Some popular brands of margarines and spreads produced by Unilever include Country Crock, Imperial, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Take Control and Promise. "We also make a wide range of private label products and some foodservice products," Ricketts says, adding the plant produces about 1 million pounds of product every day.
On the inbound side, Unilever receives its main ingredient––soybean oil––by road tanker. "We receive anywhere from 10 to 20 tankers a day," Ricketts says.
The company does little intermodal––only about four or five truckloads a week, shipping to a sister factory in San Francisco.
"The issue with rail is our products are all refrigerated and lead time is just seven days. So we are able to run a made--to--order business plan," says Ricketts.
This Unilever plant handles a greater portion of the country than its four other sister plants. "This area offers everything a distribution or supply chain manager can envision," Ricketts says. "Not only do we distribute to our region, but we also make a large number of unique SKUs or single--sourced SKUs which we supply to our sister factories and they in turn supply to their customers’ DCs. This is how our supply chain works."
Ricketts adds another advantage New Century offers is its proximity to the city proper. "We are far enough away not to have the disadvantages of the congested roads," he says. Unilever chose this location for its strategic location after it consolidated its nationwide network of factories and DCs.
"Each of our five strategically located plants operates as a sourcing site for products and as its own DC," explains Ricketts, noting the New Century facility is about 200,000 square feet. "So we don’t supply into a large DC––we supply directly to customers and into their DCs."
This business plan means the company’s supply chain is short.
"Another good thing about this business park is it’s ripe for growth with lots of available land," Ricketts says. "It’s very well managed and the services are great. I am happy we are here."
Topeka Chosen For Its Close Connections To Customers
When U.S. Foodservice needed to find a location to expand its national market, it found a 300,000--square--foot DC available in Topeka. "We chose this location because of the good highways and we use truck transportation exclusively," says Kevin Craig, division president. "From here it’s a straight shot into Kansas City and Wichita. We can also pull triples on the turnpike in Kansas and that helps us cut our costs when we run our relay systems into Kansas City."
On the inbound side of its business, U.S. Foodservice receives finished products from manufacturers like Heinz, Campbell’s and General Mills. The company operates more than 80 other DCs throughout the country, but the Topeka facility distributes to foodservice customers such as hotels, restaurants, hospitals and universities, primarily in east--central Kansas and west--central Missouri. Its market in this region includes about a 200--mile radius with 1.75 million consumers.
"This location was chosen primarily because of its proximity to the markets," Craig says. "Because we are so heavily involved in distribution, it’s important for us to be as close to the population hubs and transportation corridors as possible. It also fits in with our model of responding fast because if you are 300 miles away from the population centers, it’s tough to do next--day deliveries."
U.S. Foodservice’s customers usually place their orders the day before they expect delivery. "The foodservice industry is very fast paced," Craig says. "If you are running a hotel with a big catering event, you don’t have a lot of time to react and that quick reaction time funnels down to us."
The company is close to I--70 for east--west access and I--35 and I--29 for north--south transportation. "There is a spur nearby for I--35 and I--29 goes right into Kansas City, which is only 60 miles away, so there are good carriers who want to haul from here," says Craig.