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PANAMA - Transport

Luis Carlos Gutiérrez Slon

Regional Director Caribbean, Miami, and Panama City, TLA Logistics

Bio

Luis Carlos Gutiérrez Slon is an executive with experience in warehousing and distribution, logistics, business development, project management, and operations across different countries within Central America.

"It has been a crazy three years. The company has been growing at a spectacular rate of 35% every year."
TLA has expanded its services and operations by offering new routes for technology cargo by air, hiring more people, opening new markets, and utilizing Panama as a hub for its multimodal operations.
What effects did the pandemic have on the logistics sector and specifically on TLA’s performance?

It has been a crazy three years. The company has been growing at a spectacular rate of 35% every year. This is mostly due to the pandemic, as our industry never stops. We have grown in terms of international, Central American, and local freight, because we defined new ways to reach the market, especially in 2020. In 2021, we saw a new trend: increasing the average inventory that companies have to stock. Our customers doubled or tripled stock, so we had to grow our warehousing footprint. Our footprint grew in all our countries, and we also grew in terms of revenue because we paid more for international ocean freight. We also offer air freight for those who can afford to pay higher costs.

What new services and routes do you offer your customers?

We found a new route for customers in technology to bring in cargo by air instead of ocean, so we opened new operations closer to airports in most of our countries. Subsequently, our revenues grew. We also hired more people when people in industries such as tourism and food and beverage were losing jobs due to the pandemic. We increased our headcount by around 10-12%. This was positive, though it was also a challenge because more people mean more infrastructure and support in management. As we looked at the trends, we decided to open new markets because we had accrued enough profits. We were operating in nine countries in 2021, and we decided to open in two new countries. The first was Mexico, and in 2022 we started operations with special customers from our foothold in Central America. The other country was the Dominican Republic. Mexico is a larger market and is aligned with our strategy because it supplies many of the materials and consumer goods consumed in Central America. Because we are strong there, it also made sense to open in Mexico, which is a bridge to the US. We plan to open in the Dominican Republic in 2023.

How would you asses the role of Panama within TLA’s success?

As freight was constrained space wise between Asia and America, we found new sources for our Latin American customers. Those sources were probably more expensive in the past, though due to the freight increase they started to be attractive to Central American consumers and customers. We started new lanes of commerce, especially between Peru, Chile, and Ecuador, to Central America. We started a new operation called multimodal operation, which includes short ocean freight from those countries to Panama. In Panama, we operate in a special economic area where we dedicated an entire warehouse of 1,000sqm for cross docking between containers from ocean freight to trucks for Central America distribution. We move the cargo from containers and unload them onto trucks. That lane of business is growing quickly, and it is the fastest growth we have seen in any of our services. Since Panama is a hub, and the regulations, authorities, and laws allow us to do such re-exports, this will be a key role for our company in the market. We are handling more than 100 containers in this way.

How do your end-to-end services bring TLA closer to the future of logistics?

The e-commerce trend will continue. We have built a highway that can be used to bring large or small amounts of cargo. Our aim is to ensure that highway can handle e-commerce as well. We are focused on end-to-end commerce, which is the new emerging trend, though potentially we will get into e-commerce and business to the final customer. That would use the strengths we already have. The future is commerce, and most of our customers are focused on providing solutions within Panama. For example, we have requests from customers to do house-to-house deliveries. That is the future—not only supplying products to supermarkets, but also delivering them to homes.

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