Innovative Transportation Services
Most of the time we don’t give a second thought to how the multitude of products we use daily arrive at our favorite supermarkets, restaurants, and retail stores. The trucking industry plays a critical role in that process, enabling raw materials and finished consumer goods to move from manufacturers to distributors to retailers, where they eventually come into our lives.
Oak Creek-based Aim Transfer & Storage is, among other things, an intermodal transportation company that prides itself on providing a full suite of top-tier trucking-related services to its customers. But to call them merely a trucking company doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what they do, and more importantly, what they bring to Oak Creek and the surrounding region. The company’s mission to “develop long term relationships with customers through innovative solutions and high-quality transportation services” extends to the full spectrum of third-party logistics and demonstrates that establishing trusted relationships is the foundation of their business.
Chris Winkler, president of Aim, founded the company on little more than experience and relationships, something he has never taken for granted. In 2002, after 15 years with a large local transportation company, working up the ranks from driver to upper management, Winkler found himself without a job – the fallout of a change in company leadership and direction. Undeterred, he worked for six months with another domestic intermodal company based out of Chicago, when he realized that he didn’t want to build up a company that wasn’t his own.
He took his dilemma to the people he trusted the most: his family. Over a pizza lunch, Winkler, his brother Gary, and their wives discussed the situation at length, when Gary stated, “Let’s make a business plan and figure out what it will take to get you going.” Despite having numerous connections and a stellar reputation in the industry, everything Winkler knew – from driving and warehousing to safety and human resources – was stored in his head, and picked up through experience. Undaunted, Gary picked up the cardboard circle that their pizza had rested on, flipped it over, and began to sketch out a business plan.
Together they made a list of everything they’d need to get started: drivers, insurance, bonds, interchange agreements, and most importantly, a fleet of trucks. Winkler knew he was capable of pulling together most everything, relying on the connections he had spent the first part of his career building. Airoldi Brothers, a truck-leasing company headquartered in Oak Creek, stepped up by giving Winkler five semi tractors to get the company started. With a long repayment window, this lease gave Winkler enough time to build a customer base and launch the business, which he did on January 1, 2004. Winkler will never forget the kindness of the Airoldi family and others who went out on a limb for him as he built his own company from scratch, and continually looks for ways to pay it forward.
Aim grew rapidly, forcing Winkler to occupy several locations before settling into its current 10th Street headquarters in 2007. Their warehousing and distribution operations, all critical to the flexibility and success of the business, have driven them to expand their footprint to three additional warehouse facilities, two in Oak Creek and one in Green Bay, with plans to add another large warehouse soon. Despite acquiring five other smaller transport and warehousing companies, and always being on the lookout to expand further,
Winkler has no desire to have a terminal outside of Wisconsin. He believes in staying in Wisconsin to support the state’s economy and provide service to other local businesses.
Aim’s diverse and expansive menu of services covers nearly every aspect of the intermodal transportation industry, not to mention their expedited, truckload, and less-than-truckload services. Their drivers, both company and independent contractors, and a fleet of approximately 175 trucks, move freight between regional air and rail hubs. Aim is a Customs and Border Patrol-certified Container Freight Station (CFS), giving them the ability to group or separate freight, while under the bonds of customs. They also specialize in the storage and hauling of hazardous materials, and are bonded to access the tarmac of Mitchell Airport to pick up organs for transplant.
With more than 450,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space, the company offers its customers storage and distribution services, something many local businesses take advantage of, to focus solely on their core functions. Aim also provides full-service on-site and mobile truck and trailer maintenance, nationwide freight brokering, and training to other companies so that they can effectively run their own warehouses. Aim has even been involved in the technology side of trucking, partnering with a software developer to create a cloud-based credentialing platform, eliminating the need for drivers to carry physical copies of required paperwork. Providing a multitude of services allows Aim to be a very agile operation, flexible under all economic conditions.
Winkler is always looking for ways to make his company better from all angles. He is currently actively involved in re-establishing an intermodal cargo terminal at the Port of Milwaukee. Milwaukee’s terminal closed in 2012, forcing the transfer of international cargo containers between rail and truck to take place at the next closest terminal in Chicago. At present, half of the company’s runs are to the state of Illinois. If Milwaukee’s port reopened, Winkler asserts that the company would be able to provide better service and save a considerable amount of money for its customers. It’s just another way that Aim can build better relationships with its customers, while supporting its home state.
Aim’s support of the community, however, does not end with its customers. Winkler’s motto of “Family First” is expansive. While all five of his children work for the company in some capacity, his efforts to build up the business are not only to support his family’s future, but the future, well-being and safety of his employees, who he considers an extended family. But it doesn’t end there.
After raising his children in Oak Creek, and now watching several grandchildren attend Oak Creek schools, Winkler makes it a point to invest in the community’s youth. Aim donates the use of their warehouse for the annual Girl Scout cookie distribution, and store the Oak Creek Youth Football League’s equipment in the off season. They are also heavily involved in the Round Table Robotics program, providing transport for the team’s award-winning robot. “Aim Transfer has helped every time we’ve asked for community support,” says Jack Marshall, mentor to the Round Table Robotics team. “They never say no. They’re a huge asset to the youth programs in our community,” Marshall adds.
Aim has also been an active partner in the School District’s Career and Technical Education program, preparing students for the workforce. Participating in the annual MFG Day, they give students a behind-the-scenes look at their operations, and the array of employment positions that Aim offers. “Not every kid wants to go to college or join the military, and that’s okay,” Winkler states. “We show them they’ve got other options.” Speaking of options, Aim strives to provide post-military options to veterans. “We always want to support our troops,” says Winkler. “Veterans are some of the most valuable members of our team.”
For more information about careers at Aim Transfer & Storage, please visit aimtransfer.com.