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Mister Fresh.

Able Freight ships California’s delicacies all over the world. For example, strawberries reach Singapore’s supermarkets 72 hours after harvesting in the USA.

Fast innovative pace.

Fast innovative pace.

"One thing I understood very early on: we all need to eat,” says Orlando Wong. Born in Hong Kong, the 55 year-old self-made man founded the perishables specialist Able Freight in Los Angeles more than 20 years ago. But Wong also learned quickly: the worldwide transport of fresh goods is a highly complex field for complete specialists. Every hour counts when shipping food: “Amid the global increase in the standard of living, above all in Asia, ever more people want food that is as fresh as possible. However, perishables such as berries do not survive transportation by sea,” says Wong. His reply to the increased demand for fresh products is a combination of numbers: 24/7/365.

Able Freight’s 300 employees spread over six locations mean it is accessible for its customers around the clock. In Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Kona, Guadalajara and Mexico City, the Able Freight professionals maintain close ties with large fruit and vegetable producers, farmers and exporters for whom they organize the worldwide export of perishables.

In Santa Maria near Los Angeles, Wong is in close contact with David Medina from the berry producer Driscoll’s. After picking, the quality of the strawberries, raspberries and blueberries is immediately controlled. They are then packed, pre-cooled for the transport and loaded into airfreight containers by Able Freight employees in the refrigerated warehouse. At the latest 72 hours following the harvest in California, the fresh fruit will be on sale in a supermarket in Singapore. Wong has established a finely-tuned international network of perishable professionals, his local heroes, who at all additional stations ensure that the delivery chain, including to the trade, runs smoothly.

Able Freight supplies the entire world although Asia is one of the principal sales markets. Ninety eight percent of all deliveries are made by airfreight, e.g. with Fresh/td in Lufthansa Cargo’s cooled freight areas and temperature-controlled containers.

The challenges are as diverse as the goods in the refrigerated containers: during the cherry season from May to July in California and Washington, the task on hand consists of making available large volume capacities for the transport to Incheon in South Korea – “if necessary via fully chartered aircraft,” says Wong.

Honoring the strict requirements, the Performance Qualifications (PQs), is the top priority in that respect. While the US military requests a precise mixture ratio of salad mix ingredients for military bases in Japan, South Korea and Guam, the large supermarket chains specify stringent transport standards to extend the shelf life and therefore the sales period. 

The strict control regulations of the American Transportation Security Administration (TSA), on the basis of which 100 percent of the goods need to be checked according to defined security procedures, pose an additional challenge for all transport operations involvingfresh food. “That not only costs valuable time, it means perishable transporters need to make a huge effort in respect of putting in place suitable infrastructure and training and appointing qualified employees for the security checks,” says Orlando Wong.

Each transport hour needs to be deducted from the storage period in the supermarket and for the ultimate consumer – the shelf life. Therefore, Wong consistently relies on innovative technologies to further reduce delivery times.

Where possible, Able Freight now uses the eAWB. “The exchange of information via electronic data interchange (EDI) is much quicker and more detailed than by e-mail or telephone. Our sector needs to become more modern,” says Wong. For the entrepreneur that means that the tracking of goods must be further improved by way of complete tracking technologies. “We are analyzing the extent to which a higher level of automation can save personnel and – more importantly – reduce human error.” Automated fault management was also crucial in this respect. In addition, Wong believes that in ten years’ time business intelligence, that is the evaluation of big data from Able Freight’s daily data flow, will play a much bigger role in the short and medium-term control of the company. In Lufthansa Cargo, Able Freight has a partner capable of matching its fast innovative pace. Orlando Wong: “Lufthansa Cargo has a good network and great employees who grasp the importance of correct temperatures. Above all it is the company’s readiness to embrace new technologies that we find convincing.”

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Solutions for fresh professionals.

When Orlando Wong talks to David Medina from Driscoll’s Inc., the berry producer located in Santa Maria, CA, it is often about how the fruit can reach the supermarket shelves even quicker and with greater sensitivity. At Lufthansa Cargo, the product selected for perishable commodities is Fresh/td. By way of a temperature-controlled environment during the flight and storage, as well as specially trained personnel, Lufthansa Cargo offers the best conditions for transporting sensitive goods fast. Whatever the cargo, the customer decides whether it should be sent as a standard or extra fast shipment, i.e. via td.Pro or td.Flash.

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Most of the Able Freight goods go to Asia, almost always as air freight. Buyers can look forward to fresh fruit: only three days pass between harvest and supermarket shelf.

Edward Carreon
Planet 2/2017