Refrigerated & Frozen Foods talks with Thomas Hayes, chief supply chain officer for Sara Lee’s new company, The Hillshire Brands Co., Downers Grove, Ill.

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: Summarize Hillshire Brands’ approach to supply chain and logistics.

Thomas Hayes: Hillshire Brands’ supply chain approach is simple—we work to make what consumers value and eliminate what they don’t. From a logistics perspective, we serve our customers from five temperature-controlled distribution centers around the country. We do not manage our own fleet of trucks, but instead utilize carriers that have proven to be great partners in times where trucks may be in short supply due to seasonal demand. Hillshire Brands’ mixing centers are state-of-the-art facilities that we designed and constructed eight years ago. Our production is planned centrally through our integrated planning and logistics team. Our sales and operations planning process is a well-honed, cross-functional capability, but we continually challenge ourselves to improve the process every year.

R&FF: How is Hillshire Brands’ retail supply chain function organized in regards to refrigerated and frozen foods? How is the foodservice supply chain function organized?

Hayes: At Hillshire Brands, we run one integrated supply chain to service both retail and foodservice customers. We used to maintain two separate supply chains, but made the move to integrate to one several years ago. Our supply chain consists of procurement, manufacturing, food safety and quality, regulatory affairs, customer service, planning, logistics, sustainability, continuous improvement and facility services. More importantly, we aggressively leverage teamwork across all of these functions. Because of the natural inter-dependence of all the supply chain functions, we take great care in maintaining alignment with our plans across each discipline. We cascade all of our quality, service, value and team objectives all the way to the front line and maintain performance boards throughout our organization that visibly identify gaps in our plans. For each of our four core objectives, we have two key performance indicators (KPIs). These eight KPIs form our Oper8tional Excellence scorecard. Our teams work daily to meet or exceed our Oper8tional Excellence targets and provide the greatest advantage possible for Hillshire Brands to succeed.

R&FF: Sara Lee renamed the new meat company, Hillshire Brands. How does this new company impact supply chain and logistics company-wide? How does it improve supply chain and logistics with Sara Lee’s customers?

Hayes: The name change in and of itself does not impact our work in supply chain (other than changing signage at our plants and distribution centers). However, the level of focus we will be applying to our growth agenda has changed. While seeking and identifying waste continues, the supply chain will play a more active role in the new product development process.

R&FF: What are some key warehousing/transportation initiatives that took place over the past year? Any initiatives in place for 2013?

Hayes: At Hillshire Brands, we partner with a third-party logistics provider for labor and management at our mixing centers. Some of the projects we implemented include re-racking, voice pick, a new warehouse management operating system and a new integrated transportation management system. In addition, we have embarked on an initiative to upgrade our planning system to the latest release, and we have also rolled out our Lean Diagnostics to build our productivity pipeline.


Thomas Hayes is the chief supply chain officer for Sara Lee’s new company, The Hillshire Brands Co., located in Downers Grove, Ill. Hayes maintains more than 25 years of sales, marketing and general management operations experience in the consumer packaged goods industry.