Third party logistics provider (3PL) Logistics Plus Inc. is continuing to roll out new business units in response to broad changes in the business climate as the coronavirus pandemic triggers severe capacity restrictions in air cargo and in the delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Erie, Pennsylvania-based Logistics Plus today said it has created a dedicated "LP Air Charter Group" within the company to focus on expanding its air cargo capacity and developing new business opportunities around the world. And that launch follows the firm’s earlier move this spring to start a medical equipment import arm called LP Med.
The 3PL formed both divisions as airfreight capacity remains tight, since large passenger airlines, which normally carry 50% of all cargo, remain grounded due to pandemic travel restrictions.
According to Logistics Plus, that trend has made air charters increasingly important to time-critical supply chains. "We've always been very proficient at sourcing and managing air charters," Yuriy Ostapyak, the company’s COO and director of global operations, said in a release. "Due to pandemic-related air capacity challenges, the need for PPE supplies for our LP Medical division in the U.S. and abroad, and our overall growth trajectory, we felt the timing was right to give this service its own, dedicated resources to manage the operations and drive additional growth.”
The Houston-based air charter group has already coordinated shipments including multiple PPE air charters from China to the U.S.; PPE air charters from China to South America; and hazmat air charter cargo from the U.S. to North Africa, the company said.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania-based LP Med division continues to expand, after launching in the early days of the pandemic, which business and travel shutdowns had just begun in the U.S. and consumers were struggling to find PPE supplies, said Gretchen Seth, international senior vice president at Logistics Plus. “In the beginning, people were completely out of stock on everything. And there were a lot of players in the market who didn’t have any business being there, making promises they couldn’t keep, and delivering substandard goods,” Seth said.
The issue of PPE shortages really grabbed the company’s attention in February, when Logistics Plus was fulfilling a contract to provide warehousing for pharmaceutical goods supplied by a partner in China, she said. “One day a box arrived from our Shanghai office with a note saying 'here are some things we think you’re going to need.’ It contained gloves, three-ply masks, and N-95 masks, and they said ‘We can get you more; we have contacts’,” Seth said. “So we started chartering aircraft and bringing in planeloads of PPE based on anticipated demand from hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and some businesses.”
The company already had expertise with air charters and they were able to leverage that with a new focus on rare PPE goods. LP Med began by stocking up on basic masks and gloves, then added “iso gowns” and body bags—as death counts climbed—and now they have added electrostatic sprays, air purifiers, and hand sanitizer stands. “Our clients are getting conflicting advice from local versus state and federal authorities,” Seth said. “But as we get into the long term, people are realizing they should just stock up on sanitizer, antiseptic wipes, three-ply masks, and reusable cotton masks.”
LP Med has now begun offering consulting services for reopening plans, such as calculating mask consumption for a given business over weeks or months. The division also provides warehousing service for clients, since large scale PPE buyers such as nursing homes often have a small receiving dock to accept their orders, but not enough storage space to hold them. “So now a nursing home can order 50,000 masks, and we’ll store them. Then they can send us a note ordering 2,000 or 5,000 units at a time,” Seth said. “Our wall is covered with thank you notes from customers. It gives you a good feeling that you were able to make a difference.”