Ryan Nicol, Co-Owner of AIR-SHIP INTERNATIONAL INC., COOP Toronto, recently spoke with us about the history of his company and his current and future plans for it.
Q. How different is Air-Ship International now compared to when it was founded?
A. A lot of things have changed. The only thing that has stayed the same is the commitment to our customers. When Air-Ship was founded fax machines and typewriters were a large part of getting documentation completed; now almost everything is done online and we expect responses within hours instead of days. We have modernized the business to grow and bring Air Ship to be more efficient for all of our customers and agents. The other important aspect that has changed is our ability to move large, specialized cargo which was not considered with the previous ownership group. By having our own equipment within our group of companies, we are truly able to handle specialized cargo from the customer’s door. This allows us to be more competitive along with providing a much better service than traditional non asset based forwarders.
Q. What distinguishes Air-Ship International from other freight forwarders in your city?
A. Three main things come to mind. The first would be our location. We are located right at the Toronto International Airport which allows us to expedite air shipments typically one day faster than our competition (many of the airline warehouses are right below our office). The second thing would be our ability to handle the specialized cargo mentioned earlier. High value cargo such as agricultural equipment, glass, and armoured vehicles are commodities that we are handling routinely. The third thing would be our commitment to customer service. We have built a strong team that works well beyond the hours of 9-5 to ensure that our customers are looked after. This is especially important when operating in different time zones. If something can be fixed late at night instead of the following morning you have a chance to save your customer a day or two of transit. Attention to detail on every shipment gives all of our customers the peace of mind that their shipment is being looked after. This allows them to focus on their core business instead of freight.
Q. What are the main challenges facing the forwarders in Canada at the moment?
A. The main challenge would be the shrinking manufacturing base of customers that are exporting from Canada. Since the economic slowdown in 2008, a lot of manufacturing companies have moved from Canada to other countries or shutdown completely. There has also been a lot of consolidation within industries.
Q. How is the freight forwarding industry tackling these challenges?
A. The industry has had to be flexible. With a reduced number of customers it forces freight forwarding companies to innovate and focus more on the customers they do have. The news has been getting better though since the Canadian dollar has fallen due to the drop in oil prices.
Q. What are your immediate plans for Air-Ship International?
A. Our immediate plans are to continue to focus on growth both with our existing customer base as well as through our membership in The Cooperative Logistics Network which we have found to be very beneficial.
Q. What are your longer term ambitions for Air-Ship International?
A. Our longer term ambitions are to focus on technology to further streamline our processes which will make things more efficient. We are also interested in opening another Canadian location within the next five years (likely on the west coast) to better serve our existing and new customers.
We invite all members with shipments in Toronto to get in touch with the team.