6 hot logistics start-ups to keep an eye on

Getting products into customers' hands is a complicated business. Check out these six hot companies that keep the whole thing humming.

Getting products into customers' hands is a complicated business: There's inventory to store, shipments to coordinate, returns to process—all as fast and efficiently as possible. Check out these six hot companies that help keep the whole thing humming.—April Joyner

Specialty: Fleet Backhaul Coyote Logistics, an Inc. 500 honoree in 2010 and 2011, has grown to $560 million in just five years. The Chicago company, founded in 2006, enables its customers, such as Heineken, to lower transportation costs by taking advantage of spare capacity on its carriers’ return trips. On a map of Texas routes, Coyote reduced the distance its trucks traveled empty by 225,000 miles.

Specialty: Transportation Management Software Co-founded in 2000 by two former IBM executives, MercuryGate supplies a Web-based platform for companies to manage product shipments. The Cary, North Carolina–based company works directly with shippers as well as with third-party logistics companies and brokers that manage other companies’ supply chains. Its customers include Walmart, Raytheon, and Siemens.

Specialty: Warehousing and Distribution Brentwood, Tennessee–based OHL began as a warehousing company, Ozburn-Hessey Logistics, in 1951. The company now has more than 30 million square feet of warehouse space in 130 locations around the world. In recent years, OHL has also expanded its transportation offerings, which has helped it attract customers such as cleaning products company Seventh Generation.

Specialty: Reverse Logistics Founded in 1898, this Pittsburgh family-owned business offers a full fleet of supply chain services, including packaging, trucking, and warehousing. Under its longtime CEO Herb Shear, Genco pioneered the discipline known as reverse logistics: streamlining the process of handling returned merchandise. In 2010, Genco merged with ATC Technology, which specializes in logistics for consumer electronics.

Specialty: Freight Forwarding and Customs Brokerage Phoenix International specializes in air and ocean freight forwarding, setting it apart from the majority of third-party logistics companies, which focus on trucking. The Wood Dale, Illinois–based company, whose sales top $1 billion, has also developed strong expertise in advising companies that ship products internationally on how to navigate customs requirements. It operates a network of 300 locations in 125 countries.

Specialty: Order Fulfillment Technology Companies such as Zappos and Staples use Kiva System’s warehouse automation system to get their products out the door each day. Kiva’s orange robots can pick up products of all shapes and sizes, up to 3,000 pounds, and bring them to warehouse workers for packing. As a result, orders can be filled more quickly and efficiently. In March, Amazon bought the North Reading, Massachusetts–based company for $775 million. Read more about the supply chain services industry.

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