Pilot Air Freight: The Sky's The Limit

By David F. Carr Print this article Print

Pilot Air Freight offers the same services to customers as much bigger haulers, thanks to the Web. Sales have tripled, but it is gunning for more.

Pilot Air Freight 314 N. Middletown Rd., Lima, PA 19063

Business Forwarding cargo

Key Business Executive CEO Richard G. Phillips

Key Technology Executive Eugene Malcolm, executive vice president for technology and operations

Project Customer self-service Web site.

Objectives Offer freight bill entry and shipment tracking services comparable to those of larger transportation companies like FedEx.

Technology Used Web development using Microsoft technologies. Most recent update tied to a customized version of Air-Trak, a freight management package.

How it gave edge over bigger companies Gave Pilot equal footing in Web services to customers, making it possible to compete head-on with rivals of any size.

A lacquered wooden propeller hangs from a wall in the lobby of Pilot Air Freight's headquarters in Lima, Pa. But the company owns no planes.

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Pilot won a "carrier of the year" award from Wal-Mart this year, placing it in the company of Yellow Transportation and 10 other companies who excel at carrying cargo. But strictly speaking, Pilot isn't a carrier, either.

Pilot is a freight forwarder, procuring air and ground transportation on behalf of its customers, and piecing it all together into a coherent service. Typically, Pilot works with local trucking companies and airlines such as American, United and cargo specialist Kitty Hawk.

But Pilot is not a typical freight forwarder, either. Most of its 98 locations in the U.S. and Canada are owned by a local franchisee. In Miami, for example, franchise owner Javier Torrens leases warehouse space in an industrial park about seven miles from the airport to handle imports and exports. He delivers items such as flat-screen TVs for Wal-Mart.com.

With sales of $250 million last year, Pilot is a little more than 1.5% the size of FedEx. But it has more than tripled its revenue from $73 million in 1994.

One key reason: Its portal, Co-Pilot, which offers customers the same kind of freight bill entry and shipment tracking capabilities as FedEx or United Parcel Service. For instance, a customer that sends hundreds of shipments can log in to Co-Pilot to see the status of each one or get details on a delay.

"More than anything else, from a sales perspective, we're trying to eliminate reasons why someone won't do business with us," says Eugene Malcolm, Pilot's executive vice president for information systems and administration.

This article was originally published on 2004-10-01
David F. Carr David F. Carr is the Technology Editor for Baseline Magazine, a Ziff Davis publication focused on information technology and its management, with an emphasis on measurable, bottom-line results. He wrote two of Baseline's cover stories focused on the role of technology in disaster recovery, one focused on the response to the tsunami in Indonesia and another on the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.David has been the author or co-author of many Baseline Case Dissections on corporate technology successes and failures (such as the role of Kmart's inept supply chain implementation in its decline versus Wal-Mart or the successful use of technology to create new market opportunities for office furniture maker Herman Miller). He has also written about the FAA's halting attempts to modernize air traffic control, and in 2003 he traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia to report on the role of technology in United Nations peacekeeping.David joined Baseline prior to the launch of the magazine in 2001 and helped define popular elements of the magazine such as Gotcha!, which offers cautionary tales about technology pitfalls and how to avoid them.
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