Navigating High Stakes: Carson Holmquist’s Journey in Innovative Logistics
Today, American Dreams host, Alan Olsen, sits down with Carson Holmquist, Co-Founder, Stream Logistics to discuss innovation and navigating high stakes.
Alan Olsen: Hi, this is Alan Olsen and welcome to American Dreams. My guest today is Carson, Holmquist. Carson. Welcome to today’s show.
Carson Holmquist: Thanks, Alan. So, so, so grateful to be here. Appreciate it.
So, so Carson, you have a very unique background, and you’re doing some very innovative things right now. And so can you tell us a little bit about your, your career, and you know how you got started? And then we’ll bring it up to what you’re currently working on?
Yeah, of course. So, in college, I was hired with an entrepreneurial startup logistics company, I was studying to be an entrepreneur. And I had a great guidance counselor who said, hey, hey, I heard about this startup company here in town during logistics, you could probably a lot of learn a lot from an early startup environment. So joined a logistics company.
And not only did I learn a lot of the entrepreneurial skills to scale a company and grow it, but I learned about the logistics industry, which is a massive part of the US GDP. I mean, it really makes this country run right at the heart of it. So I got fascinated with the industry, and spent some time with that company, and ended up launching stream logistics are a logistics company, which is a more specialized version of what some of the larger logistics companies do in this country.
Yeah. So can you elaborate on some of the unique challenges that you’re facing in transporting high risk freight and outstream logistic addresses these challenges?
Yeah, so I mean, logistics is kind of a catch all term for like moving moving products, right. But what we do specifically, it’s, it’s the big semi trucks moving, you know, either large volumes or large, large products across the US, we specialize in what we call high stakes, freight, meaning freight that has to be delivered on time, or there’s there’s real serious ramifications either financially, or, or could just hold production of something.
And in that environment, it’s all about impeccability, you have to be reliable on when you pick up when you deliver. And if things happen during transit, you have to be really adaptive to make sure that you’re overcoming those challenges. So for us, it’s you know, it’s it’s a, it’s an exercise in adaptability, and creativity. So it’s really fun. And with that mindset, we discovered the industry of offsite construction.
And this is a modality of construction, where as much as you can you build components of a building in a factory. So it could be wall panels, it could be a bathroom, potable you build, you might build two under bathrooms for a hospital, for example, in a factory, where you got, you have all the the toilets, the sink, the tile, the drywall, everything done.
And you can essentially slide them into place, or, in probably the most advanced form of offsite construction is modular construction, where you you build modules of living spaces. So in apartments, you could build an entire apartment complex, you know, a one bedroom, one bath, apartment, with kitchen, and bathroom, carpet, and even even a lot of the fixtures built in a factory.
And then our job is to transport them from the factory, to the job site where they’re eventually going to get stacked and connected and turned into a building. And we think it’s fascinating technology, we love it. We think there’s amazing benefits that general contractors and property owners can get from using modular technology. But a lot of the best practices haven’t been established yet. It’s a young, immature industry.
And from a transport perspective, unique investments have to be made in order to transport these big, heavy, wide long modules, do it safely to make sure you’re not getting damaged. And you have to do it with impeccable timing to make sure that you’re not slowing down a construction site. So we love the challenges of it. We think the work that we’re doing in relation to these type of projects are helping with affordable housing, they’re helping with speed of building housing in the US.
So it’s really fun to be a part of it. And it keeps us on our toes because we’re constantly innovating.
So as a business owner, there was a decision to actually split your company into the modular and the logistics. Can you elaborate a little bit for you know how the model differs between the two?
Yeah, so I’m a big believer in specialization, finding a niche and going and being world class at that one thing. There’s so many benefits that are derived from having your attention focused on one specific area. Our mutual mentor Dan Sullivan, he says your eyes only see in your ears only hear what your brain is looking for. So we decided, in order to make the impact we want to make on the modular transport industry.
We had to have a team that thinks about that and only that all day long. And so our iteration cycles really fast, and we can deepen our understanding of their world and the actual job to be done. And through that, we can recognize even some unspoken needs during the process where, hey, they’re not asking for something, but we see some opportunities for improvement. And we can innovate around that.
So the only path to make the time progresses we wanted was to, was to create a separate division, a team, a specialized team of ninjas, that are only thinking about this modular world. And then we still have our high stakes freight team as well, that are focusing on that world. And so we get the benefit of specialization.
And the two individual teams are able to do things that they wouldn’t be able to do if they’re trying to divide their attention between the two different types of transportation. And that theory is played out to be really well, we’re learning so quickly, and we’re really proud of the progress we’ve made in a short period of time.
Carson, in the modular world, is there a particular fabrication facility that you’re you’re serving? Or do you serve one? Or do you serve many?
We serve many, so there’s a lot of factories that have decided that this is a better mode of construction, or at least for some use cases, it’s a better mode of construction. So these a lot of times, they’re people who have background in construction, and they’re saying, hey, this can be done better, or faster or cheaper, or we’re able to accomplish things we couldn’t do out in the field. And so factories are being started up all over the country right now.
It kind of feels like, it feels like an inflection point for the industry, where there’s been enough success with enough factories where people are saying, Okay, this is a Bible model. Now, let me go put, you know, make my own investments and have my own take on this technology, and see what we can build.
And so if you think about where demand for housing, and demand for construction is the highest, those are the markets that are probably the most advanced, you get to California market, Colorado’s emerging as a strong market, you got a Northeast, and factories are setting up around to serve those markets. And whichever municipalities, are you open to new technology and new methods or construction. That’s where you’re seeing the most progress.
Now you position yourself to be more than a logistics company taking on a project management role. Yes, what’s entailed on that?
Yeah, you’re right. It is more like project management. As I alluded to earlier, we think about what our clients need in terms of jobs to be done. It’s an old Clayton Christensen concept, which means they’re not hiring you for your specific services or your products, someone’s hiring you to accomplish a job, that job is to move that module from the factory to the job site. And sometimes that’s only transportation.
But other times, we have to arrange for a staging yard where the modules have to be stored for some period of time, because maybe they ran out of space at the factory. Or maybe it’s just, you can create some efficiencies by getting the modules closer to the final job site. And so we’ve added services like staging yard management, where we go find a short term lease, we negotiate the lease, we set up security to make sure that the product is is safe from theft and damage.
And we continue to see opportunities to add more value in the cycle of the job to be done. And that only happens because we understand the we understand the world, we understand the job to be done at a deeper level now. So when we say project management, we’re saying what’s the vision here? What’s the vision? What’s the pace? How many? How many modules a day?
Are you planning to set when you need to set a When are they coming out with factory, we look at all the variables, and then we go architect a plan to execute with the lowest costs and the highest probability success. And then during the project, it’s all about communication. It’s about adaptability. And so we take on much more of an Ownership mindset than a just, you know, hiring a service mindset.
You know, I like the descriptor that you’re you’re functioning more like an architect, yeah. Than a transportation company, that you’re actually putting the design the, you know, when things need to be moved from point A to point B and implemented and it is much different than just transporting a piece of material. Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so let’s, let’s move on down here.
The development of your own software, the process for streamlining seems crucial. Can you share more about this role and the impact of owning your own software has brought into your business model?
Yeah. Or early on, we made a decision to build out our own software, essentially a platform for a company to run off of, we leased software’s that allowed us to meet some of the basic functionalities, but we felt hindered by the constraint on capabilities So we early on in the year I think is year two of our business, we decided, okay, we’re going to build a platform, which enables future creativity, future adaptability to what we’re going to be.
And so everything from our it’s essentially our ERP system. It’s our AP AR, it’s, it’s every function, all of our reporting, all of our CRM is built in one software. So we get to integrate functionality, collect data, use advanced algorithms and AI to make sure that we’re predicting, okay, which driver is most likely to want this load.
And there’s some algorithmic matching going on there too, for efficiencies, but also allows us to integrate really unique, other software through API to make what we’re doing even more efficient, more visible. And looking back, we are just trying to avoid building constraint.
But now it’s unleashed new capabilities, new possibilities that allow our clients to feel more confident that based and they know what’s going on, they have visibility of the entire cycle of the project with five, it
seems like there’s a there’s a big risk with the costs and your line of work and, and how do you how do you balance managing risks with the costs of delivery, in order to make the project success?
Yeah, that’s a great observation. Because we’re intentionally injecting ourselves in the world of high risk in high stakes, we’ve decided that it’s more interesting. And we we develop our own personal character better when it’s an environment where there’s a lot on the line, right, and it requires the best of our capabilities to pull it off. So we enjoy that it does have to be calculated risk.
And part of that is understanding what is at stake, understanding what our capabilities are understanding what we don’t yet know. And sometimes we have to make a commitment before we built the exact capabilities that match. But we are confident that we could do that based off of our history. And at the end of the day, it’s a bet on ourselves, it’s a bet that we can adapt during the project is it’s, it’s a bet that we understand what it is going to take to get the job done.
And it doesn’t mean we always hit that sometimes it’s unprofitable because of some, you know, some risks that we had to absorb and unforeseen risks. But we learned from that and we get better. That’s why the iteration cycles, the speed of the iteration cycles are important to us. Because we know we have an internal mantra that it’s not about getting it right the first time, the probability that we’ll get it perfect, the first time we try anything is very low.
So that shouldn’t be the objective. Our goal is to get to the 10th iteration as fast as possible, because we know that that time we do anything, we’re going to be very good at it. So we get permission to our team to move quickly, learn quickly, and, and make commitments that we know will pay off in the long term.
So stream modular, has actually developed customized trailers. Yeah, what inspired you to do that?
So these modules are getting bigger and bigger, the more square footage, they could build in the factory, the less work is going to be required on site.
So A, they’re getting bigger, be they’re, they’re, they’re very difficult to handle because of their size, but they’re also fragile handle, right, you’re picking these modules up with a crane several times, you’re getting these torsional forces that could twist and crack drywall, and you know, and it’s an unnatural motion on a constructed products, particularly when you’re constructing with timber wood.
So we need to be able to load and unload the modules without the use of a crane for efficiency sake, so they don’t have to use labor or crane to do it, but also to make sure that there’s limited damage on the modules themselves, to keep the integrity of them. So we designed trailers, that can back underneath a module when the module is stored up on these jackstands, which are called cribbing.
So they’re stored about three feet off the ground, our trailer backs underneath the module. And through the use of hydraulic jacks will lift the deck of the trailer up making contact with the module and loading it, then we can move the cribbing drop the trailer back down to riding high and then transport it. So there’s no labor required other than the driver to do this maneuvering. And it’s the safest and most balanced way to load a module.
So it arrives, it arrived by the time it arrives ready to be set on site, we’ve eliminated a lot of costs associated with loading and unloading. And the module is going to be in better shape by the time it arrives, which means less work to to fix things out in the field, which means it’s all about cost control and efficiency. So in order to make the impact we want on the industry we had to make those investments.
And so we went out and designed and builds right now we have 27 of those type of trailers were going to work and that was in our year one we we went So we invested almost $3 million in that process to build 27, we’re going to continue to do that. And it’s a it’s it’s an investment that’s necessary to move the industry where it needs to go to create the efficiencies.
And, and that’s been really fun because it’s it’s it’s part of the innovative problem solving process that keeps us energized every day and seeing a problem saying, What’s the best solution for this and going and making the investments to make it a reality?
So Carson, how do you see this industry evolving in the next 10 years?
So we’re making big bets that the industry is only going to grow as a percentage of construction. And there’s a few reasons for that, like I mentioned earlier, still young, it’s still an immature industry, best practices are still being developed. Right. So we know that there’s a viability to the technology today. And it’s not, it’s not yet at its most efficient form.
So we know that as it gets more efficient cost, the costs are going to decrease, the speed is going to increase the demand for housing, we’re, we’re we’re betting is only going to go up right, so we believe it’s going to grow as a percentage of the market. So right now, roughly 5%, you know that that number is debated, but it’s roughly 5% of the construction is done with some some sort of off site construction methodology.
And there, there’s only one direction that number is gonna go which is up, which means the demand for solutions, the demand for these trailers, the demand for project management mindset is only going to increase and we intend to be the leaders in that space.
An individual wanting to get more information on stream modular stream logistics, how would they go about that?
Our website, you know, we we spent a lot of time making sure it reflects what we’re up to and the capabilities we have. So stream modular.com and stream logistics.com are the best places and I love engaging with people on LinkedIn. We’re always talking about the investments we’re making and the projects we’re working on. So that’s also a great place to check in.
Carson. It’s been a pleasure having you with us on today’s show.
Thanks. I appreciate it.
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