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Case study

Melting Ice-Road Challenges

Leading global supplier seeks logistics solutions from Odyssey for transporting goods across Canada’s winter ice road

“I think this may be our strangest request yet. We need to ship almost a truckload of goods 1,600 miles from Vancouver to Manitoba. We need heated service for transportation over an ice road. We also need to combine a shipment coming from Montreal.” Customer Service Supervisor, global supplier of specialty construction and building materialUnpredictable winters are a way of life for the residents of Manitoba, Canada. Surrounding remote areas rely on air and water access for the transportation of goods and supplies. In this part of the world, summer ferry service gives way to winter ice roads as lakes and rivers freeze. During the winter months, the frozen man-made structures are the only link between residents and the supplies they need for life and work.

When you are a supplier, the harsh winters present formidable logistics challenges. One global supplier of specialty construction and building material knew it needed help in overcoming those challenges. It had to move a 35,000-pound load, consisting of 12 totes and two drums of concrete admixture, from Vancouver to Winnipeg, and then transport it to a remote area over an ice road. The supplier had an additional seven pallets of fibers for the concrete in Montreal, bound for the same destination.

It was nearing the end of February. The winter had been a mild one, so the supplier was not certain the ice road was open. It needed a way to consolidate shipments from opposite ends of Canada and find a mode of transportation to the remote destination, five hours north of Winnipeg. The supplier reached out to lead logistics provider (LLP) Odyssey for help.

Global experts at the right place at the right time

Predicting Mother Nature is never an exact science. In the Arctic cold of the Northwest Territories of Canada, weather conditions change rapidly. Phone and electronic communications rely on spotty Internet connections, adding to an already difficult task. Odyssey needed reliable information regarding the status of the ice road and current transportation options.

Odyssey’s Canadian logistics manager, John Coombes, lives with such challenges every day. He worked with local authorities and businesses to assess the conditions for delivering the optimal routes, shipments, and carrier selection. What John discovered was that the ice road was open; however, the window of opportunity for access — weather permitting — was a small one. A possible alternative was a ferry crossing a few hours outside Winnipeg.

Weather conditions and transportation options can change at a moment’s notice. That was the beauty of having an Odyssey operations person on-site in Canada. He had firsthand knowledge and experience that provided the flexibility we needed to adjust to changing conditions.

Odyssey, with its global experts, provides local intelligence and experience to deliver support where it’s needed, when it’s needed.

Delivering flexibility with a global network

Efficient and cost-effective management of cross-country shipments requires flexibility and access to a large carrier network. The dangers of ice-road transportation demand special skills that only a select few trucking fleets possess. Due to the hazards, one carrier Odyssey used in the area decided against traveling over winter/ice roads. A frozen river eliminated the ferry mode of transportation, which meant Odyssey had to find another qualified ice-road carrier.

As an asset-neutral LLP, Odyssey has access to a large global network, which expands carrier options beyond the limits of a provider that owns its own trucking fleet. Odyssey contacted and negotiated a contract with an ice-road carrier. Overcoming that major obstacle set the stage for fulfillment.

Consolidating efficiency and cost

Odyssey’s planning department combined the less-than-truckload (LTL) shipment from Montreal with temperature-controlled equipment and arranged for a consolidation with the load shipped from Vancouver, delivering them both to a central location in Winnipeg.

In the midst of coordinating the two shipments from eastern and western Canada, the shipper advised Odyssey of an unforeseen problem. The customer in the remote destination would be unable to accept the entire order from Winnipeg. The supplier requested that the ice-road carrier deliver a partial load to the customer and move the balance to the supplier’s Winnipeg warehouse.

Empowering smarter logistics

Despite one obstacle after another, Odyssey delivered logistics solutions that worked. Local management assessed the needs of the supplier and customer, coordinated the routing and consolidation of freight, distributed goods for warehouse storage, and secured the services of a specialized carrier for the transportation over a treacherous ice road.

I knew this one was a challenge. Even with all we had to deal with, we were able to deliver on our commitment to our customer. And Odyssey was a big reason why we could. We couldn’t be happier with the results.

Within one week, the shipments were in Winnipeg, and three days later the customer had its supplies — days before the ice road closed.

Empowering smarter logistics is what Odyssey does best.

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