By Paul Goodsell
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
SHANGHAI — Andy and Shellie Nelson's tile floor was born here in a sweltering, dusty factory, fashioned out of Chinese clay and fired in a furnace as long as a football field.
Before it reached the Nelsons' suburban Omaha home, the tile traveled thousands of miles across ocean, mountains and plains.
In fact, it took an international bucket brigade of trucks, ships and trains more than a month to bring the tile to an Omaha factory, where it was assembled into a unique, interlocking flooring product and eventually sold at Nebraska Furniture Mart.
The Nelsons' tile floor is an example of the interconnected world economy — the result of Nebraska innovators who joined forces with a Taiwanese tile vendor, a Malaysian-owned tile maker outside Shanghai, Canadian machine toolers and American factory workers in Michigan, Wahoo, Neb., and Omaha.
But the tiles' journey from China to Omaha itself is a story of global connections with a local twist: the worldwide logistics company run by Sarpy County's Werner Enterprises.
With its headquarters near the Sapp Brothers coffeepot at Interstate 80 and 144th Street, Werner is best known for its trademark blue trucks that help the company pull in about $2 billion in annual revenues. That's enough business to rank Werner third-highest in the nation among publicly traded trucking companies.
Increasingly, however, Werner's revenues come not from hauling goods in blue trucks but from the company's logistics services — helping customers manage shipments of goods through their supply chains.
“It's been very successful for them,” said Donald Broughton, a senior transportation analyst and managing director for Avondale Partners in St. Louis. “It's been an engine of growth.”
Werner Global Logistics employs 75 people at the company's Omaha headquarters, a workforce that has more than tripled in four years.
China is a key part of Werner's $500 million logistics business. The company entered the China market in early 2006 and now has 50 employees in its Shanghai and Shenzhen offices.
“We went into China with a very clear understanding of our customers' needs for transparency, efficiency, a fact-based supply chain,” said Craig Stoffel, global logistics vice president.
Basically, Werner helps companies like Omaha's SnapStone Tile arrange efficient shipments and track them through the transportation process. If there are problems, Werner can help resolve them.
Without logistics coordination, shipments from, say, a Chinese vendor to a U.S. company can fall into a “blind spot” for weeks — leaving the customer unsure whether the product actually left the overseas factory, if it has made it onto a freighter at the Chinese port, and when it might reach a U.S. port... Continue reading...