Although they are not few and far between, it’s always nice to hear about Canadian companies that are succeeding both nationally and internationally. Livingston International, a leading North American provider of customs brokerage, freight and integrated logistics services, is one such company.
Livingston is Canada’s largest customs broker and the third largest customs entry filer in the United States. “We have the Canada-U.S. border covered,” explains Wendy Archambault, vice-president, Canadian brokerage services. “We clear land, sea and air shipments for importers and exporters into Canada and the United States. We also help companies ship cargo within North America and around the world.”
Headquartered in Toronto, Livingston was founded in 1945 and launched into the customs brokerage business in 1978. Then in 1993, the company broke into the American market as a green-field operation, and, by 2003, Livingston had become one of the biggest players along the northern border. More recently, the company expanded its footprint in the United States through the acquisition of its largest competitor, PBB Global Logistics, in 2006. “Now we have offices at the major transportation hubs in the United States, clearing air freight and ocean freight shipments from all over the world,” says Stephane Ethier, vice-president, U.S. brokerage operations. “It’s something we had already been doing in Canada, but we wanted to extend our presence further in the U.S. market.”
Livingston’s core businesses focus on custom brokerage, but the company has five other divisions, including customs and trade consulting, integrated logistics, freight, event logistics and managed services.
“Our Canadian and U.S. customs brokerage operations are significant,” says Archambault, “but over the years, we have developed additional and complementary capabilities to support these core services. We are continually striving to understand the business challenges our clients face, so we can not only meet their needs today, but also deliver solutions to help them improve the way they do business in the future.”
Sharing expertise, knowledge
Livingston has a solid track record when it comes to industry knowledge, experience and education. The company provides extensive training to employees to help them obtain formal accreditation, where appropriate, hone their skills and keep abreast of the latest regulatory developments. In addition to receiving on-the-job training, staff are given financial assistance and other inducements to expand their knowledge and increase the value they provide to clients.
Outside company walls, Livingston also does a lot of educating to importers and exporters, ranging from small businesses to large multinational corporations that are frequently moving goods around the world. “We have built our reputation as a leader in high-quality continuing education focused on trade and compliance,” explains Cora Di Pietro, vice-president of Livingston’s consulting practice. “Importers and exporters need to be aware of the compliance risks and the regulatory changes coming down the pipe. Our job is to stay on top of the changes, trends and risks,” Di Pietro adds, “because it’s a headache for our clients. Customs brokerage is probably the most outsourced function in the supply chain because it’s complex and the regulatory environment is constantly changing.”
One of the ways Livingston helps clients avoid said headache is by working closely with both Canadian and U.S. governments—the CBSA and CBP, respectively. “We have very senior individuals in the company who liaise with the government and various agencies on a regular basis,” says Archambault. “Most often, we know years in advance about a regulatory change. So, the company is able to make early changes to our processes and technologies to accommodate those changes. We also inform our clients that are affected, as well as our staff, so they can be well-versed and ready for the new requirements.”
Setting itself apart
Livingston International is a big company, but it’s one that still manages to offer a small-company feel in its approach to meeting clients’ needs. Instead of offering a one-off experience for every client, Livingston believes specialised service is worth the extra effort.
“We provide customised solutions for a lot of our clients,” says Archambault.
“A lot of that relates to automating certain processes and using specialised technology solutions. One example is a tool we developed that enables clients to complete paperwork electronically. It comes with built-in compliance flags specific to the client’s industry and goods. With customs having stepped up the number of audits they are performing in both Canada and the United States, importers must ensure their records are in order and that every purchase order matches what was shipped, declared and paid for.”
“Livingston has a solid vision that revolves around our core competencies of customs and compliance,” adds Di Pietro. “That’s what we want to be recognised for. Around that expertise, we create dynamic solutions for our clients. We own the compliance space and are the ideal business partner because of the specialised services we offer. We help clients—large or small—to make the most out of a changing environment.”
It’s that extra mile that keeps Livingston on top.
10 plus 2
One of the most recent changes facing importers and carriers in the United States is the ‘10 plus 2’ rule, which came into effect in January 2009.
All customs brokers and freight forwarders are changing their processes to provide more information about goods about to enter the United States via ship. In the interest of national security, ‘10 plus 2’ is about getting more information at an earlier date, that is, before a ship sails. There are 10 additional data elements to be reported from importers and an additional two from the ocean carriers themselves. Since early 2009, the rule has been in a phased-in enforcement approach. Come January 2010, ‘10 plus 2’ will be fully and officially in effect, and importers will risk fines up to $5,000 for each violation.
“Livingston was one of the first companies to educate carriers and clients about the new regulations,” explains Ethier, “and to offer a technology solution to manage this importer security filing requirement.”
A similar rule, Advance Commercial Information (ACI) eManifest, will be introduced to Canada over the next few years. Livingston is already working on solutions to help importers with the change.
Livingston Services at a glance
North America’s most innovative and knowledgeable customs broker. Livingston offers a full suite of advanced technology solutions to help clients manage their imports and compliance.
One of the largest and the most focused customs consulting practice in North America.
Livingston’s customs, legal and financial experts help companies implement compliance programs, meet audit requirements, recover duties and taxes and manage border security.
Delivering strategic integrated logistics solutions. Livingston rethinks and reinvents supply chains to reduce costs by minimizing inventory, streamlining order fulfillment and optimizing distribution.
Moving freight seamlessly within North America and around the world. Livingston arranges efficient transportation by air, sea, rail, truck or intermodal, from point of origin through to final destination.
Bringing personalized high-touch services to conventions, trade shows and other special events. Livingston arranges specialized transportation and customs clearance services for time-sensitive materials.
Delivering business process expertise so companies can focus on their core competencies. Livingston brings efficiencies by designing and delivering program management, information management and contact centre services.
Gerry Livingston’s export packaging firm incor..porated, under the name Livingston Lumber & Manufacturing Ltd.
Grows for 30 years in warehousing and transportation.
The Tillsonburg “Livvies”, a local basketball team ..sponsored by Gerry Livingston, won the Canadian basketball championships.
Changes name to Livingston Industries Limited…
Launches into customs brokerage…
Grows by acquisition over the next 10 years…
Changes name to Livingston International…
Restructures businesses under the name Livings..ton Group.
Customs brokerage division carries on under Liv..ingston International.
Acquires Mendelssohn, the Canadian market ..leader in customs brokerage services for conventions and trade shows.
Establishes Adminserv as a business process out..sourcer, to provide high-volume, high-standard data management services to Canada’s postal service at international parcel clearance centres.
Expands into U.S. customs brokerage, to become ..the first customs broker operating coast to coast in both countries.
Livingston International is bought by private ..equity investment firm, CAI Capital.
Buys Blaiklock, Canada’s oldest customs broker..age firm established in 1876, about 25% Livingston’s size, with international freight forwarding.
Is named one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed ..Companies in 2000.
Requalifies for the award again in 2001…
Becomes publicly traded as an income trust, ..listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under LIV.UN.
Acquires Consultrans Logistics, a small transpor..tation brokerage company, to double its North American truck operation.
Acquires Osowski & Co. International, a Chicago-..based customs broker and freight forwarder, to launch into U.S. air/sea market.
Buys Great Lakes Customs Brokerage, a U.S. ..northern border customs broker, and its software arm, which developed SmartBorder® for U.S. air/sea brokers.
Acquires Searail Cargo Surveys, a Vancouver-..based vehicle transportation broker.
Successfully acquires its largest competitor, PBB ..Global Logistics, a Canadian-based customs broker and third-party logistics provider operating in North America.