Veteran logistician Pat Moffett has been around since the last time the International Longshoremen’s Association struck at East and Gulf Coast ports — in 1977 — so he’s not getting worked up over possible labor disruption late this summer. “I’m not in the panic mindset at all,” the vice president of global logistics at Voxx International says.
Moffett didn’t bat an eye when ILA President Harold Daggett told the JOC’s TPM container shipping conference in March that his union would strike rather than give ground on key issues such as automation and chassis maintenance and repair. Moffett didn’t start calling his carriers to shift imports to the West Coast in anticipation of possible labor action this summer if negotiations for a new ILA contract don’t make headway.
“Should anything happen with the ILA on the East Coast, we can draw product from warehouses in Reno or Indianapolis and be able to sustain distribution,” he said.
Nevertheless he’s taking one precaution this year to ensure he’ll have an adequate supply of one key part necessary to build a main growth sector in his company’s audio speaker business, “for a little backup, just in case.”
Moffett, whose company imports about 40 percent of its finished audio products and parts from the Far East by all-water services to the East Coast, arranges for shipments of around 4,000 20-foot equivalent units a year.
This year, he plans to shift to the West Coast imports of some of the speaker screens needed to make audio headrests for automobiles at its plant in Orlando, if talks between the ILA and United States Maritime Alliance over a new contract to replace the one expiring Sept. 30 don’t look like they have made progress by the second week of August. “I may just put a little backup on the rails directly to Orlando,” Moffett said, “but I’m not going to change anything radically other than that.”
Domestic manufacturers supply the remainder of the components for audio headrests — the leather, the framework, the seats and everything except for the screens. “I might just do it anyway because it’s not going to cost a fortune,” he said.
The audio headrests are only one item in the broad array of speakers and components that Voxx, which used to be called Audiovox Electronics, imports from suppliers in Far Eastern countries, including Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, but mostly from China. The products are marketed under the brand names of Klipsch, Audiovox, RCA, Jensen and Acoustic Research.
Voxx also exports several hundred full containerloads annually of high-end Klipsch speakers made at its plant in Arkansas to Europe, where they retail for $25,000 a pair. Klipsch sells less expensive speakers that are made in China, but they can be pricey, too. Voxx also exports speakers in less-than-containerloads handled by forwarders in Miami for shipment to Venezuela and Chile.
The audio headrests are a “hot” product, a growing line that the company sells to Detroit automakers, so it wants to take precautions to make sure it can supply demand. Moffett has another long-term strategy he calls “sea-truck” to ensure supply chains for other products imported from the Far East that he knows will be in demand.
“We know they are going to be a hot product that a Wal-Mart or a Target is going to want and is committed to, but we don’t want to be air-freighting,” he said. “We take the containers to Seattle, where we have a small facility. We flip the 40-foot containers over into 53-foot domestic trailers — it might be a 40- and a 20- — with a two-man team and then truck them directly into Indianapolis or Norfolk. It’s a premium service, but it’s not air freight.”
Moffett uses Seattle because it’s not congested and there are plenty of trucks available. The sea-truck strategy enables Voxx to deliver about 300 trailerloads of popular products a year from Hong Kong to Indianapolis in 2 ½ weeks instead of four weeks via landbridge. “We pick up 10 days,” he said, “and that’s a big number.”