Mhlnews 1485 Ray Wisniewski

Filling Empty Miles Also Fills Bottom Line

June 3, 2011
Here’s how a logistics solutions provider uses the Empty Miles program developed by the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions (VICS) Association, GS1 Canada and GS1 US to control costs and better serve clients.

National Retail Systems Inc. (NRS) operates an expansive network of transportation and distribution assets focused on one goal – delivering efficient and reliable logistics solutions to America’s leading brands.

With just a couple of trucks serving the New York market in 1953, NRS has steadily expanded over the last 58 years to handle more than one billion pounds of freight a year, serving clients coast-to-coast and in China.

“My father-in-law started NRS as a garment trucker in Manhattan running between 36th Street and the boroughs,” says Ray Wisniewski, president and chief operating officer. “Over the years, we have learned the retail market inside and out. The major challenge for our clients is getting the maximum amount of time on shelves to sell their products. We help them do just that.”

Good for Clients

Within minutes of a discussion with Wisniewski, it’s evident that the longevity of NRS is due to its client-centric approach.

Just one example is how NRS works closely with manufacturers and retailers to plan and optimize routes for speed-to-market results. NRS practices what the company calls “distribution center (DC) bypass.” Wisniewski explains, “DC bypass is a process where we take the freight into consolidation and then transport it directly to the store. So we basically remove the distribution-center step, getting merchandise from the manufacturer to the retailer much quicker.”

NRS works with clients to control costs throughout their supply chain. “We’re always considering ways to reduce our cost of doing business which, in turn, means better rates for our clients,” says Transportation Analyst Brad Gallin. “They [clients] are very open to changes in routes that help reduce miles and the high cost of fuel and carbon emissions.”

For NRS, environmental strategies are cost-cutters. “We have a number of strategies for environmental-related savings: idle management, speed management, tire technologies, aerodynamic features on some of our trailers, and bio-diesel,” says Wisniewski. “Another strategy is our use of the Empty Miles Service. It helps us be highly efficient when filling empty miles, which is good for our clients, good for us and good for the environment.”

Gallin adds, “For every 500-mile lane we match each week, we remove 41 tons of carbon dioxide from the environment and saves 20 barrels of crude oil each year.”

Good Investment

The Empty Miles Service was developed by the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions (VICS) Association, GS1 Canada and GS1 US. The service enables members like NRS to match their empty trailers with other pre-qualified shippers or carriers that can use the space for shipments.

The Empty Miles Service is also an affiliate member of the EPA/SmartWay Transport program and is aligned with the goals of the sustainable goods movement. This strong relationship allows members to link to EPA/SmartWay from the Empty Miles home page.

Getting started is straightforward and simple. To help members get on-board, VICS provides training via online seminars, demonstrating how to fully use the service to achieve specific business objectives.

VICS members subscribing to the Empty Miles Service pay $1,600 per year and non-members pay $1,850. To enhance and add more functionality, all subscription fees have been re-invested back into the Empty Miles Service.

“When I consider how we use it for our clients and our company, it’s a great investment for the value it delivers,” says Gallin. “When we use Empty Miles to identify backhaul opportunities, we save significant time. Instead of making calls to 30 different people for a few loads which could take hours, we input our backhaul information into Empty Miles as an alternative to searching broker boards. It’s fast and helps us stay productive.”

Empty Miles gives NRS the capability to post watch lists and empty lanes for other subscribers to view in real-time. Gallin continues, “A watch list brings semi-autonomous units together to communicate opportunities to each other. By filling more and more empty miles for our clients, we can optimize our loads and contain costs – for us and them.”

Good for Business

Since every run is different, NRS sets individual objectives based on the percentage of empty miles. “If we average 20 percent empty miles on a particular run, we gauge our performance based on the targeted reduction. So we can work on that lane to bring it down to 10 percent, 9 percent or even 8 percent,” explains Wisniewski. “The service also allows us to be more selective by searching within our own network on Empty Miles versus calling broker boards or other methods.”

Filling empty miles mitigates the transportation costs incurred by NRS. Wisniewski elaborates on the benefits. “We are working to increase our miles per gallon by 36 percent. This will provide a huge savings for us. At the same time, we are working to increase the return on our transportation assets, and this is where Empty Miles comes in. When we fill those empty miles, that revenue goes directly to our company’s bottom line. The diesel savings alone associated with just one 500-mile lane match per week can save us 3,700 gallons each year or $15,000 based on today’s diesel prices.”

Productivity improvements are also evident. “Our planner can call vendors in the area to ask the shipping clerks or shipping managers if there is anything coming our way. Or, we can ask our salespeople to get on the phones to fill the empty miles. This approach takes a good portion of the day and uses a lot of our resources,” says Gallin. “Empty Miles streamlines the process of filling out our capacity. When a subscriber has a load that needs transporting, based on our parameters, we get a ‘match.’ We call the company, make the deal and we’re on our way.”

The Empty Miles Service also provides NRS with a new avenue for business development. By using the service, NRS is able to identify and transport loads from retailers that are not yet its customers.

“If a company works with NRS one time, they are likely to try us again,” says Gallin. “It happens frequently; containers are re-routed to the Northeast from California and companies need someone to pick them up and transload them.” Wisniewski continues, “Companies call us because we are willing to go the extra mile for them. Whatever goal they put in front of us, we will always attain it, and Empty Miles helps us in that mission.”

Good Opportunity

For companies new to the Empty Miles Service, Wisniewski suggests to “stick with it,” as results will build over time.

“The opportunity is definitely there,” Wisniewski says. “You really need to put in some ‘sweat equity’ to realize the benefits. With the Empty Miles Service, if you are diligent and systematic in how you work, the right opportunities for your business will eventually develop.”

As expected Wisniewski concludes, “You can then turn those opportunities into benefits for your clients.”

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