In business, it pays to specialize on a big scale. Perhaps nobody knows this better than Windsor Foods, which took the opportunity in 1996 to acquire several frozen specialty and ethnic food businesses from Keebler Co. By 2004, Windsor not only had bolstered its pasta capabilities but it also doubled its portfolio through the purchase of Specialty Brands, an Ontario, Calif.-based giant in frozen Mexican and Italian entrees and appetizers.

Windsor has since made a name for itself as a leader in every ethnic category – in every distribution channel including foodservice, retail, retail private label, industrial (co-pack) and warehouse club. Today, the business easily boasts more than half-billion dollars in annual sales – along with sizeable dedicated R&D and operational resources.

In business, it pays to optimize on a big scale. Perhaps nobody knows this better than Windsor Foods’ supply chain group, which coordinates the transportation and warehousing activities of so many products for so many customers in so many channels. Moreover, Windsor has continued to change its operations footprint and network. As recently as November 2008, it added another plant, its ninth, in Oakland, Miss.

For a broader perspective on frozen food logistics, industry issues and best practices, Windsor’s Richard Alden, vice president of supply chain, started attending the American Frozen Food Institute’s (AFFI) annual Distribution & Logistics conference (Windsor is an AFFI member). He likewise began reaching out more proactively to third-party logistics experts, public warehouse operators and carriers.

A few years later, several logistics services providers are noticing improvement.

“Windsor is clearly a manufacturing-oriented business with small corporate overhead,” said one observer. “For that reason, cooperation is vital [between its departments] to make things work on a national basis.

“Network optimization uses real client data to identify the best service and lowest cost logistics network. Windsor was second to none – probably the best of the more than 100 companies we’ve worked with. Windsor’s data was pristine – almost as if a large accounting firm had scrubbed it clean before we started the work. Their team was supremely prepared and highly participative; we found their culture to be very team oriented with strong group commitment.”

Similar strong support from other areas – particularly cold storage operators – led Refrigerated & Frozen Foods to recognize Windsor with the magazine’s ninth annual Logistics Leadership Award. R&FF Publisher Jeff Plaster presented the award to Alden during AFFI’s 2009 Distribution & Logistics conference this June in Seattle.

“Like other processors, we want to improve service to our customer base while we generate savings in this economic climate,” said Alden. “We recently completed a network optimization plan that will drive even more change going forward . . . We have identified key supply chain opportunities and are just starting to address and implement those right now.”

R&FF wishes to thanks AFFI for its partnership and support. Readers interested in attending next year’s meeting may contact AFFI at (703) 821-0770 or visit the “events” section at

AT A GLANCE:  Windsor Foods
Headquarters: Houston, Texas
Top executive: Greg Geib, president
Plants: Nine. Sites in Los Angeles and Riverside, Calif.; Tulsa, Okla.; Carthage and Piedmont, Mo.; Toluca, Ill.; Oakland, Miss.; Lampasas, Texas; Bloomsburg, Pa.
Customer channels: Retail branded, private label and co-pack; foodservice
Businesses: Frozen Mexican entrees and appetizers, Italian entrees and side dishes, Asian entrees and dim sum, chili, coated appetizers, barbecue meats
Brands: Jose Olé, Golden Tiger, Posada, Fred’s for Starters, Bernardi, Butcher Boy, The Original Chili Bowl, Whitey’s Chili, Cripple Creek

Roll Call: R&FF Logistics Leadership Award winners
2009: Windsor Foods
2008: Tyson Foods
2007: McCain Foods USA
2006: The Schwan Food Co.
2005: Lamb-Weston
2004: Good Humor-Breyers
2003: Birds Eye Foods
2002: General Mills
2001: Gorton’s Inc.

Sleepless in Seattle

Editor’s note: Refrigerated & Frozen Foods presented its 2009 Logistics Leadership Award to Windsor Foods during the American Frozen Food Institute’s annual logistics meeting. That June meeting in Seattle featured a question-and-answer session with Rick Alden, Windsor Foods’ vice president of supply chain. Here, that discussion is briefly reprised.

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: How is supply chain structured at Windsor Foods?

Rick Alden: Our group includes a manager of demand planning, a manager of warehouse services, a manager of transportation and a manager of customer service. I have been with Windsor Foods for 22 years in various roles including finance, I.T., purchasing and supply chain. I am vice president of supply chain and our function reports into Lynn Hall, Windsor’s senior vice president of sales and marketing.

R&FF: Were there any significant changes, developments involving your group during the past year?

Alden: Like other processors, we want to improve service to our customer base while we generate savings in this economic climate. We recently completed a network optimization plan that will drive even more change going forward.

We have identified key supply chain opportunities and are just starting to address and implement those right now. Within transportation, the use of routing guides has been expanded and has helped all nine facilities improve in utilizing required carriers. We’ve just completed a round of [transportation] bidding for freight lanes from our production locations.

R&FF: What else are you proud of?

Alden: We introduced a dynamic tool for our overall forecasting process and last year we finished implementing that program.

As you know, our decentralized organization means we have individuals in numerous locations. This tool has allowed Windsor to standardize the means by which we all communicate in the forecasting process. Now all participants can complete the [forecasting] process and improve the ability our forecast – down to the customer and distribution level. That said, we still view this as an ongoing improvement.

R&FF: How does Windsor handle demand forecasting and communicate with its supply chain partners?

Alden: Demand forecasting varies by channel. As you might expect, it involves our sales and marketing groups engaging with key customers to allow for their projected demand to be included in our process. Of course, that demand drives sales and operations and will help us [in supply chain] to ensure that we service our customer base with operational planning with inventory management.

We have expanded this process to include the entire scope of purchasing as well. This has enabled us to better project demand down to the material level and assure that we have the appropriate inputs to cover our requirements. Our goal will be to utilize this with our supply chain partners to help them understand our needs.

R&FF: How would you describe Windsor’s approach to transportation?

Alden: We view it as a collaborative effort where we work with a carrier base. Our primary concern is customer service – assuring that the required product is always available. Today, we’re looking to manage more of the entire transportation volume. We believe this will enable us to drive greater supply chain improvements.

R&FF: So what else has Windsor been doing in this arena?

Alden: We have studied our facility locations and developed routing guides to utilize carriers. We also are constantly looking to manage fuel cost. Although fuel costs have relaxed, we haven’t stopped reviewing how to manage this important area. We are looking at hedging, standardizing our processes and bidding all lanes. During a time like this, we’re also concerned about the ongoing availability of carriers. We want to assure that a carrier’s service will be year-round.

R&FF: What are a few of your 2009 transportation goals?

Alden: We had three goals. First, we wanted to establish and complete a thorough bidding process for our business.

Our goals this year have been to complete a thorough bidding process, (2) expand our abilities to work with our suppliers on managing our supply chain and assure that the clear goals we had established are well defined and understood by all.

We have been successful in all areas with bidding completed, further expansion of managing the supply chain to our locations and measuring and holding people and locations more accountable for the goals.

R&FF: What are your thoughts about rail transportation?
Alden: Strictly intermodal for all lanes possible. We want to expand this further as possible.

R&FF: How does Windsor approach warehousing? Any strategic changes here?

Alden: We utilize public refrigerated warehousing (PRW) in key strategic locations nationwide. Our supply chain optimization project verified that work we’ve done to date has been good. Then again, it also has pointed out where we can make improvements and take the next step.

For example, we are making some strategic changes to minimize the overall number of [PRW] locations and better service different areas of the country from key distribution centers. We have some excellent relationships with our PRW partners.
R&FF: What were your 2009 warehousing goals? Can you talk about progress to date?

Alden: We’ve had two goals. First, was to implement findings from our supply chain optimization project. Secondly, we wanted to improve our Midwest warehouse operations. We issued requests for proposal on that and – as of this summer – it looks as though we’ll meet both of our goals.