Supply Scan

News and Trends from Across the Food Supply Chain

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Fuel Efficiency Challenge Proves Driver Training Cuts Costs
Better driving habits can improve fuel efficiency by more than 25 percent. By Katherine Doherty

Fleet managers can dramatically reduce fuel costs, cut emissions and reduce vehicle wear and tear--simply by training their drivers better.

Isuzu Commercial Truck of America has developed a program, dubbed SEE for Safety, Economy and Environment, that helps even experienced drivers improve their fuel efficiency by more than 25 percent. The day-long program consists of seminars and test drives that teach--and reinforce--proper driving habits.

Last month, Isuzu invited a group of reporters to participate in a Fuel Economy Challenge, which was held at the Wacom Hokkaido proving ground in Japan. The goal was to give us first-hand experience as to how a little training can make a big impact on driver performance and fuel efficiency.

Before any instruction, we each drove a 13,800 pound GVW Isuzu N-series truck on a two-and-a-half mile test track that simulated various road conditions, such as stop and go and highway driving, to establish a benchmark. Our actions behind the wheel were recorded by a Mimanori telematics unit, which collects information from the computer that controls the engine, transmission and brakes. The data collected includes:

• Average speed, maximum speed and average fuel consumption during city driving and highway driving;
• Average number of times the throttle opens and closes;
• Brake deceleration;
• Vehicle idling time and idling fuel consumption;
• Frequency of the use of each gear during city and highway driving; and
• Average number of engine revolutions when shifting up.

In addition, the Mimanori system records CO2, NOx and PM emissions data, which can be used to measure the environmental impact of the vehicle.

After the test drive, we received a report from the Mimanori system that rated our driving skills and gave us pointers on how to improve our performance. For example, my report stated that I needed to shift up at a lower RPM and to use the highest gear possible--in this case, it was sixth gear, yet I never felt I was driving fast enough to have to shift into that gear.

As a group, we participated in a seminar and watched a video that reviewed the fundamentals of fuel-efficient driving, such as driving at a constant speed, avoiding hard braking, sharply depressing or releasing the accelerator pedal, and not downshifting when coming to a stop. After a question and answer session, we went back out for the second run.

This time, the overall performance dramatically improved for the entire group--and some of the reporters hold a commercial drivers' license. My fuel-efficiency improved 32 percent just by making a few changes in my driving practices. My pre-training score was an 83 and my post-training score was a 97 (out of 100) so there is still room for improvement. The key is to become aware of bad habits and to take the steps to avoid them.

Keep in mind this is for just one driver and one truck--imagine what the savings would be for an entire fleet. Another benefit from the training is that it promotes safe driving. It also helps reduce wear and tear on the trucks--extending the life of the vehicle and reducing repair costs. A reduction in emissions is also an important plus.

Isuzu is planning a Fuel Economy Challenge in the U.S. next year.

FMI Develops Seafood Sustainability Guidelines

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) is developing guidelines, best practices, case studies and other resources to help the supermarket industry address seafood sustainability issues.

"We seek to provide a wide variety of seafood to help consumers maintain a healthy diet, while also recognizing that sustaining the world's fisheries is critical to preserving the environment," says Leslie G. Sarasin, FMI's president and CEO.

The Arlington, VA-based trade association is taking a series of actions to promote seafood sustainability:

•Its Sustainability Task Force formed a group to identify issues that can be resolved on an industry-wide basis.
•The FMI Sustainable Seafood Working Group is gathering case studies of retailer best practices, including initiatives certified by independent agencies and developed with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The FMI Sustainable Seafood Working Group is also compiling a list of experts, certification and auditing bodies, government agencies, NGOs and other resources with whom retailers can consult.

The seafood initiative is one of many FMI sustainability policies and programs. Others include:

FMI Carbon Footprint Project: A Sustainability Task Force working group is developing guidelines and a carbon footprint calculator for food retailers and wholesalers;

The Sustainability Opportunity for Retail and Wholesale Executives: This presentation explains the concept and its importance to food retailers and wholesalers. Companies can customize this document for internal use.

Sustainability Starter Kit: Retailers and wholesalers can use this guide to integrate sustainability strategies throughout their business operations. Visit for a complete list of FMI's sustainability resources.

Sara Lee Sells U.S. DSD Coffee Business

The Sara Lee Corp., Downer's Grove, IL, is selling part of its U.S. direct-store-delivery (DSD) foodservice coffee business to Farmer Bros. for $45 million.

The acquisition is expected to nearly double Farmer Bros. revenue, extend its reach to all 48 mainland states and make it the nation's largest direct-store delivery business for coffee and allied products.

"This acquisition will allow us to quickly achieve our long-term goals of coast-to-coast market penetration, cost reductions and margin improvements as a result of economies of scale and improved returns on our invested capital," says Rocky Laverty, chief executive officer of Farmer Bros. Co., Torrance, CA.

"As we integrate the Sara Lee Foodservice DSD coffee business into Farmer Bros., we will be able to deliver a more robust portfolio of products to meet every taste and price point while providing a truly national network for distribution and service," adds Laverty. "We will have more of the tools to help our customers--from national chains to independent restaurants--compete with ‘the perfect cup' of coffee."

Through the transaction, Farmer Bros. will acquire more than 20,000 additional customers; the foodservice coffee business' sales and distribution staff and infrastructure (including more than 60 branch facilities and a fleet of vehicles; a major coffee manufacturing plant in Houston; a distribution and spice facility in Oklahoma City); and 10 coffee brands, including a leading institutional brand, Superior Coffee.

Also, several members of the Foodservice coffee business' senior management team have agreed to join Farmer Bros.

With this acquisition, Farmer Bros. hopes to be a leader in all key markets of the U.S. It will serve restaurants and other food-service operators with a wide assortment of coffee brands as well as allied products such as cappuccino and cocoa mixes and spices.

The closing is expected in the first quarter of calendar 2009.


Dannon, Spartan Select LeanLogistics' TMS

The Dannon Co. Inc. is implementing LeanLogistics' On-Demand Transportation Management Systems (TMS) at three manufacturing plants and four distribution centers in the United States.

The Greenburgh, NY-based yogurt maker says LeanLogistics' solution provides better visibility into the movement of its products around the country, something its previous solution lacked. Now Dannon can proactively monitor shipments and carrier performance, achieving its business goal of increased customer satisfaction.

"Within two weeks of implementing On-Demand TMS we began to track on-time shipments," says Diane Van Wagner, Dannon's national transportation manager. "The process was extremely smooth and our project is ahead of schedule."

Dannon is using the planning, execution, appointment scheduling and report features of the solution, which is giving it a holistic view of products in its transportation network.

"With rising fuel costs and emerging competition, food companies are placing tremendous pressure on their transportation departments to streamline operations and reduce costs," says Chris Timmer, vice president of customer services, LeanLogistics, Holland, MI. LeanLogistics is a division of CHEP.

"With visibility into these operations, companies can monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their transportation plans, their trading partners and their own operations and then quickly make corrections where needed."

The Nash Finch Co., the Minneapolis-based supermarket retailer and wholesaler, has also implemented LeanLogistics On-Demand TMS to centrally control and manage its inbound transportation operations. With the installation of the solution, Nash began in-sourcing transportation management rather than contract those services to a third party logistics provider.

Nash Finch's core business, food distribution, serves independent retailers and military commissaries in 31 states, the District of Columbia, Europe, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Azores and Egypt. The Company also owns and operates a base of retail stores, primarily supermarkets under the Econofoods, Family Thrift Center, AVANZA and Sun Mart trade names.