All companies seek to protect the reputation of their products and the brand associated with those products. The brand is the public face of a corporation in the marketplace. However, some food companies such as Wayne Farms LLC work in a purely business-to-business environment. In such a case, protecting the customers' brands amounts to protecting the food producer.
Wayne Farms, formerly known as the Poultry Division of ContiGroup Companies, is one of the five largest producers of chickens in the US, with control of the product from feed and farm to the final product. It employs more than 9,500 people who process more than 250 million birds amounting to 1.3 billion pounds of poultry annually in 13 facilities scattered across the Southeastern US in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and North Carolina. These plants produce fresh and further-processed product. Corporate offices are in Oakwood, Georgia, northeast of Atlanta. Rather than producing a retail brand, Wayne Farms sells high quality goods made to the exact specifications of other businesses. By concentrating on business-to-business sales, the company frees up resources that would otherwise be required to support a retail brand.
ContiGroup previously was known as Continental Grain Company. One of the world's largest privately held companies, it was founded in Belgium in 1813 and has operated in the US since 1944. In addition to Wayne Farms, ContiGroup owns ContiBeef and Premium Standard Farms, the pork producer, as well as four other business groups.
Comprehensive logistics management
To help ensure that customers for Wayne Farms further-processed product receive exactly what was ordered in exactly the condition specified, the company has spent the past two years planning and implementing a logistics management system it calls Intelliship. The objective of Intelliship is to enhance the tracking, security, and safety of the company's frozen, breaded, fully cooked, flash fried, or otherwise further-processed products. The program combines onboard temperature monitoring and product control with round-the-clock communication capability while goods are in transit.
Intelliship is a proactive approach to protecting the customers of Wayne Farms, says Stan Hayman, director of sales and marketing. “Our customers include major manufacturers such as Campbell Soup, national restaurant chains, and the foodservice distributors that service them,” he says. To protect these customers and our products, we did a detailed analysis of the supply chain to look for the places where we were not fully in control. Intelliship is designed to extend our control into those blank spaces along the supply chain. We see a critical need to protect our customers, because if we lose those customers, we have no reason to exist. As a business-to-business vendor, we have no consumer brand to fall back on.”
Wayne Farms ships to customers using third party, for-hire carriers. In addition, customers can pick up product from the further-processing plants. Customer pick-ups are not subject to Intelliship monitoring. So far, about 70 refrigerated trailers are used in the Intelliship program. These trailers are equipped with data loggers to monitor temperature during transit. Temperature readings usually are taken hourly. Motor carriers are responsible for maintaining the equipment, downloading temperature data, and providing that data to Wayne Farms on request.
Full carrier participation
Although maintaining the temperature records takes more work, Wayne Farms says that none of the carriers it was using before implementation of Intelliship declined to participate in the new program. Wayne Farms specifies what information is required. The hardware needed to refrigerate the trailers and collect the data — either Carrier Transicold or Thermo King — is left to the discretion of the carriers.
To participate in Intelliship, carriers must purchase supplemental cargo insurance in addition to that required for general freight. A communications contact between Wayne Farms and its carriers is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure an immediate response in the event of an accident or other equipment malfunction.
Wayne Farms maintains no long-term storage in its own facilities. Product is stored for distribution in public refrigerated warehouses. To qualify as a Wayne Farms facility, warehouses must agree to meet Intelliship criteria and undergo a biannual quality control audit. Record keeping on temperature control during transit and storage is vital to the quality of Wayne Farms product, because about 90% of the further-processed products are frozen.
Intelliship became fully operational as of December 31, 2003. On that date all carriers had refrigerated trailers with data logging available and smart locks to record trailer door openings. Refrigerated warehouses were all certified and ready for the record keeping required by Intelliship.
Smart locks for LTL
Wayne Farms ships both full truckloads and partial loads. Full loads are secured with conventional serial-numbered seals. The company specifies a more technologically advanced trailer closure for multi-stop loads. Carriers are required to use smart Supra Trac padlocks made in Salem, Oregon. Supra is a division of GE Interlogix. The Supra lock combines the physical security of a boron steel padlock with an access control system. With the smart padlocks, Wayne Farms is able to monitor trailer door openings. The lock records when it was opened and closed and which key was used to open it. Data is also stored in the keys. The lock and keys use batteries for power.
Simply having a key is not enough to get into a trailer. The key holder must enter a personal identification number as well as insert the key. As a result, lost keys cannot be used to open a lock.
Memory stored by the keys is actually more robust than the lock. The lock retains a records of the last 35 times it was opened or closed. Keys can maintain a log of up to 270 events. Information from the locks and keys can be downloaded by telephone from an internal modem and becomes immediately available from Supra to authorized users such as Wayne Farms and its carriers on the Internet. Lock access reports can also be faxed or emailed.
The locks cost about $300 apiece. In addition, Supra charges a monthly fee of $10 per lock for downloading and processing the data.
Intelliship is an extension of the core philosophy at Wayne Farms, Hayman says. The company maintains a true partnership with customers and has an obligation to provide products that protect the customers' brands by selling only high-quality, value-added products. “At the start of the Intelliship development, we knew that we already controlled all our internal processes from the farm to the shipping dock,” he says. “Intelliship is intended to extend our control to those points along the supply chain where we had not previously had as much control. With Intelliship, we can extend Wayne Farms control from our shipping dock all the way to the receiver.”
In addition to a process for continuous monitoring of product temperature, Intelliship provides the control necessary for a comprehensive food safety program. Wayne Farms can now trace any given shipment directly from its plants to customers and provide a detailed history of the product while in the supply chain.
Intelliship is meant to provide added value to customers and strengthen the ties between Wayne Farms and its partners. Although the program costs Wayne Farms about 7% more for its logistics program than the previous shipping and storage procedures, costs are not passed through to customers, Hayman says.