Dot Foods Puts New DC Close to Customers

April 1, 2005
Logistics data pointed to best location for supply-chain efficiency.

Nestled at the foot of Oklahoma's Arbuckle Mountains, Ardmore (pop. 23,939) has great market proximity. It is strategically located on I-35, just 90 miles from Dallas and Oklahoma City. It has mild winters and warm summers. Mean annual temperature is 62.4 degrees; average annual rainfall is 34.26 inches. Location and geography played a big role in Dot Foods, Inc.'s (Mt. Sterling, Ill.) decision to put its new $11.7 million distribution center in Ardmore.

Dana Chapman, general manager of Dot Foods, Inc.'s newly opened Ardmore DC, says her company's logistics studies showed that putting a distribution center in the south would improve supply-chain efficiency. Before the new facility, Dot Foods would supply Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico customers from its Illinois warehouse. The studies showed that the company was picking up items in Dallas, shipping them to Illinois, and then shipping them south again. "The new center can potentially shorten the time needed to get product to customers," Chapman explains.

"We expect to ship 90 million pounds out of here this year," she adds. "We have 70 employees and climbing at the facility, which ultimately will increase to around 90." Dot Foods in Ardmore operates with two day shifts and a night shift.

Dot Foods, Inc., a privately held, family-owned business founded in 1960, is the largest food redistributor in the United States daily serving distributors coast to coast. Its 2003 sales were $1.6 billion. The company serves more than 2,200 food distributors and manufacturers in food service, retail, ingredient, convenience store and vending supply chains. Dot carries more than 30,000 products and has distribution centers in Modesto, Calif.; St. Louis, Mo.; Williamsport, Md.; Liverpool, N.Y.; and Vidalia, Ga.

Its new Ardmore, Okla. facility is a remodeled Best Buy Return Center. Dot Foods added 60,000 square-feet of refrigeration space to the existing fiveyearold, 121,00-square-feet building. An additional 9,200-square-feet garage has space and equipment to maintain Dot's trucks.

The refrigeration units in the new distribution center run on ammonia, rather than Freon. Chapman says ammonia is used instead of Freon because it is more environmentally friendly and does not harm the ozone layer. It's also more efficient, economical and is a better temperature regulator than Freon.

Continuous learning is the hallmark of Dot Foods company culture. It built an in-house training center reinforced with steel that does double duty as storm shelter. Company employees are required to have 40 hours of training each year. They receive training in all aspects of safety and quality. Because of such human resource investments, Chapman says 70 to 80 percent of Dot Foods managers are promoted from within the company. Additionally, Dot Foods rewards its drivers to be safe in multiple ways. For example, monetary incentives are given for driving at a safe speed and there are awards for length of time without an accident. "We have safety training every quarter to insure we keep safety in the forefront of their minds," Chapman says.

Julia Zimmerman, Dot Foods' manager of Employee Development and Safety, says, "Our safety training and incentive programs are effective. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a frequency of injury rate for drivers at 7.8 [per 100 employees]. Our driver injury rate the last two years has run 5.4 and 6.13 respectively."

"The company offers tremendous educational opportunities," says Chapman, who started as a customer service representative. She's pleased and surprised at how contagious the Dot culture is with the new employees. Ardmore, in turn, greeted Dot Foods with wonderful southern hospitality. "Its people have a great work ethic."

Dot Foods, Inc.'s new distribution center in Ardmore, Okla., located in a remodeled and expanded Best Buy Returns Center, is near Dallas and Oklahoma City.

Dot Foods, Inc. expects to ship 90 million pounds out of its new Ardmore, Okla. distribution center this year.