GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Combining multi-temperature products into single trucks has resulted in significant transportation savings for Spartan Stores here, as well as lower unloading costs for retailers serviced by the wholesaler.
Retailers such as Prevo's Family Markets, Traverse City, Mich., also report back-room inventory reductions of up to 50% and fresher produce due to combination load deliveries.
"At Spartan, we used to ship all perishables on one truck, or all produce on one truck and all grocery on [another] truck, and never commingle them," said Mike Frank, vice president of logistics, Spartan Stores.
Spartan developed the combination load program at the request of retailers who realized they could save money, particularly in the area of labor, if multiple product categories were combined on one truck, Frank said.
One industry estimate puts the cost to receive a delivery at $120 per load. Thus, multiple deliveries can run a retailer upwards of several hundred dollars per day in labor costs to unload the trucks.
Retailers participating in the program are getting fewer deliveries overall, Frank added. "It used to be that when the frozen truck came with only two pallets, that was a delivery," he explained. "The retailer had to open and close the back room and took time to receive it just for those two pallets. That delivery is now gone and the two frozen pallets are commingled with the dry grocery."
Frank estimated that while a "good-sized" retail store might formerly have received 30 deliveries per week, with combination loads the total could be as low as 18 to 20 deliveries.
The program also offers benefits to Spartan. "We've had some significant transportation savings," said Frank, though he declined to provide specific figures. Combining a variety of product categories on one truck also helps Spartan level out its weekly warehouse workload.
Larger deliveries on a daily basis provides fresher perishable product, said Ray Hasse, director of operations at Prevo's Family Markets. In addition, the retailer's participation in the combination load program has lowered its back-room inventories by 50%. "You don't have to keep as much back-room stock because you're getting daily deliveries," he said.
Bringing in a wider variety of product on one truck also allows for more efficient stocking procedures. Stocking can now be done by night crews rather than by individual departments, such as dairy and produce, at various times during the day.
While the program is showing promising results, keeping it rolling smoothly does have its challenges, according to Frank.
"We're shipping multi-temperature products on one trailer, so there has to be adequate temperature protection to make sure the frozen doesn't thaw and the produce doesn't freeze," he added.
Retailers receiving product from Spartan via this method reportedly include D&W Food Centers, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Glen's Markets, Gaylord, Mich. G&R Felpausch, Hastings, Mich., plans to begin the program in August.