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Coyote Logistics CEO Talks Expectations and Commitment at Patterson Lecture

Jeff Silver spoke Wednesday, April 20 in the Jacobs Center

When Jeff Silver entered the world of third-party logistics (3PL) in the 1980s, the industry suffered from a bad reputation.

“At the time, most people thought third-party logistics was less valuable than trucking companies,” he said. “I spent my career trying to prove them wrong.”

Jeff SilverThroughout the ’80s and ’90s, Silver worked to transform the 3PL industry with his company American Backhaulers, the second largest North American freight brokerage at the time. But he finally hit his career-long goal when he co-founded Coyote Logistics, one of the fastest growing 3PL service providers of all time. Silver shared how Coyote won customers by meeting their expectations at the 35th annual William A. Patterson Transportation Lecture.

Hosted by the Northwestern University Transportation Center, the lecture followed an industry workshop focused on biologics transportation. Silver’s talk, “No Excuses: Technology and Culture Meet a New Era of Expectation,” took place Wednesday, April 20 in the Donald P. Jacobs Center in Evanston.

In 2006 Silver left a PhD program in Northwestern Engineering’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences to start Coyote. He had left the 3PL industry six years earlier and found reentry intimidating. But he was pulled to build a company with a strong commitment to service. At the time, 3PL companies often committed to move loads for a shipper but only followed through 80 percent of the time.

“We knew we had to do something different,” Silver said. “We had to get customers to stop seeing us as a broker and start seeing us as a real carrier. We decided to move every load that we were committed to.”

Coyote has since grown into a $2 billion company, which moves 6,000 loads per day. It has also received “Carrier of the Year” awards from multiple clients, including Coca-Cola. “Our customers are committed to us because we are committed to them,” Silver said said.

Silver said Coyote’s commitment extends to its employees and discussed the importance of building a positive work environment. After being acquired by UPS last year, Coyote still maintains its office culture, where everyone’s ideas are heard and valued.

“Our growth was fueled by good ideas,” Silver said, “and the people we hired.” 

Industry Workshop Tackles Healthcare Biologistics 

Earlier in the day, the Transportation Center and the Northwestern Center for the Commercialization of Innovative Transportation Technology welcomed transit professionals and logistics experts to discuss transportation in the healthcare industry. 

The workshop, “Biologistics in a Changing Healthcare World,” tackled the industry’s role in transporting biologics, a burgeoning field of specialty pharmaceuticals capable of treating cancer and other complex illnesses. Valued at approximately $150 billion in 2015, biologics are projected to account for half of all prescriptions by 2020.  

As living microorganisms, biologics require cold chain — a supply chain process that adheres to strict temperature and storage standards to maintain the pharmaceuticals’ potency. The unique requirements pose a challenge for transit companies and logistics firms alike of how to best deliver in an increasingly decentralized healthcare landscape.

“The distribution of healthcare use to be concentrated to hospitals, but more and more materials are transported to outpatient centers and clinics,” said Dave Bode, vice president of health care solutions at DSC Logistics, a supply chain management organization. “How do we ensure they all receive what they need?”

To develop infrastructure capable of managing biologics deliveries, transit companies are outfitting their fleets with onboard cold storage facilities and comprehensive temperature monitoring. Freight and trailer tracking systems also help guarantee the high-value cargo reaches its destination safely and securely.

“There is no other industry where product integrity matters more than in healthcare,” said Bill Spillane, executive director of supply chain management for Astellas Pharma, a Japanese pharmaceutical company. “Providers and patients must trust that what they are receiving has not been tampered with or poorly handled. Supply chain professionals play a pivotal role in ensuring that integrity.”

Andrew Boyle, whose company Boyle Transportation handles security-sensitive cargo, said drivers are motivated by the importance of high-value deliveries like biologics.   

“Our employees embrace the ‘mission’ of serving the patient,” said Boyle, “Even if their role is small in the scheme of things, our drivers appreciate knowing they helped the product get to the right place at the right time.”