Private fleets offered practical management advice

Private fleets need to remain relevant by actively managing operations to reflect overall company goals, according to Marie Robinson, sr. vp supply chain for Smart & Final Stores, LLC

Private fleets need to remain relevant by actively managing operations to reflect overall company goals, according to Marie Robinson, sr. vp supply chain for Smart & Final Stores, LLC. And build outstanding service by working to satisfy your toughest customers, advises Rick Coughlin, director of transportation operations for Kraft Foods.

Robinson and Coughlin were the special guest speakers at a webcast on July 29 presented by the National Private Truck Council (NPTC) and Fleet Owner and sponsored by Cadec Global. Called, “Game changers: How today’s unique supply chain issues will change logistics forever,” the webcast drew an audience from across the country.

In her presentation called, “The View from the ‘C’ Seats,” Robinson focused on a variety of scenarios that are facing private fleets today and offered practical advice for supply chain managers trying to make solid decisions and meet the expectations of the CEOs, CFOs and COOs (the folks in those C seats) charged with steering their companies forward, no matter what the circumstances.

For fleets in a stable environment, for instance, Robinson noted that the key challenge was, “How do we not get stagnant?” “Chose specific areas to focus on,” Robinson said, “and make sure that those areas align with your company’s key objectives.” In fact, regardless of the current circumstances, she stressed the importance of this strategic alignment: “Make sure all goals and objectives are as aligned as they can possibly be [to avoid unintended consequences and conflicts],” she said.

“Dramatic changes tend to be high cost and high risk,” Robinson noted. “Take the time to build a thorough model before you begin, and remember that project management is the key.” She also advised executives and managers to: “Make sure your group is known for something---and leverage it.”

Rick Coughlin dove into the specifics of day-to-day private fleet operations, sharing insights gained during his long career at Kraft Foods. “Try to identify and maximize your most lucrative lanes,” Coughlin advised. “Kraft is noted for its outstanding service. Make it your business to service your toughest customers,” he recommended.

Coughlin also offered solid advice for private fleets working to make their role valuable and sustainable within their businesses, noting that his group tracks both the costs associated with operating a private fleet as well as the customer service benefits.

“The speakers’ presentations were just outstanding,” noted Gary Petty, president and CEO of NPTC. “We were honored to be able to bring industry experts like Marie Robinson and Rick Coughlin to our industry during this challenging time. The material presented in this webcast underscores the vital role the private fleet plays in ensuring corporate competitiveness in today’s demanding economic environment.”

The entire webcast is archived and available to anyone for viewing free of charge.

--Wendy Leavitt

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