2007 after they noted the profit potential of small, regional companies specializing in transporting highly urgent, fragile, perishable or very large cargo. Davis, a veteran of the transportation industry since 1985, had previously helped build an overseas courier network for UPS and managed another affiliated network for the Halbart Group, a subcontractor to UPS, FedEx, TNT, Airborne, BAX and others in the 1990s. One of the companies he familiarized himself with while in this role was ZIEGLER, a Belgium-based group of more than 50 logistics services and multimodal transportation providers.
Inspired by the ZIEGLER model, Davis and his investors began acquiring and partnering with longstanding transportation companies that had reached a crossroads in their ownership. All of Unified Logistics’ investments retain their assets, management and employees following their acquisition. “We provide an opportunity for a small business to become a part of something larger without sacrificing their independent operational capabilities or brand, and provide the owners who come to us a financial exit and way to keep the company going instead of having to sell off all its equipment, liquidate assets and lay off employees when they retire,” Davis says.
Four in One
Each of Unified Logistics’ holdings retained its individual region and market after joining the company, while also adding new capabilities. The company’s first two investments in 2008 were Silk Road Transport, a New York-based leader in transporting mass transit transportation vehicles such as subway and light rail cars; and Benchmark Energy Transport, a Houston-based oil and gas industry transporter.
Since its acquisition, Silk Road has expanded its work to include moving large tanks for breweries, as well as large fluid vessels and housing units for oil and gas operators working in the Marcellus Shale. Benchmark Energy Transport has expanded from its initial fleet of 100 trucks and one office to more than 300 trucks operating from 10 locations because of a similar shift in its business. The company initially specialized in urgent – or hotshot – transportation for oilfield companies, and now provides services including transporting entire oilrigs.
“One of our most proud accomplishments since joining Unified Logistics was the ability to transition from being a 24-hour oilfield hotshot company to [being] a more diverse logistics company to include, but not [be] limited to, heavy haul and brokerage,” COO Ramiro Hernandez says.
In 2011, Unified Logistics acquired Great Lakes Heavy Haul, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company. Since its acquisition, Great Lakes Heavy Haul has transitioned from being a tool and die carrier to transporting large structures including power generation and alternative energy equipment, windmills and industrial machinery across its region. A subsidiary, Specialized Carriers, provides emergency service restoration transportation for cellular providers and on-site delivery of medical equipment to hospitals and clinics.
“The Unified family has experience working in every form of venue and for every type of customer,” COO Randy Zuiderveen says. “Being able to tap into that experience allows us to navigate ahead of potential issues and helps us exceed our customer’s expectations in service and performance.”
Unified Logistics’ most recent acquisition came in 2012, when it added McTyre Trucking of Orlando, Fla., to its holdings. The company is one of Florida’s largest transporters of bridge steel and concrete to the construction industry, and it also ships large equipment such as turbines, generators and transformers to power stations.
Unified Logistics’ group of companies often join forces on individual projects. “Our real specialty here is identifying and investing in highly specialized transport businesses that can work together,” Davis notes.
For example, McTyre Trucking’s equipment, which can move a half-million pounds’ worth of cargo, is often utilized by the other three holdings when they need extra capacity. “We are expecting a great deal of synergy amongst the Unified companies in the future,” COO John McTyre says. “We look forward to increased buying power after pooling our interests and needs of trucks and other equipment.”
Unified Logistics continues to look for opportunities to add to its holdings even further. “We are in the acquisition phase right now and working on new investments, and we will continue to do so,” Davis says. “We have not slowed down.”