FleetPride Introduces Automation to Benefit Diverse Customer Base
It may sound cliché, but FleetPride Inc. takes a lot of pride in all it does. The company has pride in the number of the products it stocks, pride in its ability to deliver products when they are needed, pride in its quality remanufacturing of brake shoes and driveline components, and pride in the brands it carries. Pride in all it does has made FleetPride the largest distributor of truck and trailer parts in the independent heavy-duty aftermarket. And according to Juan Guerrero, senior vice president of supply chain, pride in its people surpasses it all, because they are key in the company’s ability to deliver.
FleetPride serves its customers with more than 260,000 heavy-duty truck and trailer parts from more than 400 nationally recognized brands, with the help of more than 3,200 expert associates. Supply Chain Best Practices recently spoke with Guerrero about FleetPride’s operation, how it is improving to better serve its customers and how its dedication to service is enabling its growth.
Supply Chain Best Practices: What is FleetPride’s reputation in the industry?
Juan Guerrero: We have the products that we say we have. We are known for our product availability. With the products we have in stock, that provides a lot of value to our customers. In this industry, having these products in stock is critical. Our customers are keeping their trucks on the road with the help of our products, and that means revenue for them.
SCBP: How is the company’s supply chain organized to meet these goals?
JG: We have five distribution centers across the country, and they serve 270 branches. Our branches stock products that are needed immediately, like walk-in clients and same-day orders. The distribution centers deliver product next day or within a couple of days.
We have a whole spectrum of customers that we serve. Our national accounts represent the biggest names in retail and transportation with footprints across whole United States. However, there are also individual owner/operators that may have ongoing relationship with us or just be a transactional customer. We want to meet all of their needs.
SCBP: What are you doing to enhance the operation?
JG: We are moving to next-day availability on a larger assortment of products. That has been our single-biggest accomplishment in recent times. We carry a large part of our assortment in the branches so the products are available immediately, but the majority of products in our assortment are carried in the distribution centers. Historically, we could only replenish stock one time a week, but now most distribution centers replenish daily. We introduced a dedicated delivery fleet between the distribution centers and branches.
Also, recently we introduced automation into one of our new distribution centers, and we will be rolling that kind of automation out to the remainder of distribution centers over the next year. The new distribution center is in Elgin, Ill., and the automation involves conveyance, picking and a new warehouse management system.
SCBP: What benefits have you seen at the Elgin facility from these changes?
JG: There is a much faster cycle time through the facility and much better accuracy. As a result, we are improving both unit cost and delivery time. We have learned from the history of implementations that we should keep it very simple. We redid our processes and simplified, so we needed very few modifications to the software we implemented in the Elgin distribution center.
SCBP: Are you seeing any trends among your customers that you are responding to?
JG: Overall, the industry wants immediacy. There is a push for more of the product assortment being available next day, so we continue to fine tune what we have available next day and same day.
Additionally, customers are starting to choose us for parts that they would usually choose OEMS for. The broadness and availability of our assortment is attracting attention from customers.
SCBP: Do you plan to expand your product assortment?
JG: We will definitely be expanding into the HVAC space. At the same time, we are going back to core and broadening the core, which is brakes and drivelines.
SCBP: How else does the company plan to grow?
JG: We’ve added about 70 locations in past two years between greenfield sites and acquisitions, and we will continue to do acquisitions moving forward with periodic greenfield openings as well. We will open in Columbus, Ohio, in the next month, and we recently acquired a location in Arkansas.
We will be upgrading the Atlanta facility, which is due to open in January. It has the same automation as in Elgin, but it’s a bigger facility.
SCBP: What would you say you are most proud of about the company?
JG: The ability to be extremely nimble is a great trait of this company. Even while we’re in acquisition mode, we still keep our people very much front and center. As we absorb new companies, the people part of equation is of utmost importance to us.
SCBP: How does this culture support your focus on service and ability to be nimble?
JG: We are very hands on with our acquisitions, and that means starting with the people. Our intent is to keep everybody in the new organization because relationships are very important in this business.