A shippers' coalition improves day-to-day operations.

A shippers' coalition improves day-to-day operations.

As part of an effort to improve efficiency, identify cost savings and reduce carbon emissions, partners of the Columbus Region Logistics Council (an initiative of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce) aligned with Ohio State University in putting together a shipping coalition to compare routes and practices. Ohio State utilized the idea as a semester-long project, assigning the comparative case study to a group of six graduate students at Ohio State's Fisher College of Business.

Three companies-Wendy's International, Boar's Head Brand and Bob Evans Farms-committed to cooperate, looking at the potential to recalibrate their normal day-to-day service levels.

"If we go back a year ago, businesses are doing their own thing. With today's circumstances, practices are changing and we are beginning to see a different level of approach-a level predicated on collaboration, and that's what's at the heart of this project," says Jeff Zimmerman, director of the CRLC.

Looking Ahead

One of the participants in the shippers' coalition was Quality Supply Chain Co-Op, a purchasing cooperative for North American restaurants owned by the Wendy's Company and franchisees.

"The shippers' coalition provided us with a unique opportunity for mutually beneficial collaboration," says Katelynn Rossi, QSCC logistics manager. "QSCC was excited to partner with Bob Evans and Boar's Headto achieve logistics cost-savings on refrigerated shipping for each of our companies, while also providing OSU students with real-world experience."

Jim Dykstra, logistics manager at Boar's Head Brand, saw the project as an opportunity to learn from the past.

"Thinking back to capacity issues a year and a half ago, it was a no-brainer. For me, looking forward to the future, [this project] made perfect sense," Dykstra says.

After preliminary meetings, Boar's Head had no hesitation going forward.

"I think it's great," Dykstra says of the business students' involvement. "Being able to get their perspective-we're all in the midst of the battle- and they have eyes looking from the outside. Getting [their] focus on our project without interference from what we handle day-to-day, I think it's great and they have handled it really well. They've really impressed me."

Education + Industry

Gillian Bao, a logistics engineering student at OSU, led the six-student team. For Bao, the opportunity to take on a project with significant real-world implications went far beyond the typical educational experience.

The project was exceptional, in part because of the different companies involved, says Bao. "We've been really lucky that all of them are really supportive, because they all see the importance and meaning of this project."

As a class project, it connected education with business. The prospect to connect emerging talent with the local business environment fit right into the CRLC's advocacy mission.

The students have done well, Zimmerman says. "They've treated it like a true customer interaction, taking the customers through the methodology before presenting the fully-optimized recommendations. From there it will be each shipper's responsibility and opportunity to act on that."

In mid-December, each company received a schedule of recommendations from the team of students, as well as opportunities that could be realized in the future.

"After revisiting some of the initial assumptions, we presented the deliverables, categorizing the results by shipper," Bao says. "We presented the low-hanging-fruit options before going over some opportunities that would need to be worked with before executing them."

Collin Rowekamp, an OSU alumnus and financial analyst at Bob Evans Farms, commends the project.

"As an Ohio State alum, I was familiar with Ohio State and getting involved with them," says Rowekamp. "For Bob Evans, we operate our own carrier fleet. In looking at opportunities to help transport other companies' product as our trucks travel back through the continental 48, the students helped identify ways to do that."

Lessons Learned

Not being direct competitors, the ability to build relationships through this project has been particularly important for each company.

"This project has been a terrific way for the Columbus Chamber and CRLC to advocate that relationship," Zimmerman says. "It's about connections leading to collaboration amongst logistics council members with a common need. That's what this project was about, and we're happy to facilitate that."

David Cath is a marketing specialist for the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.