Puerto Rican Logistics: Through the Hurricane

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Puerto Rico’s export-driven economy could not exist without someone moving, literally, things from point A to point B. As the US Caribbean territory remains one of the world’s premiere manufacturing hubs, accounting for 22 percent of total US exports of pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing in 2018, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for transportation services has only gone one way: up.

 

Puerto Rico was in a Mad Max situation. Fuel was the currency because ATMs had no money and banks were closed

Alberto Cruz, Allied Logistics

With over 50 years of experience competing to transport and store Puerto Rico’s goods, companies like Allied Logistics have seen it all: tax breaks, a pharma manufacturing boom, tax repeals, an economic collapse and political instability, but nothing compares to the category-five hurricane that hit the Caribbean in 2017. “Puerto Rico was in a Mad Max situation. Fuel was the currency because ATMs had no money and banks were closed,” says Alberto Cruz, owner and president of Allied Logistics, one of the island’s top logistics services providers.

 

Rolando Medina, FedEx’s managing director of operations for Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Region, also saw a dire situation: “Hurricane Maria was the first category-five hurricane to strike the island in recorded history, and the impact was unprecedented. The widespread power outage knocked out almost all cable service and telephone lines, resulting in a communications blackout.”

 

The importance of logistics companies goes beyond just transporting, storing and delivering raw materials and finished products. Their priceless contribution was on display during Puerto Rico’s worst natural disaster in generations. “We literally moved Puerto Rico through the hurricane. Our facilities were severely damaged, we lost around 35 percent of the roof of the Caguas’ warehouse. Manufacturing had stopped in this side of the island, so there were not many deliveries to do. But almost everyone around Puerto Rico showed up to work the next day and we were able to keep the economy going. The hurricane happened on a Thursday and we were already doing deliveries the next Monday,” remembers Alberto Cruz.

 

José F. Oramas, country manager of UPS Puerto Rico, sums it up like this: “Hurricane Maria, which was the strongest weather event to hit Puerto Rico in the last 100 years, has shown our resilience and the ability of the industry and the government to work together. Today, we are much better prepared for events like this.”

 

Now, with the worst behind, logistics companies are looking forward, investing in the future. Allied Logistics’ president, for example, is betting on data as the path for success: “It is not how you get from A to Z, but everything in between, how much reliable information you can get. We spent around one million dollars to create a proprietary program called WATS, which stands for Warehouse Activity Tracking System. It is our own technology that takes every single aspect into consideration, from documentation, tracking inventory locations, to serial dates.”


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