The Right Recipe

A big supply chain overhaul helped Nature's Best maintain its competitive advantage.


If you were to ask Brian McCarthy, senior vice president of operations at Nature’s Best, about the scope of the company’s recent distribution overhaul, he would tell you, “it was one of the most challenging of his career.”

He says this in part because the project had so many interdependent moving parts—and because the scope was so large.

To put this into perspective, the company transitioned from a four-building, multi-touch mechanized operation into a lean, one-touch, right-touch, one building system. The company undertook the supply chain transformation project because it wanted to remain a highly customer-service focused company.

According to McCarthy, Jim Beck, president and CEO of Nature’s Best, and the executive management team had a vision to create a competitive, agile and scalable supply chain network to service customers and exceed their expectations.

“We’re the last tried-and-tested private natural/organics supplier out there,” McCarthy says. “But we’re in an industry that is rapidly catching on mainstream. In order to compete, we wanted to do it on service and price. We weren’t going to be able to do that in our old operation.”

Nature’s Best has been in business since 1969 and delivers to 11 western states. Before it embarked on its mission to overhaul its distribution, it was increasingly facing the pressure of a growing natural/organic foods market. “In order to maintain our service, we were deploying more and more people,” says McCarthy. “It wasn’t economically feasible to operate like we did since 1990. We were making price concessions in order to survive.”

Operating out of four facilities on one main campus, Nature’s Best had outgrown its distribution system. Processing orders required 18 touches before products made it onto trucks. In addition, the company was operating with an outdated home-grown WMS. “We had very little control over our systemic destiny,” says McCarthy. “The system wasn’t flexible and didn’t allow for intellect.”

The company knew that it wanted to find a new WMS, one that would allow for plug-and-play operations. Says McCarthy, “We wanted a best-of-breed WMS that empowered the operational staff to make configuration changes based upon ongoing improvement.”

In 2007 the planning began. McCarthy and team set out to find a supply chain consulting firm experienced in both the grocery industry and supporting technology. So Nature’s Best took its project to Carmel, IN-based enVista for help.

“Our IT director had an existing relationship with them, so we brought them in, along with several other prospects, to see if we had a match,” explains McCarthy.

After interviewing supply chain consulting firms, Nature’s Best determined that enVista was a good cultural match. “We liked that they were flexible, as well as the fact that they offered a good understanding of our business,” says McCarthy. “They helped us draft a visionary statement and created the criteria and questions for vendors.”

The companies partnered and, working backward from Nature’s Best’s customers, designed the perfect solution to allow it to achieve its goals.

Selecting A WMS

Before going on the hunt for the right WMS, Nature’s Best and enVista set out to determine Nature’s Best’s standards for the future.

“It was enlightening because we were able to specifically pinpoint how we were going to get better and move forward,” says McCarthy. “enVista helped us study our current processes and develop those of the future.”

Once it had its processes laid out, Nature’s Best was ready to work with enVista on selecting the right WMS for its system. “enVista’s methodology for selecting a WMS is unrivaled,” says McCarthy. “Once we embraced this methodology, the selection process was a no-brainer.”

Jaime Gonzalez, project manager for enVista, says that the enVista consultants figured out Nature’s Best’s needs and then transferred them into functional requirements. “It’s tough for a client to deal with vendor selection without some help,” he says.

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