Transportation company earns international rating

Thursday, September 12, 2002

ISO certification could bring 25-30 percent increase in business

By Jill Bock

Special to Business Today

CHARLESTON -- Big Lake Transport Inc. is on a roll. And now with its International Organization for Standardization certification, the trip is taking them to bigger and better things every day.

But it all began small in Southeast Missouri.

From its founding in 1969, Big Lake Transport emphasized dedication to professionalism that continues to fuel the company. Today the company includes 110 over-the-road trucks and employs some 200 people through its terminal operations here and in Laredo, Texas.

The company transports general commodities that are primarily used by automotive and electronic companies from Mexico to Canada and anywhere in between.

General manager M.L. "Marte" Rupprecht describes Big Lake Transport as an "on-time carrier." The companies, many in the Fortune 500, that use their services depend on this type of service. For example, one is an auto parts distributor and rather than keep large storerooms filled with parts they use Big Lake Transport to keep a one-day supply.

Big Lake Transport with its record of 99-plus percent on-time deliveries is a business companies have come to depend on.

Their success, Rupprecht suggested, is a combination of hard work by employees and a willingness of the company to invest in technology. Satellites track local shipments and accurately estimate delivery time; mobile communication systems enable drivers to keep in touch.

"These investments have allowed us to be more effective and build a good relationship with our customers," said Rupprecht.

Adding to the success was earning the International Organization for Standardization certification in April. Howard Parker, director of safety and manager for the company's ISO program, said the process took about nine months and required the company to establish detailed quality procedures and ways to maintain them.

Parker compares the ISO ratings to having a college Ph.D.

"Customers will look to see if a company is DOT (Department of Transportation) compliant, but the ISO puts us in a different category. A whole bunch of questions are immediately answered by the ISO - that we have on-time delivery, policies in place, the management structure and the equipment that can provide quality service."

Part of the certification process was to keep track of problems from customer service to maintenance to safety and look at ways to reduce them. To maintain the certification the organization audits Big Lake Transport's documentation every six months.

"This provides a smoother ride when trying to function. There is a procedure to go through and if you have a question, you can fall back on procedures," said Parker, picking up the manual that guides workers through the ISO process. "And it helps us to maintain high quality for our customers and also attracts high quality customers." He estimated since earning the ISO certification, Big Lake Transport has added three new accounts.

Parker said he is not aware of any other trucking companies that are ISO certified in Southeast Missouri and estimated there are just a handful statewide who have attained the rating. Nationwide, Parker said some 1 to 2 percent of the nation's carriers have achieved the ranking.

And while the Texas terminal is not actually ISO certified, Parker pointed out its staff follows the same quality-control procedures as the Charleston site. The entire workforce from Laredo to Charleston strive for constant improvement, he emphasized.

And they don't intend to stop. Now with the ISO certification in hand, the general manager said 2003 should bring a 25 to 30 percent increase in their operations.

"Usually when you are growing that fast there are lots of growing pains, but right now everything seems to be working," said Rupprecht. "We think the 25 to 30 percent growth is on the low side. Those are good problems to have. We would rather have too much business than not enough."

Jill Bock is editor of the Standard Democrat in Sikeston.

PIC -- Big Lake Transport general manager M.L. Rupprecht, left, and Howard Parker, director of safety and manager for the company's ISO program. Photo by Jill Bock

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