Call it a medical emergency, but no single patient was involved. The hospital needed an expensive medical equipment sterilizer, on a holiday weekend. The supplier, Houston-based Surgiquip Solutions Inc., was having to eat the cost of a couple of truckloads. And carriers were quoting "exorbitant" rates with a three-day transit time, recalls company vice president Robert W. Gonzalez. Then TransGroup Worldwide Logistics stepped in.
Liz Figueroa, TransGroup's sales rep for Surgiquip, arranged for delivery of the sterilizer within a day and a half, damage-free, says Gonzalez. The carrier came up with a bobtail unit that could move the 1,800-pound shipment to Houston from Omaha, Neb. "We beat our deadline," says Gonzalez. "They were faster than anyone else we could find, at about half what others wanted to charge us."
As the name suggests, Surgiquip specializes in surgical equipment and supplies. The company offers a wide range of high-tech items for operating rooms, including tables, lighting, camera systems, scrub sinks and booms. It services nearly every hospital in the Houston area, Gonzalez says. The value of its contracts can run into the millions of dollars.
Within a 150-mile radius of Houston, Surgiquip is the exclusive dealer of medical equipment from Skytron, a major supplier based in Grand Rapids, Mich. Skytron usually takes care of its own shipping arrangements, but that responsibility falls on Gonzalez's shoulders when other manufacturers are involved, or when he's ordering items for placement in a showroom, creating a mock operating room with a quarter million dollars' worth of equipment.
In a business where service is critical, Gonzalez values personal relationships as the best way to ensure quality and reliability. Surgiquip got to know Figueroa when she was with Aries Freight Systems, its carrier at the time. When she moved over to TransGroup, Surgiquip did, too. "We've been using them exclusively for a few years," says Gonzalez.
TransGroup provides pickup and delivery of equipment, including airfreight service when necessary. Gonzalez appreciates the series of e-mail alerts that he receives on his iPhone as soon as an order is placed. He knows the status of pending orders at all times, information that he can pass on to his own customers and relieve their anxieties about late shipments. The availability of status information also helps TransGroup to schedule installations, which might involve multiple pieces of equipment coming from different locations.
The carrier can handle the unexpected, too. At one point Gonzalez had to return a 4,000-pound sterilizer to its manufacturer, Omaha-based Primus Sterilizer Co. Surgiquip had ordered a second sterilizer to conform to building design changes made by one of its customers, and Primus needed the first unit back quickly for another account. Sterilizers can take months to build from scratch, requiring extensive testing, and Primus didn't have time to wait.
No one wanted to take responsibility for the big, expensive unit, which wasn't crated or palletized. Once again, TransGroup accepted the job. The carrier picked up the sterilizer, took it to its warehouse, crated the equipment and shipped it out in time to meet Primus's demand for speedy delivery.
A reliable carrier can also help to cement relations between distributors. One of Surgiquip's fellow Skytron dealers, based in Arkansas, needed a portable surgical light the very next day. The item, with a price tag of $11,000, was on backorder at the manufacturer. Surgiquip happened to have a demonstration model and was willing to lend it to the Arkansas dealer. At stake was a sale worth half a million dollars, so the cost of transit was no object. TransGroup took responsibility for the emergency transfer from Houston, coming up with a smaller "hot shot" vehicle, and delivered the light damage-free.
Gonzalez is able to respond quickly to customer needs even while traveling. A single phone call to TransGroup is all it takes to schedule a pickup or delivery, he says. On one occasion, Surgiquip had to process an emergency order for three sterilizers while Gonzalez was in Nebraska, training at the facility that makes the units. Reaching Figueroa on her day off, he was able to arrange the shipment via TransGroup in time.
Gonzalez doesn't require a carrier that specializes in his industry, but he does need one that can deliver sensitive, big-ticket equipment with speed, reliability and zero damage. For Surgiquip, that carrier is TransGroup. "They've never let me down," he says. "They've always taken care of me."
TransGroup Worldwide Logistics, www.transgroup.com
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