Zipline Logistics: Tech-Enabled Logistics Firm Focuses on the Customer

Conor McGuinness
Feb 16, 2021 · 4 min read
Workers moving boxes in warehouse.
Image from Zipline Logistics Website

It’s been a hectic 12 months for Zipline Logistics. The Columbus, Ohio-based logistics solutions provider exclusively serves consumer brands at a time when fewer than 30% of CPG leaders feel prepared to address changing consumer behaviors. During the Covid-19 crisis, these leaders have increasingly turned to Zipline. This has contributed to a projected doubling of the company’s revenue by the end of 2021 from just two years earlier.

Zipline’s customer-first approach helps explain their success. “We don’t focus solely on logistics. We focus on our customer’s problems,” says company President Andrew Lynch. Andrew started the business in 2007 with his brother Wally, J.J. Rodeheffer, and Edward Williams. Having previously spent time at one of the world’s largest 3PLs, Andrew and the team saw an opportunity to bring a less transactional-based approach to the space. While they do provide brokerage services, they also excel as an outsourced supply chain solution. Andrew notes that “the consumer is increasingly leading the economy.” And his CPG customers must adapt to consumers’ changing expectations brought about by Amazon and the broader ecommerce revolution. Helping them do just that — however they can — is where Zipline shines.

Aggressively Tech Forward

Zipline is not just helping get goods from point A to point B. The firm helps customers identify and execute on changes to things like order management systems, production schedules and even supplier agreements. None of this can be done efficiently without data.

That’s why the team built KANOPI, a shipper intelligence solution enabling Zipline customers to see where goods are today, where they’ll be a day from now and what changes might be necessary based on retailer demands. Retailers are desperate to maintain sufficient inventory levels and are willing to harshly penalize brands that come up short. By enabling brands to seamlessly monitor their goods’ shipments on a dynamic basis, KANOPI enhances their retailer relationships and keeps them ahead of competitors.

KANOPI also provides Zipline customers with deep insights into their own manufacturing and supply chain operations. “We start with when finished goods must arrive at retailers and work backwards and we’re always looking to do this in a way that doesn’t require the customer to build a whole new EDI connection.” Making things easy for the customer is clearly a point of pride and one reason Zipline has built KANOPI in-house. It allows them to meet their customers where they are and keep operational costs low.

The Heartland as a Logistics Hub & Tech’s Critical Role

The Heartland has always been a logistics hub. The Amazon-ification of the economy has only underscored that fact. Indiana and Ohio are prime locations for distribution centers given their proximity to various American and Canadian population centers.

But Zipline shows the region’s strength goes beyond geography or labor costs. Thought leaders like Lynch are pushing the needle on logistics and supply chain innovation. His willingness to build or buy value-add tech is further proof that the coasts must take notice — the Midwest offers huge value for coastal startups and investors, in terms of expertise and early adopter customers.

Challenges in the Face of Growth

Zipline Logistics Employee
Zipline Logistics Employee
Image from Zipline Logistics Website

With growth can come pains. But for Zipline, growth is nothing new. Since its founding in 2007, annual growth has been around 28%. And the company has continued to innovate and expand on its KANOPI offering throughout that time.

But early in the company’s history, Andrew did take it to heart when he noticed a brief spike in turnover. It bothered him and not just not just due to the financial implications. He and his co-founders agreed on the importance of culture. “Getting culture right is the key to ensuring everyone at Zipline takes ownership over our customers’ challenges and identifying ways to solve them.” And maintaining an atmosphere of respect where good communication prevails and high expectations are clear are in his mind keys to the success of the firm — and areas Zipline leaders focus everyday.

In the last few years many firms in their space have bemoaned the changes Amazon has wrought. But where its competitors see a problem, Zipline sees an opportunity. Andrew and his team plan on continuing to leverage tech and maintaining that opportunistic mindset, all while staying laser-focused on helping their customers win. One could call it the “Heartland Way.”

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Zipline Logistics is a digitally-enabled, managed transportation partner specializing exclusively in the consumer goods sector. Zipline works with clients ranging from the largest food and beverage businesses in the world to the brightest up-and-coming CPG brands in North America. For more information, go to www.ziplinelogistics.com or call 888.469.4754.

Heartland Ventures is a Seed and Series-A VC fund based in the Midwest with an LP base made up of Midwest-based businesses and business owners in logistics, construction, manufacturing and real estate. For more information, contact anna@heartlandvc.com.