Amit Hasak Of Transship: How We Are Helping To Create A Resilient Food Supply Chain

An Interview With Martita Mestey

Martita Mestey
Authority Magazine

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Shippers typically have to deal with 3–5 different vendors to process just one shipment. This results in long delays trying to get all the various vendors on the same page since they are all also based on manual labor business models.

The cascading logistical problems caused by the pandemic and the war in Eastern Europe have made securing a reliable supply chain a national imperative. What must agriculture companies and policymakers do to ensure secure and resilient food supply chains? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders who can share insights from their experiences about how we can address these challenges. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amit Hasak.

Amit Hasak has 25 years of experience in the cold supply chain industry. He owned and operated a cold storage warehouse in Chicago. Most of his customers were exporters of perishable goods such as frozen beef, poultry and pork. It was their constant complaining to him about how difficult the shipping process was that convinced Amit to start Transship Corp. The idea was to automate as much, if not the entire cold supply chain. Incorporated in 2017 and had 2.5 years of R&D, Launched in May 2020 with one customer. As of 2022, Transship has over 20 customers and is growing steadily with every passing month. Transship is an alumni of Techstars farm to Fork Accelerator program and is an approved vendor for such companies as Tyson Meats, UNFI and Oatly Milk Products.

Outside of work, Amit has been happily married to his spouse, Etty, a mosaic artist, for 37 years. He has two children and three grandchildren. Amit is a nationally ranked Masters swimmer, competed in 20 Olympic Triathlons and published his first novel, Pops and Me.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I was born in Rotterdam Holland, which seems fitting and ironic since Transship focuses on maritime shipments. I moved to Israel when I was 3 and to Chicago when I was 6. After graduating from Bradley University with a B.S. in Business Administration, I moved to Israel for the next 15 years. Moved back to Chicago in 1999 to run the cold storage warehouse.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Having owned and operated an 85 year old cold storage warehouse for 25 years, yes I have a lot of interesting and unusual stories to share. The facility was 10 floors high with 4 freight elevators to move the product to and from the freezer rooms. Only after I sold the property did I hear that some of the company’s employees were convinced that floors 5–10 were haunted because they heard children yelling whenever they went up there. So, unbeknownst to me, these employees refused to go to floors 5–10.

So much for bizarre stories. The big story is that the cold storage warehouse business was extremely low tech. Now at Transship, I feel much better with the trajectory of this company and the importance of innovation and technological advancement to greatly improve on the old and outdated supply chain business models.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

In my opinion any successful leader must have these three character traits in order to even have a chance at success. Determination, cool under pressure and being open minded.

Determination

This start up business is not for everyone. There are some highs, but many lows, especially early on. One has to have conviction in what they are doing and persistence to make it through the hard times. I have questioned myself many times over, mostly at 3:00 am in a cold sweat, as to why I am doing what I am doing and wouldn’t it be much easier to just get a job somewhere that provides more stability and financial security. But somehow, when I get out of bed, I am ready to take on the world again. That is my definition of being determined.

Cool Under Pressure

As a leader, one has employees look up to you for guidance and assurance. If a leader gets worked up and flustered, then the employees will feel it and see it to the detriment of the company. As a startup with many financial obstacles in the way, I cannot show the stress that I am under to my employees. I do share some financial information with them in a cool and calm way. Even if it is bad news, I present a solution that we are working on to resolve the situation.

Open Mind

Even as a leader, we don’t have all the answers or solutions. A good leader knows their strengths and weaknesses. I have deferred to my employees opinions and suggestions on more than one occasion. It is what not only makes for a good leader, for an appreciated and satisfied workforce.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Transship is developing V.2 of our discount automated freight forwarding platform. It is scheduled to go live by the end of March 2023. V.2 will have much more direct connectivity with vendors, provide extremely aggressive pricing and have much more data analytics so that our customers have a much better experience shipping products when they use Transship. Transship is all about empowering shipers like never before. You currently have much more control when you ship a $5 parcel with FedEx, then you do when you ship $100K worth of goods in a container. We think that is absurd and are working to change that.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. To ensure that we are all on the same page let’s begin with some simple definitions. What does the term “supply chain” encompass?

The food on your plate originated somewhere, it could have originated down the block or across the world. Getting that from the point of origin such as a farm, a plant or a warehouse to the end user is called the supply chain. Obviously the farther away these two end points are, the more expensive and complex is the actual shipment of the product. There are also more obstacles to overcome and the potential for delays and other issues that may affect the shipment, increase as well. But mankind cannot exist without an effective supply chain.

Can you help articulate the weaknesses in our current food supply chain systems?

Our current food supply chain is based on obsolete, technologically challenged and inefficient business models. We have been processing shipments the same way for decades relying on such “technology” as fax machines, spreadsheets and phones. The multinational logistics companies that have been around for decades are all based on manual labor. This leads to inefficiencies and high shipping costs. It also leads to increased food waste as well as high usage of energy and carbon emissions. Are you by any chance wearing the same clothes or driving the same car you did in the 1980s? Probably not. So how are we to expect an industry that is stuck in the 1980s to operate efficiently? It’s time to change the dynamics in this industry and replace the old guard with more innovative and user friendly ones. Take for example the horse and buggy and the Tesla. Both do the same thing, but one is obsolete and the other has reformed the auto industry. That is exactly what we plan to do to the supply chain industry.

Can you help define what a nationally secure and resilient food supply chain would look like?

It is all about real time data and information. If shippers know the status of their shipment such as GPS, temperature and humidity inside the container as well as motion and tampering sensors, then you will at the very least minimize the potential of the shipment or the product going bad. Automating the ports is also extremely important. An ideal supply chain that operates securely and resiliently will have shippers, ports and vendors all connected via API and other automated processes that will allow for steady and efficient workflow with limited to no distractions or threats from the outside. This industry has to come out from the dark ages.

Can you share with our readers a few of the things that your organization is doing to help create a more secure food supply chain?

We are empowering shippers like never before through the flow of relevant tracking information. Transship and our customers know in real time if something has occurred to the shipment while it is in transit. We are proactive if and when issues arise, rather than reactive like the old supply chain business models. Being proactive greatly reduces the possibility of food waste and also leads to real time solutions that benefit everybody involved in shipping the goods: the shipper, the carrier and end customer.

What are a few threats over the horizon that might disrupt our food supply chain that we should take action now to correct? Can you please explain?

One clear threat is disruption of work at the ports. It could result from a labor strike, a terrorist attack or acts of nature. I am not a national security expert, so I will leave the terrorist threat to the experts. Acts of nature such as hurricanes or earthquakes are unavoidable and hopefully our ports can withstand such forces. Labor strikes can be avoided though through the automation of the ports. What other industry has seen such minimal innovation in technology as our ports? They are basically operating the same way for decades. If most of the port functions were to be automated, then ports would operate much more efficiently with reduced expenses and result in a much more smooth supply chain. No more congestion of ocean vessels waiting to be offloaded, no more delays in getting product out of the port.

Ok, thank you. Here is the main question of our interview. What are the “5 Things We Must Do To Create Nationally Secure And Resilient Food Supply Chains” and why?

1 . Automation

I cannot stress enough the need to automate as much of the food supply chain as possible. The constant reliance on manual labor is what drives high prices and inefficiencies. Something that shippers have had to deal with for decades and have come to expect when shipping products overseas. It can take traditional freight forwarders days if not weeks to provide a shipper with a quote and confirm a booking. For an automated freight forwarder like Transship, this can be done in seconds. Thus improving efficiency for the shipper and letting them make shipping decisions immediately.

2 . Reduce Fragmentation

Shippers typically have to deal with 3–5 different vendors to process just one shipment. This results in long delays trying to get all the various vendors on the same page since they are all also based on manual labor business models.

This leads to increased cost, inefficiencies and delays in getting required information. Transship is a one stop shop for all the shippers need. Besides shipping their product, Transship can also provide trade financing, insurance as well as cargo inspection if needed. Eventually Transship will also get into fully automated and ecologically sound cold storage warehouses as well as automated and green energy transportation modes. As a result, there is no need to use 3–5 vendors anymore. Everything the shipper needs will be available through Transship. Consolidation of services is way overdue.

3 . Real Time Tracking

All shippers want is real time information regarding their shipments. Even if it is not the information they want to hear, it is still better than no information at all. If a shipper calls a traditional freight forwarder and asks them where their shipment is, they will get one of three possible answers: I don’t know, I will get back to you but never do or it is somewhere in the ocean. These answers are completely unacceptable. With Transship, our customers don’t even have to call us. They can simply log on to our platform, look up the shipment and see the latest tracking information. Once shippers have the information regarding their shipment, they can plan usage of their inventory accordingly. As a result, empty store shelves and hoarding toilet paper will be a thing of the past.

4 . Improved Customer Service

This is a huge problem in the supply chain industry. Customer service has always been lacking with untrained representatives basically reading off of a set script. If someone asks a question that is off script, then forget about it. It is about time that this industry have experienced and professional customer support with knowledge of every shipment as well as knowledge about how the supply chain works. Transship will be opening satellite offices throughout the globe for customer and technical support. We believe that it is crucial to have representatives who speak the local language and know the local culture as well. That will greatly enhance the customer support experience for the Shipper.

5 . Start Relying More on Data Analytics

On more than a few occasions a booking will have to be rolled or canceled due to lack of equipment (containers and/or chassis) at the port or the rail. This is a clear indication of how inefficient and out dated the current supply chain business models are. Instead of randomly having equipment at locations that don’t have a need for them and then not having equipment for locations that do have a need them, if data analytics were used properly, then there wouldn;t ever be a lack of equipment, because equipment will be sent to locations that really have a need for them and not to places that don’t.

Are there other ideas or considerations that should encourage us to reimagine our food supply chain?

The old guard must be replaced ASAP. It is these outdated business models that are feeding the inefficiencies and high prices. The more innovative startups that enter this field, the sooner the old guard will be replaced with more user friendly, cost effective and ecologically sound supply chain solutions the sooner everyone will be better off. But it isn’t just freight forwarding that is outdated. The cold storage warehouse industry is very outdated as well. 80% of the cold storage warehouses in the USA were built in the 1980s. They are inefficient and expensive to operate. Automating the cold storage warehouse industry will also improve service, reduce cost and once green energy replaces the ammonia or freon that is currently used to refrigerate the warehouse, the better off everyone will be. Replacing old and outdated transportation such as trucks and ocean vessels with ecologically sound ones that emit less carbon, will also go a long way to improving our supply chain as well as the climate.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Improve and automate the global food supply chain so that we not only reduce food waste and energy usage, but be able to get food and medicine to people in need in a timely and efficient way. The inefficiencies in our global food supply chain are also leading to delays of critical shipments of both food and medicine.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I am active on LinkedIn and can be reached at amit@transship.net

This was very inspiring and informative. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this interview!

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