At Weber Distribution, its not just warehousing, cross-docking, pool distribution, and transportation that keep its customers' supply chains moving. Temperature controlled features and resources coupled with the latest in tracking technologies and a commitment to customer to custer service has made this company the undisputed leader in its industry on the west coast, as Lorie Greenspan finds.
Successful companies have one thing in common: superb logistics operations. While the products and operations of companies vary greatly, the use of a strategic logistics partner to gain a competitive advantage is a common thread among all great companies. Weber Distribution has made itself an important part of its customers’ supply chains for more than 80 years, forming an inextricable link that keeps the food & beverage industry humming on the West Coast.
John Nutt is Chief Operating Officer for Weber Distribution, which handles an array of products for an equally diverse client base. But food & beverage is by far its biggest market, at 60 percent, for which Weber maintains an equally enormous inventory of capabilities and services: a fleet of 250 trucks and a network of 20 distribution facilities across the West Coast including: California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Its customers are a listing of who’s who in the industry and include General Mills, Hershey, Welch’s, Ocean Spray, and Coors.
Weber is a third party logistics provider (3PL) and brings many advantages to these high-profile customers. “For one, we’re family owned and privately held,” Nutt says. “When we need to increase capacity or resources for customers with we can make a quick decision to accommodate them. We’re also asset based – we own our warehouses and trucks, which gives us more control. Our facilities are all food grade – ASI inspected, and temperature controlled, which is a big deal. And the people who work here are great – our solid reputation and legacy within the logistics industry is built on hiring the best logistics professionals who understand our customers’ business and who work diligently to improve the performance of our customers’ supply chain.”
According to Nutt, the company has been expanding its existing temperature-controlled business since acquiring a 700,000-square-foot temperature and humidity- controlled warehousing and transportation provider last year. “Weber ships over 600 million pounds of freight a year as a less than truckload (LTL) carrier, meaning it can consolidate the cargo of many customers into one full truck, billing them only for their portion of the space. In addition, the company maintains temperature-controlled warehouses, which are ideal for its food and beverage customers,” Nutt says.
Having been named one of the top 100 privately held companies in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Business Journal, Weber offers far more than just storage and transportation to its customers. The company monitors and manages everything from inventory accuracy to order processing to receiving accuracy, all designed to deliver superior service and complete accountability for product handling. As specialists in supply chain management, the company takes every part of its customers’ supply chain into consideration to provide cost-saving solutions. In addition, Weber is heavily involved with all logistics industry organizations, including the Council of Supply Chain Management Providers, Food Shippers of America, National Confectioners’ Logistics Council, Vendor Compliance Federation, and the Warehouse Education and Research Council.
A History of Achievement
Weber Distribution was one of the first logistics companies established in the world. It began in 1924 with the Weber Showcase and Fixture Company, a manufacturer of display equipment in Los Angeles. Karl Weber expanded his company in 1924 and, because of the demand from the food industry, his first warehouse facility was a food storage warehouse that stored bags of salt, sugar, and flour. The location was in a converted factory building in Los Angeles, centrally located only a few blocks from the downtown center. The company slowly expanded through the decades.
In 2006 The History Channel profiled Weber Distribution on its “Modern Marvels” series.
Also, in 2006 the company achieved another milestone in finalizing a deal to purchase TaB Warehouse and Distribution Co., a leading 3PL in the confectionery warehousing field that handled some of the most recognizable names in the confectionery industry.. The company then expanded even further and today Weber has distribution facilities and transportation terminals strategically located in close proximity to all major West Coast transportation and hub points, including the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and San Diego, and facilities within greater Las Vegas, Phoenix, and the Pacific Northwest.
To put another feather in its already crowded cap, in 2007, for the 11th year in a row, Weber Distribution was named a Top 100 third party logistics provider by Inbound Logistics.
Nutt notes that although the company has grown to over 800 employees, the basic operating philosophy has remained the same throughout the years. “From day one, Weber Distribution has been dedicated to delivering personalized service, exceptional quality, and superior value to each of our customers. These goals have not changed during our 80 plus years in business.”
Food & beverage efficiencies
All of these advances have underscored the company’s leading industry position. For over 80 years, Weber Distribution has been highly respected in the food and beverage industry. Cleanliness, service, presence in the area, geographically desirable locations, industry experience, economies of scale, and system capabilities are some of the key attributes that have served Weber well.
The company’s service highlights include:
• 24-hour temperature and humidity controlled storage;
• Lot and expiration date code tracking throughout the facility (inbound, storage, delivery);
• Perpetual cycle counting and stock rotation;
• Quality inspections;
• Order fulfillment;
• All personnel are trained in sanitation and safe food handling practices;
• Robust barcode scan enabled Warehouse Management System (WMS) designed to support the food industry and to manage warehousing activities.
One of the biggest advantages Weber offers is its temperature controlled facilities and trucks. On top of the usual shipment protocol required for moving consumer goods in a time-sensitive supply chain, temperature controlled food shipments have limited shelf-life and demand special handling, both in storage and in transport. Consumers expect and demand attractive, good tasting and fresh products.
To guarantee that perishable food product reaches the consumer, a high priority must be placed on climate control both in the warehouse and during the transit of the product. Environmental conditions must be carefully controlled to preserve freshness and good taste in perishable products. Extreme fluctuations in temperature and humidity must be avoided, whenever possible, because they can accelerate aging and reduce the shelf-life of the product.
Weber Distribution offers many benefits to companies that need to store and distribute temperature controlled products. These benefits include the ability to provide critical transaction data and analysis. Information about inventory management, shipment histories, production scheduling, and stock replenishment can be routinely shared. In addition, facilities are strategically located to connect with all transport modes, and shippers can also take advantage of reduced transportation costs available through consolidated shipments.
Triple S Program
At the heart of all of Weber’s operations is its “Triple S” program – safety, security, and sanitation. This month marks the 15-year anniversary without a “lost time” accident for Weber’s 203,500-square-foot facility in La Mirada, Calif.; 13 years for its 220,000-square-foot Santa Fe Springs, Calif., warehouse; and 10 years for its 180,000-square-foot facility in Norwalk, Calif. Weber defines a “lost time” accident as “an employee who is injured and cannot return to work by the start of their next shift.”
The program first and foremost ensures the well-being of employees, but also helps deliver high levels of productivity for customers using the facility. According to Larry Morris, who is vice president of operations for Weber and has been with the company for more than 23 years, the impressive warehouse safety records can be attributed to the top-to-bottom commitment to the program. “Known as the 3S’s among all of our staff, this program has helped Weber maintain 99-percent-plus performance levels for order cycle times, on-time delivery records, on-time shipping, and on-time trucking,” said Morris.
At the core of Weber’s 3S program are daily and weekly written inspections performed by each warehouse manager and weekly safety meetings held at each facility, including ongoing training sessions. In addition, each month a Safety, Sanitation and Security report is completed for each building, and in turn, every warehouse posts the number of days without a “Lost Time” accident for staff to view. The program is closely monitored by a comprehensive internal quarterly 245-point inspection and audit for each facility.
On the safety end, the company ensures that all of the employees are properly trained in handling food product and that every safety requirement is in place to keep the staff safe when handling the food product. Weber employees who operate equipment must be certified and all motorized equipment undergoes a pre-trip inspection to ensure it is operating properly and is well-maintained. Sanitation includes a dedicated janitorial team, constant scrubbing of the facility, and white sanitation lines to ensure that the interior perimeters of the buildings are easily kept free of debris. Finally, the security part of the program ensures that all Weber employees are thoroughly vetted before beginning work with the company. In addition, all employees wear identification badges at all times.
Temperature Controlled Transportation
The need for temperature controls extends to the company’s trucks as well. Carrier capacity is an ever-growing problem for all shippers, but food manufacturers are further challenged by seasonal demands, fluctuating volume, and special storage and handling requirements. Drayage and truck capacity for refrigerated cargo is scarce and finding refrigerated carriers for LTL moves can be challenging. Weber Distribution’s asset-based regional LTL network affords temperature controlled manufacturers considerable flexibility with locating truck capacity. This gives the company the ability to meet the seasonal demand fluctuations and special temperature requirements of the industry.
Recently, to service the expanding temperate-controlled less-than-truckload (LTL) needs throughout the West Coast, Weber Distribution, acquired a new fleet of 150 refrigerated trailers outfitted with “SkyBitz” tracking technology.
The newest acquisitions to the Weber Distribution temperature controlled fleet consists of a combination of 53-foot Great Dane trailers and 48-foot roll door Utility trailers and features the latest generation of Thermo King SB210 Whisper reefer units that meet the most stringent California and EPA emission standards.
The trailers are equipped with Maxxon 5500 pound Tuck-a-Way lift-gates, along with an electrical plug-in option, which allows the units to use electricity during loading and at terminals, thereby reducing fuel consumption, diesel emissions, maintenance and noise.
At the heart of the new trailer fleet is a state-of-the-art GPS tracking technology provided by “Star-Trak.” The Star-Trak monitoring system continuously transmits real-time data and automatically broadcasts an alert if the trailer is performing outside of its pre-set parameters. Another major feature of the system is that the temperature set-point can also be changed directly from the dispatcher’s computer.
“We are very excited about enhancing our temperature-controlled network in the Western United States with our new fleet, featuring the latest in refrigeration and tracking technology. Weber handles extensive pool distribution inbound shipments from points east of the Rockies, and LTL deliveries from shippers throughout the Western United States utilizing its fleet of tractors, reefer trailers, and small cube trucks for specialty delivery services. Weber operates a true, asset-based LTL reefer distribution network and unlike many providers in our market, we have the tonnage and scale to handle loads on a time-defined basis, consistently meeting our customers’ required delivery dates,” says Nutt.
Weber’s Transportation division uses a proprietary TransLINKS TMS system as its operational platform. This robust Transportation Management System allows team members to perform timely order entry, load building, routing, consolidation, and load tendering for customer’s outbound orders. Additionally, the system allows for real-time tracking and tracing and financial settlements.
Nutt notes that “The goal is to assure that both cost and service requirements are fully satisfied. Our TMS is fully integrated with our LINKS WMS system. This means that when orders are entered into the WMS, they are immediately visible in TransLINKS for scheduling and load building. This provides us with a powerful tool for load-planning and advance purchasing of equipment as needed to provide the lowest possible transportation costs, while assuring that equipment is available and scheduled to meet all our customers’ requested arrival date (RAD) requirements.”
By focusing on what they do best for over 80 years, Weber has continued to stay on the leading edge of distribution methods and technologies and is able to manage the distribution of its customers’ products from the warehouse, to the truck, to their final destination.
So the company that started as a small business in Los Angeles has maintained and expanded upon its regional focus and delivered comprehensive distribution resources and high service standards to the far reaches of the West Coast. As it expands its network even further, Weber will no doubt continue to build upon its dominant presence in the industry.