George's Chicken is a poultry processor and distributor based in Springdale, Ark. The company is subject to strict regulations when it comes to food safety, and its biggest customers have added their own demands for quality and safety.
Taking fresh or frozen chicken out of its temperature safety zone for too long makes it go from nutritious to hazardous. And no matter how vigilant a producer is about climate control within their own four walls, those standards can go out the window when product leaves the dock.
The temperature of these products is affected by every stop along their journey, and a customer's refrigerated dock will be warmer than a refrigerated trailer. The quality of product that travels through multiple stops can be affected dramatically.
"Warehouses vary greatly in their time to get trucks unloaded," says Jeff Overstreet, corporate director of transportation and distribution for George's. "When your driver sets foot in the door, to the time product gets received, if that's a couple hours, the product starts to warm up. The time you spend at the customer dock at those unloading points, that's where you'll have your real challenges."
For George's, managing the climate in their own fleet starts with efficient routing, and for that the company relies on software (Paragon). It puts all orders through this system and it factors in Hours of Service regulations, truck weight and distance to come up with the optimal schedule for the day.
"Any time you can reduce miles you can reduce liability when it comes to temperature," Overstreet says. "A lot of times we're able to put together trucks that have 2 to 3 instead of 4 to 5 stops. The dispatchers may massage this if they know a customer can't receive at a certain time, but we get a template every day to work from that is very efficient."
"Going out to the fast food restaurants, we saved big money the first year because we took out two routes completely and filled up other trucks that were going in the same direction," Overstreet explains. "You're talking labor, trucks, trailers and it was easily $150,000-plus that first year. Now with the dynamic scheduling we're going through we're hoping to get that just in reduced miles annually."
In addition to routing technology, this fleet uses in-cab navigation (PeopleNet, www.peoplenetonline.com) that uses GPS to ensure accurate pick-up and delivery times, reduce fuel costs and improve driver efficiency.
George's future use of the routing software will help the company rate on-time performance of carriers used by its Western Division and better understand costs. "We will be able to select the best performing carriers to meet our customers' needs," Overstreet predicts.
"Good use of proven technology."—John Hill
"Cleverly combined standard routing software with GPS technology to implement an efficient and well monitored temperature controlled delivery system."—Tan Miller
"These folks combine measurements of temperature, distance, travel and dock time, and truck weight for every order to know good chicken and minimize chicken-gone-bad using their own OR other truck fleets. Very impressive! The software provides knowledge of what's going on with their product throughout the entire supply chain and makes them an exemplary innovator."—Roger Bostelman
"Perishable food requires a very precise environment. Although not revolutionary, George's Chicken carefully selected the most effective software and integrated it while addressing the challenges of the refrigerated trucking industry."—Al Will
"Assuring the integrity of a cold supply chain can be daunting. Again a private company makes it happen, with an employee who is completely committed."—Ron Giuntini