As any fashion model will tell you, it isn't easy to look perfect. It takes plenty of planning, preparation and assistance. It’s the same with freight transportation. If you want “white glove service” you have to devise a great strategy and then team up with best-in-class carriers to executive that plan on a daily basis. SalonCentric recently did just that through a unique partnership with two of its key less-than-truckload (LTL) partners, Pitt Ohio Express and Averitt Express.
A unit of Clichy, France-based L’Oreal S.A., SalonCentric is a leading distributor of professional salon products in the U.S. It operates in 48 states, serving more than 565 stores, and distributes many brands including L’Oreal Professional, Redken and Matrix.
But delivering to all those stores was challenging due to its wide geographic area and the fact that none of their store locations have loading docks or delivery areas. SalonCentric also knew that it needed to increase their customer order windows, decrease its carbon footprint and develop a return solution that was both economically and ecologically sound.
Let’s take a deeper look into how this beauty salon supplier worked to develop this award-winning transportation solution through improved collaboration with two of its most important logistics partners.
About four years ago, SalonCentric realized that is had two distinct distribution challenges. First, its McCalla, Ala., distribution center that services 110 wholesale stores in the Southeastern U.S. needed better service to its network of stores. These stores receive weekly shipments averaging two pallets with 79 pieces weighing about 375 lbs.—and half of those shipments were made in reusable plastic totes.
Editor’s Note: The successful partnership forged by SalonCentric, Pitt Ohio Express and Averitt Express was awarded a 2017 Alliance Award. The Alliance Awards, sponsored by Logistics Management and SMC³, recognize how shippers and their service providers work together to overcome challenges to critical components of their
unique supply chains. Winners are singled out for their ability to effectively solve challenges through innovative, measurable means. Entries for the 2018 alliance Awards will soon be accepted here.
Because SalonCentric stores don’t have receiving docks, these deliveries required breakdown and inside delivery into a back room or classroom area. Empty totes from the previous week’s delivery had to be removed at time of delivery as well.
The final challenge was to speed up delivery times. Because its stores comprise a large geographic footprint, orders had to be placed well in advance. The challenge was to be able to extend those order times to get more timely shipments of exactly the products each store needed.
To address these challenges, Eric Reddish, SalonCentric’s director of operations, says that he knew he needed his carriers to step up and become an integral part of his logistics operation. What resulted was a solution that delivered cost and time savings and lessened the impact on the environment through the implantation of an innovative tote consolidation program—goals that would have never been meet without the collaboration of trusted partners.
“A lot of times transportation is viewed as a commodity—you need a shipment, call a carrier, they pick it up and hopefully deliver it,” explains Reddish. “That is especially true in the LTL world.”
But because SalonCentric delivers to its own stores, it needed a distinctly different, non-commodity-type service. “We want our carriers to be an arm of our greater logistics network,” says Reddish. “We need carriers delivering to our stores and to be partners in the process.”
The plan, conceived four years ago, involved about 200 of SalonCentric’s stores.It came after thorough examination of its shipping patterns, distribution center schedules and capacity along with analysis by Averitt and Pitt Ohio transportation experts on what the most efficient system would look like.
In Alabama, Averitt began to pull multiple trailer loads of freight nightly from the McCalla location in accordance with the store shipping schedules to address the first challenge. Furthest locations were dispatched first with those closest picked up later. This partnership with the Averitt team allowed the maximum processing time in the DC while still meeting sort times at the local hub.
Automated PRO numbers further allowed the DC to manifest shipments accurately and with confidence that they will flow smoothly through the Averitt system. Once en route, the store shipments were now managed through the network via tracking until final delivery. After successful removal of empty totes, Averitt sends an EDI 214 notifying SalonCentric that the delivery is complete.
Regarding the second challenge, typically its UPS line hauls only utilize 50% to 65% of the truck. In the McCalla example, Averitt was line hauling to Jacksonville, Fla. In cooperation with Averitt to better utilize the line haul, the decision was made to round out the truck with SalonCentric stores going into south Florida. Averitt then makes two stops with the line at both UPS and its hub in Jacksonville. After making the final store deliveries in south Florida, Averitt then consolidates the empty totes from those stores back in Jacksonville, returning them to McCalla, twice a week.
From its East Manchester, Pa., DC, deliveries are made to both a UPS hub and Averitt service center in Richmond, Va. Averitt then does final delivery to SalonCentric stores in Va., N.C. and W. Va. A tote consolidation program was again established by Averitt to consolidate and return to East Manchester. In those instances when there’s insufficient room on the line haul trailer, store deliveries into Va., N.C. and W. Va. are given to Pitt Ohio at origin. Pitt Ohio then hands off to Averitt for final delivery.
By zone skipping via line haul more than 5,000 small parcels a week to four or five stores a day, SalonCentric reduced by an average of one to two zones, thus lowering overall fees. Reddish and his team were also able to extend the daily order cut-off and reduced damages.
However, the appearance and professionalism of both the Averitt and Pitt Ohio drivers was “probably the single most important factor” in making the partnership work, says Reddish. “We look at these guys as part of our team. We ask carriers if they can provide the same driver so that relationships build between store manager and driver—
and often our customers.”
Because SalonCentric stores are open when deliveries are made, Averitt and Pitt Ohio drivers must occasionally mingle with clients receiving $200 perms and color tints.
The third solution addressed the environmental need. After Loreal created SalonCentric following a series of small beauty supply company purchases in 2013, an emphasis on growing “green” began. As a result, the shipper converted from cardboard boxes to use of reusable plastic totes, a move that saves money and reduces its carbon footprint. The $10 totes can be reused for up to 20 to 30 deliveries over several years for annual savings of around $40,000
“Our waste is tracked to the minute detail, and we’re measured by it,” says Reddish. “Using plastic keeps up from using corrugate cardboard, and it has also saved on damages, which is a big win for us.”
Collaboration in logistics is often easier said than done, but Pitt Ohio and Averitt executives say that their partnership with SalonCentric is an alliance that will do nothing but grow into the future as all sides are realizing benefits every day.
“True collaboration was the key, and this is the wave of the future,” says Tim Duven, enterprise solutions executive for Pitt Ohio Express. “It used to be taboo to interline because you would lose visibility and the ability to track and trace freight. But now we can track and trace on each other’s Websites and create a true partnership—and it saves the carrier from using brick and mortar to build new terminals. Now you just find a partner who goes into that territory.”
As usual, truck drivers were on the front line of making this work. Because they were operating during business hours, Duven says that his drivers had to act like they “were not even there” and just do their jobs quietly and efficiently.
“Drivers have to be an extension of the people managing that store,” adds Duven. “The stores buy for what they need, so we need to be on time, get in the store and be almost invisible. That’s hard to do when you’re carrying bins and boxes, and we have to do it in a very professional manner.”
Brandon Mazur, director of corporate business development for Averitt Express, agreed that partnership collaboration among all the players was simply the key to the success of this endeavor. “But in the end, appearances really do matter at this level of partnership,” he adds.
SalonCentric’s unique partnership with Averitt and Pitt Ohio has resulted in tangible transportation savings, pickup and delivery efficiencies, as well as supplemental environmental benefits.
Some of the highlights include:
On the environmental front, Averitt and Pitt Ohio say that utilizing the plastic hinged totes instead of corrugated boxes saves SalonCentric money and reduces its carbon footprint. The $10 totes can be reused for up to 20 to 30 deliveries over several years. Averitt picks up the totes while making deliveries and returns them to consolidation points in Jacksonville and Richmond. Average savings with this program net any transportation fees is $40,000 annually.
Proving pool distribution points and zone skip services gave SalonCentric’s customers additional order time each day. The parties developed several pool points for SalonCentric and provided zone skip services in many areas, including Birmingham, Ala., to Jacksonville and Richmond and East Manchester.
This resulted in an additional 4 hours to 5 hours per day for SalonCentric’s customers to place orders and still receive the same delivery service. These tweaks, net of line-haul charges, has saved SalonCentric in excess of $50,000 annually.
Averitt and Pitt Ohio have pledged to continue to develop ways to save SalonCentric money and improve service to customers. In fact, Averitt and the shipper are currently developing a pool distribution solution from Omaha to Oklahoma to service stores in Oklahoma and Texas.
According to Pitt Ohio’s Duven, this type of business model continues to grow. “SalonCentric recognizes the value, and if you perform, you will be rewarded with other markets like Michigan and Nebraska,” he says. “But you have to perform, because at the end of day, we’ve earned that business together.”
Averitt’s Mazur adds that the relationship is in “a constant state of flux” because Averitt uses a blended mode approach—LTL, TL and logistics. “We can go outside our verticals and craft a solution for Eric and SalonCentric at any time,” he says. “We can offer many options for him to choose. But at the end of the day, it’s amazingly gratifying to work with this partner. It’s one of the highlights of my career.”
And most importantly for the two carrier partners, the shipper feels the same way. “We’re just extremely pleased,” adds Reddish. “Our barometer is the feedback we get from the stores. We very rarely hear any issues; and if we do the response time is phenomenal. It’s really been just quiet—which in my world is a good thing.”