Being at the top of one's game doesn't preclude striving for even greater performance. There's no disputing Shaw Industries' private fleet operation is a recognized trucking tour de force, consistently ranking among the top private fleets in the country. Yet despite being itself a highly vertical manufacturer of carpeting and ceramic, hardwood and laminate flooring, Shaw had long fielded several fleet operations. These were drawn along historical manufacturing lines, dedicated specifically to inbound, interplant and outbound freight movements with little interaction.
But part and parcel with the manufacturer's commitment to continual improvement, this year Shaw made a solid break with tradition and moved to consolidate its trucking operations to benefit from the synergies a tighter fleet organization would unleash.
Randy Smith, named this July to the newly created position of director of transportation, is charged with managing all Shaw's transportation functions “under one umbrella.” This means combining extensive over-the-road (OTR) operations with a massive interplant (IP) enterprise that completes 9,000 freight moves a week.
“My charge is to find the synergies between what were separate operations,” says Smith. “Integrating the transportation functions is innovative,” he adds. He should know, being a Shaw's veteran familiar with the traditional setup. Over his 11 years with Shaw, Smith has managed three different regional fleet operations. He served the last six years as director of regional operations.
Smith relates that Shaw's first move was to roll its, yes, third trucking arm — a fleet that ran between distribution centers — into the interplant trucking operation. “That,” he notes, “was done without a hitch.”
The IP fleet numbers 110 tractors, 1700 trailers, including tankers and specially reinforced “carpet-spec” units, and employs 253 drivers, who run seven days a week on various shifts.
The OTR fleet fields 290 tractors and 1150 trailers, and employs 250 drivers who operate nationwide. These trucks also provide backhauls of Shaw's own raw materials, as well as provide service to outside companies.
“The IP fleet moved freight between plants for the manufacturing operation and the OTR fleet handled distribution of the finished product,” points out Smith, “and no one ever did the other's work.”
By contrast, he says with the operations consolidated, common-sense efficiencies can come into play rapidly. “For example, Smith relates, “now when the OTR fleet is short of drivers, we can have IP drivers helping with those moves. Previously, the two were simply not part of the same team. We're working now to remove those barriers. The whole point is to do what works to keep the level of our transportation service as high as possible.”
There are also economies of scale that will benefit the combined operation as well. “Another change we've made is to make the fuel island equipped with diesel and biodiesel pumps formerly operated only for the IP fleet available also to OTR trucks, which had been fueled where they were maintained. We are looking at adding a second fueling site, too. This change is saving refueling time and money as biodiesel costs us less.” He notes these savings have amounted to several thousand dollars in just a few months
The fleet currently operates one maintenance shop. Although much of the power equipment is leased from or maintained by two lessors — “we use two to keep them both honest” — Smith says Shaw wants to expand its shop operations to gain efficiency.
Looking ahead, Smith sees “plenty of synergies to identify and act on” in the new year.