Ham is a seasonal business. Actually, it’s “hyper-seasonal,” according to The Honey Baked Ham Company’s transportation manager, Adrian Prather. The company, which sells ham, turkey, sides, cakes, and pies directly to consumers, does most of its business around Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and New Year’s — 12 days of work to fund 365 days of revenue.
When Prather joined Honey Baked Ham in 2019, the company relied on just two carriers.
Relationships, Redundancies, Enticements
When Prather joined Honey Baked Ham in 2019, the company relied on just two carriers. His first job was to expand the carrier base, a process he likened to dating during a recent webinar: “If I like you, maybe we’ll go into a bigger relationship, and maybe you’ll get more work.”
This relationship-based model means carriers are already committed to working with Honey Baked Ham through their massive capacity spikes. This came in handy in March 2020, when COVID-19 shut down the country and everyone wanted their food delivered to their door. During the week of March 20, 2020, the company sold more than 300% of their forecast. Luckily, they were prepared, as Easter was just four weeks away, and they had already pre-stocked for the holiday.
“Now, through COVID, we’re re-positioning volume, so if anything does happen, our product is in the market,” Prather says. “We’re putting product as close to you as possible, so if you need something, you can get it. And we also plan for [what happens] if a plant, a source, or a 3PL we’re using to hold our products goes down due to a COVID outbreak. We have redundancies in our network to get additional product to you in the same territory.”
One of the ways the company tries to mitigate its seasonal demand spikes is by enticing customers to purchase early, offering both financial incentives and peace of mind. “Get it early, so you don’t have to worry about it later on,” he says. “Because you don’t know what will happen in this market. You want to make sure you have as much on hand as possible. If it’s there and delivered, nothing can go wrong.”
Our only tracking was on their websites. I couldn’t tell what happened. I would have to talk to the dock manager every week, every day
Lack of Visibility Costs Efficiency — and Money
At the beginning of his tenure, Prather says, Honey Baked Ham’s shipping process went something like this: “The dock would call the carriers: ‘I have loads for you. Go get them.’ They would show up, get the loads, deliver them. Our only tracking was on their websites. I couldn’t tell what happened. I would have to talk to the dock manager every week, every day. ‘All right, what didn’t move? What did move? What got moved so I can adjust the schedules so I can figure out where we are? What left? What has to go out?’ That was stressful, to say the least.”
He repeatedly tried to add to their carrier base, but with limited dock doors and no visibility into the system, it didn’t work. Every time Honey Baked Ham tried to add carriers, bottlenecks popped up at different points in the process. They kept reverting to using a single carrier, which was inefficient and expensive.
“Investing in technology helps me do my job, but I can show savings everywhere, because all of a sudden, we have full visibility of what we’re doing.”
Better Processes, More Carriers, One Solution
In 2021, Prather turned to Transfix TMS: “Investing in technology helps me do my job, but I can show savings everywhere, because all of a sudden, we have full visibility of what we’re doing.” He now has one place for all his carriers, one place where he can see his entire book of business.
“We built a full routing guide,” he says. “I’m running monthly bids to reset my routing guide, because the rates keep changing all the time. I have a cadence in here where I spend about 35–40 minutes a month to go through and update my rates, pull my carriers, and pull my new rates and my routing guide in, so I can tender the loads.”
All the carriers with whom he already had relationships are available in Transfix TMS, plus Prather can easily access and add new carriers whenever he wants. Honey Baked Ham finally has their diverse base of carriers, enabling them to take advantage of the efficiencies and cost savings they’d been seeking.
“It’s nice to have one stop for all [our freight management]. Before we were on spreadsheets, we were on Excel, we were on phone calls all the time… The way we’re doing it now, I know everybody’s rates in the system, everybody knows what they’re going to move it for, and then when I do a tender, you know what the rate is. It’s all [in Transfix TMS], so there’s no question. I can match up invoices to rates, and it’s done. … It’s amazing to do that from being in Excel and being on those phones all the time.”
“Usually in transportation, people only talk to you when you mess up,” Prather says. “So if the phone rings, something bad has happened. I try to eliminate those calls. There have been way less calls now, because everything is there, and everybody knows what we’re working with. … I’m very thankful we were able to make this partnership and build this out, because we were struggling at Honey Baked before this.”
“After we implemented Transfix TMS, we saw 12% savings in the first two months,” he adds. “The company is very impressed with the demonstrated savings to this point. I’m hoping to keep delivering that by adding diversity in my carriers, having a bunch of people here who can help us move [shipments], and then using the system to eliminate some of that time. … It’s a lot of time, so it’s nice to have partners and a system that can save us on multiple fronts.”