R&FF:  What has Tyson been doing with third-party carriers?

Keene: We’ve worked toward joint value creation with our common carrier partners for consistent lanes and volumes. We recognize that this allows them to better plan their business.

Editor’s note: A special American Frozen Food Institute luncheon featured an interview between Refrigerated & Frozen Foods Editor Bob Garrison and Tyson’s Senior Director of Transportation Larry (Blue) Keene. Portions of that discussion are reprised here.

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: What have been a few of Tyson’s transportation initiatives?

Larry Keene: We’re trying to optimize the mix in regard to what loads are carried by our private fleet versus what’s tendered to our common carrier partners. Overall, we’ve focused on using private fleet assets against high-cost transportation needs. When it comes to the private fleet, we’ve been working on idle reduction with the installation of auxiliary power units on all our new sleeper trucks. We’ve also been working on driver training and a driver incentive program.

R&FF:
  What has Tyson been doing with third-party carriers?

Keene: We’ve worked toward joint value creation with our common carrier partners for consistent lanes and volumes. We recognize that this allows them to better plan their business.

We’ve also been implementing multi-mode communications with our carrier partners - using a standard electronic data interchange (EDI) format, a Web-based “Carrier Work Bench” and interactive telephone voice response system. This was a win for us as well as our carriers. We receive real-time status reports on all shipments and any carrier can choose the least-cost [communication] format that works for them.

Our relationship is based on saying what we’ll do - and then doing what we say. Strategically, we believe this provides for a constant supply of equipment to serve our customers’ high demands for transportation.

R&FF: What transportation activities are you most proud of?

Keene: Receiving this industry award from R&FF is a great honor for our team. It confirms that we’re on the right track. Our relationship with the carrier community has improved dramatically because of the focus of Bryan McDuffie and Lori Lammers.   

R&FF: How does Tyson use rail transportation?

Keene: We use it primarily to export refrigerated products moving to the West Coast and Gulf Coast regions. We also use tanker and hopper bottoms to ship rendered by-products.

R&FF: What have been a few of Tyson’s warehousing initiatives?

Keene: We’ve been introducing more labor management technology to improve productivity in our private warehouses. Meanwhile, we’ve emphasized electronic data interchange (EDI) with our third-party warehouses to ensure real-time visibility of product inventories. We also stress EDI billing, which helps us improve back office efficiencies.

R&FF: What warehousing activities are you most proud of?

Keene: Jim Burkett’s team - along with our third-party warehouses - have done an excellent job of making our inventory visibility “seamless” for the company.

R&FF: Please share a few of Tyson’s supply chain goals for the next 12 months?

Keene: Cost reduction will be an important theme, though it’s not the only objective.

We’re emphasizing load-building optimization for economic value size of an order. With rising fuel costs, it is imperative that each shipment is hauling a maximum amount of product. This means building multi-stop loads or working with full truckload customers to order maximum loads. We will be building new software to address these demands.

Second, we intend to continue upgrading warehouse management systems to improve labor management within our own warehouses. We’ll also continue to aggressively pursue fuel management and expense reduction within our private fleet assets.

Finally, we’re driving for network optimization for our inventories. With rising fuel costs, some traditional warehouse locations no longer make sense from the perspective of transportation cost and customer service demands. We will be removing some third-party warehouses and adding other locations.

R&FF: What issues concern you?

Keene: The rising cost of energy is creating new dynamics in the whole supply chain. Today’s best practices are changing quickly because of these costs. I’m asking myself, “Are we applying the right technologies to solve the problems?”


Roll call:R&FF Logistics Leadership Award winners

2001: Gorton’s Inc.

2002: General Mills Inc.

2003: Birds Eye Foods

2004: Good Humor-Breyers

2005: ConAgra Foods / Lamb Weston

2006: The Schwan Food Co.

2007: McCain Foods USA

2008: Tyson Foods Inc.