Those working at Shaw Industries call it “the lean initiative.” Translated, it means operating at maximum efficiency with minimum inventory. One way the floor-covering manufacturer is doing this is by matching production to customers' needs.
Shaw Industries started out dyeing scatter rugs in 1946, but diversified over the years as it acquired companies with complementary products and consolidated operations in the Dalton, GA, area. Today Shaw Industries is the world's largest carpet manufacturing company, with 30,000 employees producing more than $5- billion in annual sales.
The company manufactures laminate flooring, carpet and rugs, and has 50-plus manufacturing facilities located in northern Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. It also purchases and distributes ceramic tile and hardwood, making it a total floor-covering provider.
Finished product is transported to one of Shaw's 30 Regional Distribution Centers (RDCs) across the continental U.S. via the company's over-the-road fleet, which includes 250 tractors (mostly sleeper cabs) and 350 drivers. The RDC fleet of 500 trucks and 500 drivers delivers product to customers, most of whom are dealerships.
Another portion of the Shaw fleet is dedicated to servicing all the transportation needs of the manufacturing operations. Marion Beacham, manager of Interplant Transportation and Fleet Services (which services all 3,000-plus trailers and ownership power equipment), says the Interplant fleet of 72 tractors goes plant-to-plant bringing raw materials and supplies needed by the various facilities to produce finished product.
“Our service area is about a 350-mile radius,” says Beacham. “We use 180 drivers in slip-seat operations, driving in three shifts around the clock. We also have a separate fleet of 20 tractors and tanker trailers, half of which are wet tanks and half dry bulk tanks.” He says these are used to transport [liquid] latex and crushed limestone filler, which is the adhesive used in carpet production.
According to Beacham, Interplant Operations makes about 1000 tractor/trailer moves per day. “This kind of volume requires high-tech equipment for real time tracking of equipment and proper customer service. We developed our own in-house CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) system and purchased PeopleNet in-cab computers to dispatch drivers, analyze cost, and measure performance, which is key to understanding and improving business.
Shaw Industries runs its fleet primarily on full-service lease contracts with Penske and Salem NationaLease (about 50% each), which include road breakdown service. Lease agreements are for three to six years, depending on annual mileage. Beacham notes they like to turn power equipment around at slightly under 500,000 miles.
For Interplant operations, he says they spec Fontaine's 7000 Series fifth wheel with cast top-plate, which is basically a heavy-duty, off-road model. “These give us longer life in an environment where we couple and uncouple the trailers so many times a day,” Beacham explains. The company has 1,200 Interplant, 1,000 OTR and 500 RDC trailers. It uses mostly Great Dane and Trailmobile 53-ft. units.
“We spec our trailers with extra-strong sidewalls because carpet piled up has a natural tendency to want to roll out towards the sides and this puts stress on the sidewalls that may over time cause them to bow,” Beacham advises. “We prefer a 12-in. sidewall post spacing if we can get it. We also spec Kemlite walls on the inside, which create a smooth, continuous surface as opposed to plywood, which eventually splinters and can do damage to the carpet.”
A new cost-savings initiative for Shaw Industries' Interplant Operations began this month when the company purchased 14 Volvo tractors that it plans to maintain in its own shops. Eight of the tractors are spec'd with heavy Cummins engines, but while that are going to be hooked to tanker trailers are spec'd which 800-lb.-lighter Volvo engines.