Let’s Celebrate: The Western Growers Transportation Program Turns 10.Transportfolio
Transportation is (and always has been) a fundamental issue for fresh produce. In fact, a handful of growers in the Imperial Valley located in southern California founded Western Growers because of a transportation issue. The particular issues they faced in 1926 were tied to the railroad—rates, service levels, and equipment availability to be specific. And 10 years ago, we still faced many of those same problems, across all modes. So we created the Western Growers Transportation Program (WGTP).
While many of our problems revolved around service levels and capacity, we as growers had another problem on our hands. Traditionally, transportation was a buyer’s responsibility. But slowly more and more buyers wanted a full-service option—one that included transportation arrangements. Many growers were ill equipped to handle the transportation of their goods, much less do it efficiently and reliably.
Creating a transportation program for members
If you’re interested, I’ve covered a lot of Western Grower’s background in a previous post. But the most important thing is that our membership provides around 50% of the country’s fresh produce. So you can imagine why finding a practical transportation solution was so important.
We set out to create a turnkey solution that not only provided consistent transportation options for our members, but also supported them in ways so they could focus on their core competencies—growing, harvesting, and packaging nutritious, fresh produce. And that’s what we did with C.H. Robinson’s help.
Why the program is successful
The key to the whole program is the level of partnership between Western Growers and C.H. Robinson. Because of how well informed the employees at C.H. Robinson are about the marketplace, many of our members consult with their representatives regularly to learn more about all kinds of supply chain needs—from approaching customers about transportation to finding the right freight lanes.
We want people to participate, so there is no fee or minimum volume requirement to be part of the program. And we want to keep it that way. WGTP helps our members see that transportation should be a strategic, not transactional topic. And it helps members show their customers how integral they are to the business—like any other supplier. Ultimately, it’s a pretty easy sell because members can clearly see how the program helps fulfill customers’ needs and expectations.
What we’ve learned in 10 years
It’s been 10 years since the inception of WGTP. And we’ve learned a lot. Every day the program proves itself by being a resource that can accommodate the needs of customers and adjust to marketplace changes.
In a way, the program has morphed into more than we intended. It’s no longer a simple transportation program. Now it provides solutions for all kinds of supply chain challenges—from just in time inventory and cross-border opportunities. Because of this shift, I know we chose the right company to work with 10 years ago. C.H. Robinson’s fundamental attributes of integrity, innovation, and commitment to customers makes all the difference for the program.
Celebrating a big milestone
In comparison to the 90- and 111-year anniversaries of our respective companies, 10 years may seem like a drop in the bucket. But because those 10 years have been filled with kept promises, ongoing commitment, and continuous improvement, we plan to celebrate.
Together, Western Growers, C.H. Robinson, Feeding America, and other licensed associations participating in WGTP will host a giving day on August 24, 2016. Growers can contribute by donating—either a monetary or product donation. C.H. Robinson will provide support by transporting the food donations to Feeding America locations across the country.
Check back here after the event to find out how much we raised to help solve hunger.
This post was guest authored by Matt McInerney, Senior Executive Vice President of the Western Growers Association.