Real life case studies of companies that are improving the bottom line.
United Natural Foods Grows Gracefully
A company must do a lot right to grow in 30 years from a one-truck operation to the largest publicly traded wholesale distributor to the natural and organic foods industry.
For United Natural Foods Inc., Dayville, CT, now a $2.5 billion operation with 16 distribution centers across the U.S., one ingredient that has helped the company achieve 20 percent average annual growth in recent years was its decision early on to simplify transportation issues by relying on full-service leasing for its delivery fleet.
"When you grow as rapidly as we have, you want to make sure you retain the business you win, and grow it gracefully. With the growth we've encountered, we've needed to concentrate on customer service, recruiting and retention, good business practices, policies and procedures, compensation programs, and other core elements of our business," says Blair Altemus, UNFI's director of transportation.
Collaborating with full-service leasing partners like Miami-based Ryder Systems Inc., which handles every aspect of the company's vehicle requirements, has smoothed out a lot of potential wrinkles. Ryder does everything from working closely with UNFI on designing vehicle specifications, to arranging financing and handling all scheduled and emergency maintenance, fueling, washing vehicles, and dealing with safety regulations, permitting and fuel tax reporting.
In addition to ensuring that daily delivery operations run smoothly, the leasing company has played an integral role in the company's expansion.
In August 2005, for example, UNFI opened a brand new facility in Greenwood, IN.
"It was a start-up from the ground up, including from a management staffing situation, driver staffing and warehouse force staffing situation. A lot of our focus was put into building the operation from the personnel side, along with restructuring deliveries to come from that facility. Ryder was able to address all our transportation needs, so we didn't have the additional burden of assembling a new truck fleet at the same time," he points out.
Since it did not already have a shop nearby, Ryder deployed a mobile vehicle management and maintenance unit to the site on a daily basis to address fleet needs.
For another UNFI location, Ryder built a maintenance facility across the street. Two UNFI DCs actually have captive Ryder shops onsite that are solely dedicated to its fleet.
"In these cases, we've seen very close relationships develop between the drivers and the maintenance staff. Being able to get face to face with the mechanics when our drivers come back to the DC each day allows them to share thoughts on maintenance issues and vehicle performance, and this has been reflected in our performance. Having this close communication at the local levels clearly enhances our service to our customers." says Altemus. —C.C.