Why does Tyson do it? Naturally, it’s to grow and satisfy retail and foodservice customers and consumers.
Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side, of course. Then again, every day finds Tyson Foods’ chicken (and beef and pork) products crossing the nation and the globe en route to supermarket shelves and foodservice operators.
Why does Tyson do it? Naturally, it’s to grow and satisfy retail and foodservice customers and consumers. Yet industry supply chain companies say it’s how Tyson handles its logistics that distinguishes this Springdale, Ark.-based company from other food processor shippers.
And when it came to Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ survey for the annual Logistics Leadership Award, a majority of refrigerated and frozen supply chain companies - including carriers and public refrigerated warehouses - commended Tyson for its commitment to quality and a proactive industry partnership.
R&FF presented its eighth annual award to Tyson during the American Frozen Food Institute’s 2008 Distribution and Logistics Conference this June in Nashville, Tenn. Accepting the award was Larry (Blue) Keene, Tyson’s senior director of transportation.
During a luncheon session, Keene explained how logistics quite literally is a big deal within this $26.9 billion company.
A 28-year company veteran, Keene oversees Tyson’s private truck fleet of approximately 3,300 tractors and refrigerated trailers. Interestingly enough, Tyson easily ranks among the nation’s top 10 private fleets, and is the largest operator of temperature-controlled trucks. These vehicles transport Tyson’s refrigerated products, which account for a majority of the company’s retail business.
Keene works with five other directors who oversee private warehousing, distribution services, outside carriers, third-party warehouses and rail and ocean shipping. Collectively, these directors manage Tyson’s refrigerated and frozen shipments, which are bound for foodservice, export and retail sales.
Keene said Vice President of Distribution Tim McGovern has Tyson focused on reducing cost and optimizing its private loads and warehouse labor. Meanwhile, the company strives to be a proactive and “preferred” partner to its outside carriers and warehouses (see “Moving forward”).
Popular with 3PL providersAgain, it’s not so much what Tyson does - but how it does it - that impresses members of the third-party logistics community.
“They talk the talk and walk the walk,” said one refrigerated truck line executive. “They opened negotiations by saying that (1) they are seeking quality carriers, (2) they are committed to on-time performance and (3) that ‘rates will never be an issue,’ so long as on-time performance and equipment availability are maintained. We just don’t hear that often. More importantly, we don’t see [other companies actually walking] the ‘walk.’”
Said another truck line executive, “Tyson was one of the very first shippers to index reasonably to fuel and also incorporate a reefer fuel surcharge as well. They continue to explore use of technology to become more user-friendly to their carrier partners.
“They listen. They don’t always agree, but they listen! That’s a good thing in this business and especially in this environment. They are loyal to their partners and do what they say they’ll do.”
Public refrigerated warehouse operators express similar views.
“They are very proactive in their communication with us, which tends to solve problems before they arise,” said one executive. “If a problem does develop in receiving or shipping their product, they are always very helpful in finding a solution and getting right back to us. We handle quite a bit of their export product and it is vital that the communication lines are open and clear. Lastly, the condition of the product when it arrives is always top-notch and we never have any rejected product, warm temperatures or wrong product.”
Said another warehouse official, “Working with them - the first thing you recognize is that they are a ‘quality customer.’ They are demanding, but at the same time, demanding of themselves. Their customer service reps are quick to recognize when you go above and beyond normal service and [they] are very complimentary. Their trucks are always clean, load counts are accurate and products are packaged especially well and always look good. It’s a pleasure to have them as a customer.”
R&FF wishes to thank AFFI and the award sponsor United States Cold Storage for their support. AFFI’s annual Distribution and Logistics Conference is the only educational event directed at frozen food logistics professionals. Readers interested in attending next year’s meeting may contact AFFI at (703) 821-0770 or visit www.affi.org.