Nestle Water and Nestle Purina Petcare: Shippers of Choice prioritize efficient driver interactions

Every year, Nestle Waters U.S. moves 790,000 shipments of bottled water across North America. To make those deliveries happen, the brand works with more than 300 trucking companies, striving to ensure that each interaction with drivers meets the Nestle gold standard for carrier relations.

“My goal is to get the driver in and out,” Ken Rogers, Nestle Waters’ director of transportation, told FreightWaves. “That’s everyone’s goal, from the transport manager to the warehouse manager, to the dock coordinator. Everyone understands the importance of keeping drivers moving.”

That laser focus is one of the reasons Nestle Waters scored one of the top 10 spots in the best of the best FreightWaves Shipper of Choice Awards this year. Sister brand Nestle Purina PetCare Co. also made the list of best overall Shipper of Choice.

Purina PetCare has about 400 carriers in its portfolio, and moves around 275,000 annual truckload shipments, according to Travis Krous, the brand’s director of transportation. Drop lots and quick driver turns are among the core features and objectives Purina has targeted, he said, noting that the company’s practices match National Industrial Transportation League guidance for becoming a Shipper of Choice.

The majority of Purina PetCare facilities are drop and hook, so “drivers can come in, drop their trailers, hook up and leave.”

Communication as a core value

Sponsored by Transflo, the FreightWaves Shipper of Choice awards recognize the top shippers out of 400 firms nominated by FreightWaves readers on social media. The winners, announced during FreightWaves LIVE @HOME on May 6, fell into four groupings: Best Overall, Facilities, Efficiency and Availability.

Nearly 400 companies were nominated by FreightWaves readers on social media, with nominees completing a survey addressing operational data, including dwell times, overages/shortages and damages, hours of operation, communication protocols, and facility attributes including the availability of showers, bathrooms and break rooms for drivers.

Key to being a Shipper of Choice is clear and frequent communication, as well as strong collaborative relationships with carriers, the Nestle team agreed. Nestle Waters likes to keep meetings with carriers “folksy and honest, as opposed to corporate,” added Rogers, whose employer hosts regional gatherings with carriers where drivers can provide feedback. (One focuses on fleet safety managers; the other on trailer maintenance.)

Discussions with drivers used to revolve around amenities such as break rooms, televisions and internet connections, he said. But while “all of that stuff is nice,” it turns out carriers care far more about other issues. “They want to come in, and leave,” Rogers explained.

Aiming to please, Nestle Waters has made truck turn time as well as trailer load time a top priority. In 2019, gate-to-gate time clocked in at 69 minutes, down from 90 minutes in 2015, when the company started its Shipper of Choice initiative. Sixty-eight percent of all trailers were loaded on time in 2018, 79% in 2019, and “we’re knocking on the door to get that 80% on time today,” Rogers said.

Digital innovation 

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated Purina’s use of touchless digital technologies that simultaneously speed up the process for drivers picking up loads and introducing more efficiency into the supply chain. The brand is working on a paperless bill of lading so drivers don’t have to wait in line for a signature. Another solution introducing efficiencies into the supply chain is FourKites’ visibility offering for tracking and tracing.

“Getting those drivers in and out as fast as possible — that’s what we hear all the time from the carrier base,” Krous said.

Nestle Waters is working on a smart bill of lading and, along with the rest of Nestle USA, has implemented a geofenced yard management tool that lets logistics managers right-size the trailer fleet in the yard, and communicate in advance with carriers about the location of yard equipment. 

Attention to customer practices

Even as the Nestle brands continue to up the ante on Shipper of Choice practices, they are moving to the next stage: helping support a “Receiver of Choice” designation for customers. “We are pretty big in the industry,” Rogers explained, and “I think it’s our responsibility to encourage our customers to treat carriers with the same values and respect as we do, to make them understand how a driver’s time is important and that waiting isn’t an efficient use of what the drivers provide.”

Nestle Waters has started giving scorecards to its sales reps and customer-facing managers, encouraging them to talk about being a Receiver of Choice.

For its part, Purina Petcare works to educate customers on driver preferences, according to Krous. He offered up one piece of advice: Drivers, he said, do not like 3 a.m. unload times.

Click here to learn more about Transflo’s new Electronic Bill of Lading for Shippers.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Linda Baker