Dalko Navigates Complex Logistics Amid Pandemic

SHARPSVILLE, Pa. – After National Castings Inc. tendered a round of buyouts to its employees during the early 2000s, Leonard Grandy, better known as “Len,” took some time to think before he made a decision.

Grandy had transferred to the company’s Chicago office from Sharon, Pa., in 1983, and as director of logistics and supply chains for the company, stood to collect a sizeable lump sum.

Instead of cashing out, he did something unusual. He offered his services as a logistics manager to National Castings at no cost.

“Instead of taking the buyout, I decided to do it for free,” says Grandy reflectively, today the president and co-owner of Dalko Resources Inc. in Sharpsville, Pa. “They gave me a little office and I started doing my own logistics.”

His idea was to build a logistics business of his own, beginning with National Castings as his first and only client. However, when the company was sold in 2002, the new directors thought Grandy’s operation was limited because of antiquated technology. National Castings cut him loose.

Now what? With little money but a pocketful of connections, it wasn’t long before a company executive who knew Grandy from an earlier professional association called and said he wanted to help.

“They gave us their business,” Grandy says, laying the foundation of a new company that last year posted sales of more than $50 million.  

Startup costs in Chicago were enormous. So establishing a new logistics company there was out of the question, Grandy says. That left one alternative: return to the Shenango Valley and begin from scratch.

The result is Dalko Resources Inc. The family-owned domestic and international freight forwarding company that serves as the logistics and supply chain lifeline to large and small companies across the country.  

He set up an office in his family’s house on Wakefield Drive in Sharpsville. “During the first year, we did about $15,000,” Grandy says. “Now, we’re up around $50 million.”

Dalko owns two complexes along Canal Street in Sharpsville that serve as its administration offices, communications hub and warehousing and distribution operation.  

Grandy plans to remodel another building nearby beginning early next year, which would serve as the executive offices for the company, says Melissa Sager, Len’s daughter and corporate secretary. “It will allow for more space here.”

Grandy’s wife, two sons and daughter co-own the business with him (Dalko is an acronym made from their middle initials) and have encouraged a third generation to join the company.  

“We can serve billion-dollar companies to mom-and- pop operations running out of their garage,” says Jared Grandy, Len’s grandson and director of sales and marketing.

About 250 customers use Dalko’s services each year, the younger Grandy says. As a freight forwarder, the company assumes control of and liability for products and ships to and from just about any destination in the world. About 10% of the firm’s business is done internationally, he says.

A major portion of Dalko’s business is service to the railroad industry, he says, noting the company has established a reputation for supplying some of the largest operations in the country.

Marmon Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, contracts 100% of its railroad division’s logistics business with Dalko, he says. “Rail is who we are. But we’re expanding from that, too.”

Dalko also provides logistics and supply services to companies in the automotive, energy and heavy industrial sectors.

These companies rely on Dalko to deliver critical parts, components and products vital to their business operations, Jared Grandy says. This involves an intricate system of connecting customers with carriers that range from a local FedEx service to cargo ships steaming across the Pacific. In between, the company manages these shipments every step of the way to ensure they arrive at their proper destinations intact and on time.

“If you want parts brought to your plant in Youngstown, for example, you would contract with us. We contact the supplier. We’ll get the material picked up and moved,” he says. “Customs entry, freight, transportation  – we’ll do it all. We’re an extension of your business.”

Moreover, Dalko assumes liability for a shipment while it’s in transit, Len Grandy says. “We take possession and assume 100% of the liability; we take that off of the customer,” he says.

Dalko has devised its own transportation management system, or TMS, that allows the company to track and manage an active shipment for a client anywhere in the world, Grandy says.

It’s a service that companies rely on today more than ever, as the country wrestles with an economic downturn amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re really proud of working with people, keeping customers’ businesses afloat during this pandemic,” Jared Grandy says.

As an example, the sales director cites a client whose business abruptly shut down because of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the customer’s supply inventory is being held at a Dalko warehouse in Laredo, Texas.

“We have 18 truckloads sitting there that we’re not billing them for because we know it would sink them,” he says. “We’ll distribute the product when their facility is open again.”

Before the virus, Dalko forecast 2020 would be a banner year, projecting sales goals of about $74 million. “The economy was booming,” Jared Grandy says.

The economic toll has led to a 20% reduction in business compared to the $57 million Dalko did last year, Len Grandy says.  The company employs 59 in Sharpsville. 

“We have to stay open to supply critical pieces,” he says. Compounding the issue is the day-to-day uncertainty of whether customers or suppliers will remain open.  

“From week-to-week, day-to-day, facilities are open and closed,” Jared Grandy says. “It’s been a process. To accomplish what our team has had to do is nothing short of impressive.”

Pictured above: Jared Grandy, director of sales and marketing at Dalko Resources Inc., stands next to components used in the railroad industry.  The company provides freight forwarding logistics services to clients all over the country.