April 30, 2021 | Success Stories
Supply Chain Excellence from the Ground Up With A Large Grocery Wholesaler
Supply Chain Excellence from the Ground Up With A Large Grocery Wholesaler
The customer is the largest privately-held wholesale grocery supply company in the U.S. and has been in business for over 100 years. The customer currently supplies more than 7,700 independent supermarkets, chain stores, military bases and institutions. With over 137,000 different products in its inventory, the customer supplies all types of grocery items ranging from shelf stable products to frozen and perishable goods. The customer operates several 24/7 distribution centers throughout the Northeast United States with a sharp focus on meeting delivery times. Shipping over 100 loads per day is not unusual for this customer, especially during holidays or other high volume seasons.
While things were running smoothly for the customer once trucks got on the road, the DC yards were a different story. With a single carrier handling both OTR and managing the yard, there often weren’t enough resources to go around to keep the yard operation staffed. The customer was paying by the hour for trailer moves and found themselves with astronomical overtime charges due to staffing and scheduling challenges. Communication between the yard and shipping department was also causing friction.
One of the company’s senior transportation managers recalled, “We had supervisors trying to control trailer pools and backhauls, and deliver 100 loads per day, and then focus on the intricacies of the yard. It just wasn’t working.”
NSSL contacted the customer through a mutual connection to see if there was a need for more yard-focused support in their operation. We found that we had shared experiences between our teams as family owned and operated businesses accustomed to navigating logistics challenges. The customer invited NSSL to create a program and proposal that would help alleviate their supply chain challenges—both financially and operationally.
At the time, NSSL was not operating any other sites in the region, so we sent a group of experts to the customer’s facility in Chester, NY not only to learn about their business, but also the surrounding area.
NSSL conducted site assessments at the customer’s Chester and Newburgh facilities to get a sense of the operation firsthand. We also spent time listening to leaders in the organization who shared their perspectives on the state of yard operations.
A New Yard Management Model
From our observations and the feedback from the customer, we designed a total yard management program that would address operational challenges and also change the way the customer paid for yard management services—moving from a pay-per-hour to a pay-per-move arrangement. This shift would eliminate the high overtime rates the customer had become accustomed to paying with their previous provider, while also putting NSSL’s skin in the game on operational efficiency. The customer agreed to enter into an engagement with us for yard management at the Chester, NY facility.
Behind the scenes, NSSL worked to secure the proper authorization for the Canadian team members who would be traveling to New York to get operations up and running. We also coordinated with the New York state government to secure operating authority in the area.
With the proper paperwork and authorizations secured, our team turned our attention to staffing the yard in Chester. We distributed information to and held interviews with drivers who had been working at the customer’s site to gauge their interest in and qualifications for joining the NSSL team. We published both full-time and part-time driver positions online so that we would have enough staff to fill the gaps if any existing drivers did not make the transition. We started operations with extra staff to ensure continuity in case we encountered any early attrition.
For ongoing staffing, we created partnerships with three different agencies to source qualified drivers for future available positions, and those partnerships are still in place today. Finally, we enlisted a driver leasing partner who provided a pool of certified drivers we could call on in case of an emergency.
The NSSL implementation was not only an initial success, but the benefits of the program continue to expand across the wholesaler’s network. Here are a few key areas of impact:
The success of the Chester site led the customer and NSSL to expand the partnership. First, NSSL took over the customer’s site in Newburgh, NY. The configuration and requirements of the yard in Newburgh presented some unique challenges.
“That yard is very tight and is usually packed with trailers,” said a company transportation manager. “The NSSL drivers always go the extra mile to do what is necessary. On the shipping side of the warehouse, we load and ship between 50 and 90 trailers per day. There’s very little downtime. It gets pretty hectic, but everyone keeps their cool.”
NSSL then expanded service to include eight total sites from Chester, NY up the I-91 corridor into Connecticut and Vermont.
“After the initial launch in Chester, we were able to get new sites up and running for this customer within 30 days,” recalled Marc Massarotti, Operations Manager at NSSL.
Because of the new yard management model, NSSL was able to quickly eliminate the costly overtime charges that the customer had been paying to its previous provider. About two months after establishing operations, the NSSL team began looking for ways to increase labor and equipment efficiency.
Drawing on insights gathered from Shuntware data, we identified opportunities to significantly reduce labor hours and equipment allocations. At one site, where at first we had been required to operate a program that included 7 trucks with 6 operational per shift, we were able to study move patterns and propose a dynamic schedule that allowed for a reduction to 5 trucks and a 30% reduction in hours of support. The monthly cost of operating a shunt vehicle is $3,000, so this change alone saved the customer $9,000 per month on just one site.
NSSL’s data-driven and collaborative approach effectively resolved the friction between the yard and warehouse that was occurring with the customer’s previous provider. “One thing that makes NSSL such a great culture fit for us is their proactive communication,” one company leader remarked. “They have partnered with our shipping teams to use warehouse data to create projections and yard schedules that are agreed upon by both teams. NSSL is very patient, and the collaboration has grown to a point where now there is very little noise.”
In addition to ongoing logistical communications on the customer’s sites, leaders in both organizations come together often to share status and discuss relevant issues. “We get on a call once a week to talk about whether we are turning in any truckers, moving trailers in and out of yards, volume, and holidays approaching,” the company leader said. “If we have an issue with too many trailers, fueling of vehicles…we go over everything. It gets us ahead of everything coming up for the next week.”
NSSL and the customer’s leadership teams also meet on a quarterly basis to review the high level partnership and long term goals for continuous improvement.
“Overall, the big difference with NSSL is that yard management is their specialty, and it’s all centered around the needs of the business,” the company leader said. “The partnership is the best part.”
NSSL continues to strive for excellence at the customer’s sites, creating efficiency and streamlining the yard management process. The success of the program demonstrates NSSL’s ability to create success for customers in any location across North America. Our structured roadmap for bringing new sites into our network, along with our proven go-live process, ensures operational excellence in any location, whether the nearest NSSL site is two or 2,000 kilometers away.