Three years ago,the privately owned company formerly known as Hickory Springs Manufacturing changed its name to HSM and began a dynamic transformation of corporate rebranding and reinvigoration. A new CEO with dynamic and visionary leadership came on board, organized a new management structure and team, and set forth a strategic plan to reposition the 71-year-old company for sustainable success.
With 2,500 employees, 50 manufacturing plants in 17 U.S. states and China, and 38 domestic shipping locations, Hickory, NC-based HSM specializes in foam, metal, wire, converting, and fiber products. It provides the latest integrated solutions and systems for furniture/bedding markets, as well as rapid-growth fields of commercial/transit/school buses, heath care and government services.
Transportation is a critical component of the company’s success. Its long-standing private fleet underwent revolutionary change with the hiring of a seasoned new leadership team headed by Richard Derian, director of corporate logistics, who has over 25 years of senior logistics experience in the marine and furniture industries, and Della Hensley, CTP, corporate transportation manager, who has more than two decades of for-hire carrier and private fleet experience.
New trailers were the most visible signs of change. “We purchased 200 new trailers with our new logo and set up a structured replacement program to add more trailers every year,” Derian says. “Our trailers are an important value-added feature because these serve as on-site mobile warehouses for foam and fiber products at the customer’s locations. This arrangement saves customers the need for permanent warehouse space, but also gives our trucks more drop-and-hook possibilities.”
Utilization of private fleet capacity has grown dramatically in serving the company’s 100,000 truckload shipments each year. About 65% of these loads are now delivered by the private fleet. The remaining 35% of loads are handled by outside carriers. “Three years ago, these percentages were reversed,” Hensley says. “Our fleet of 130 drivers and 140 tractors has experienced a 300% growth in backhaul revenue along with a 10% reduction in overall operating costs.”
And installing an advanced data management system allows for greater visibility for management and drivers alike. “Capturing this data gives us a great competitive advantage over outside carriers and has helped justify and grow the private fleet. Our cost accountants love it,” Derian says. “This greater reliance on the private fleet has helped control costs, give better service, and provide more flexible, dependable transportation solutions as compared to outside carriers.”
Drivers are given priority attention. Many drivers have long years of service; the average tenure ranges from 15-18 years. “Our drivers see a much better company,” Hensley says. “We have very competitive pay and benefits, and work hard to help every driver find the lifestyle balance that’s right for them.”
Other important changes were initiated as well. Office space was renovated; professionally trained support staff was hired; driver paperwork was reduced; new uniforms for staff and drivers were introduced; and communication with drivers was improved. “We take every opportunity to say ‘thanks,’ ” Hensley says.
“We have executed a turnaround for lasting change,” Derian notes. “The private fleet is seen as a differentiated value—and a vital resource of superior fleet solutions.”
Gary Petty is president and CEO of the National Private Truck Council. The council’s website is www.nptc.org. His column appears monthly in Fleet Owner.