Last April, about a week after former Sears executive Steve Poplawski was hired as True Value’s senior vp logistics and supply chain management, he received a phone call from a disgruntled co-op member.
“He said, ‘I have to tell you about this one distribution center. I’ve never liked my shipments, and I’ve been with the co-op 25 years,’” Poplawski said. “‘I know you’re never going to be able to fix it, so I don’t know why I’m bothering to tell you.’”
But Poplawski and his associates—far from ignoring this comment—took it to heart, along with similar feedback they received during a series of focus groups with True Value members over the summer. The purpose of these meetings was to discuss ways to improve service on True Value’s 250,000-plus deliveries each year, with the end goal of a damage-free and accurate load each time. What Poplawski’ s team came up with was a new quality shipping program that was piloted through True Value’s Woodland Hills, Calif., distribution center in the fourth quarter of 2007 and has been fully operational through all 13 DCs since the beginning of January.
According to Poplawski, the summer meetings offered a few surprises. It wasn’t so much that a large percentage of members put down “fill rates” as their number one concern when it comes to shipments, but the fact that the term “fill rates” en compasses so many different issues for different people.
For some it’s about items that are damaged or dirty, for others whether the label is in the correct place. Many also believe the term means whether the merchandise is fit to be put out for customers when it comes off the truck.
“It’s not like Sears, where there’s a truck going to each store. We probably have any where from four to 10 stores going on a truck, and they can be as varied as a big store receiving patio furniture and grills to a smaller store receiving a pitchfork or 12-foot length of pipe,” Poplawski said. “Making sure those items are absolutely perfect, that they’re in sellable condition and that we’d be proud to present them to the member’s customers was what we wanted to put together.”
The logistics team decided to take the challenge to the Woodland Hills facility, which in 2007 had the highest quality ratio (99.88 percent) in True Value’s network of distribution centers. Poplawski asked operations manager Tom Statham and his staff to come u