Richfield, Wisconsin-based DCI Cheese is a 30-year-old leading supplier of American-made and imported specialty cheese. Its cheeses can be found on menus, in manufactured products and on retail shelves from coast to coast. DCI stocks more than 300 items in warehousing and operations sites around the country .
The company has been expanding rapidly through acquisitions and organic growth. In August 2006, DCI made an acquisition that essentially doubled its business, creating a major uptake in its transportation requirements. At that point, DCI’s supply distribution points included three company-owned production facilities, a company-owned warehouse and distribution center and four third-party mixing centers where it cross-docked to make a full array of cheese products available to its customers.
Simultaneously, DCI began the consolidation of three distinct information technology systems. And throughout all of this growth and change, there could be no falloff in its commitment to customer service excellence. With all of these changes occurring at once, company executives knew they needed to depend on the expertise of a third-party transportation company.
But there wasn’t the luxury of time for trial and error, or to conduct a drawn-out review of vendor proposals. Based on two strong referrals, DCI focused on NT Logistics and immediately began putting them to the test.
“We basically doubled the amount of transportation we were managing overnight with the one big acquisition,” relates DCI’s Director of Logistics, Chris Sandretti. “They stepped in and made sure that the bottom didn’t fall out.”
NT quickly brought the principal players together and targeted the pieces that DCI needed to have put into place immediately. They also addressed DCI’s needs for 24/7 visibility into shipments, requiring open exchanges of information and strong systems interconnection. “They have the ability to go on the Internet and track exactly where things are, which was critical for us,” Sandretti explains.
When NT was orchestrating the overall transportation scheme for DCI, information generated by their internal systems and IT group enabled them to demonstrate exactly what DCI could expect to see in terms of cost and service.
“They have some very strong logistical professionals who understand it’s not just a matter of finding some truck driver to do this for you,” Sandretti says. “They’ve helped make several suggestions on the sizes of our shipments, such as changing LTL (less-than-truckload) into multi-stop shipments.”
NT also proved its ability to fulfill DCI’s specific reporting requirements and to show the status of orders being loaded at any time. In short order, NT worked on DCI’s logistics issues, took over the freight arranging responsibilities and provided the resources DCI needed to double its business — and then some.
Today, NT Logistics handles well over 80 percent of DCI’s outbound freight headed to customers. In the process, they’ve clearly become an extension of the DCI Cheese logistics team.
“Clearly, integration is a very big part of our business. They’re part of us,” Sandretti says. “We don’t think of them any differently than if they were a division of our own company. And we’ve had that relationship right from the beginning.”
As would be expected with integrating multiple acquisitions and their accompanying systems, DCI has had numerous “SOS” requests — and their transportation partner ably handled them all.
“It seemed like the more work we required of them, the better they became at working with us,” Sandretti says. “There was never any shying away or saying, ‘Geez, you guys. You need to stop with all these emergency challenges that you’re having.’ That never ever came up. They’ve continued to absorb them and expand to handle them.”
And, as NT became intimately familiar with DCI’s business, they provided a valuable set of experienced eyes looking at their operations. For example, following one of the system transitions, if it appeared that an order was not surfacing the way it had for the previous three or four weeks or months, NT flagged it.
“They were real good at saying, ‘Hey, you’d better check on this because it looks like you’ve got a routine or a regular level of business that isn’t happening,’” Sandretti adds.
Sandretti also credits NT’s advice and capabilities with helping DCI make its supply chain more cost-effective. These improvements have included consolidating and rearranging sites, and helping to revamp the way DCI warehouses and distributes its products.
Entrusting the facilitation of transportation to NT comes with NT’s full partnership in ensuring that DCI’s products are delivered on time, as ordered and with no damage along the way, preserving DCI’s reputation in a competitive industry. And once it was a given that NT wouldn’t miss on service, DCI set about determining how cost-effective it would be to put virtually all of its transportation eggs in one basket.
“We’ve been working together to develop a cost reporting system — not as easy as it sounds because of the many, many lanes and variables involved,” Sandretti notes. “But the information clearly supports that we are the benefactors of working with them across the whole of the business that we execute as partners .”