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Home Depot, Whirlpool, HNI earn top Shipper of Choice honors

Consumer goods, office products companies make driver communication a priority

Three public companies cultivating trust among drivers

Increased hours of operation at distribution centers and open communication with drivers are the common denominators among three public companies that specialize in consumer goods and office products.

Those and other attributes focusing on the driver experience earned The Home Depot, Whirlpool and HNI Corp. best-of-the-best honors in the FreightWaves 2020 Shipper of Choice Awards, sponsored by Transflo.

The 2020 FreightWaves Shipper of Choice seal of approval is based on how shippers perform in each of three categories — Facilities, Efficiency and Availability — relative to their peers, based on a series of measurable and qualitative responses. (An additional Above and Beyond”driver appreciation award was featured as well, based on stories plucked from social media that described shippers that went out of their way to take care of drivers and make sure they could do their job safely.)

Shippers receiving recognition must first be nominated and then complete a certified survey conducted by the FreightWaves Research Group. The survey addressed operational data, hours of operation, communication protocols, dwell times, and overages/shortages/damages. Nominees were also judged by facility attributes that include availability of showers, bathrooms and break rooms for drivers.

To win Best Overall, a shipper typically won one or more awards within those main categories. Office furniture manufacturer HNI Corp. (NYSE: HNI) managed to snag all three.

“Our priority is providing our customers a great end-to-end buying experience, and a big part of that is the delivery experience,” Eric Zillig, HNI’s vice president of distribution and logistics, told FreightWaves.

“To be successful at that, we have to partner with high-performing carriers and high-performing drivers, and to maintain a relationship with them, we have to be easy to do business with and be a good partner — which is another way of saying you’re a shipper of choice.”

Zillig said he tries to provide “as large a window as possible” for the roughly 30 carriers HNI works with for scheduling load pickups so that drivers can better schedule their workday.

Last year, HNI created its own in-house driver app, Loaded with Pride, to enhance communication with drivers. Drivers can install the app on a phone or tablet to allow them to provide instant feedback on the delivery.

“We were looking for drivers to use the app to comment on our loading practices,” Zillig said. “In addition, we received good feedback around things like hours of operation and warehouses that were tough to get into. So we’ve been able to identify issues and come up with solutions.”

The world’s leading major home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool Corp. (NYSE: WHR), which in addition to honors for overall winner took awards for Efficiency and Availability, has been a longtime proponent of shipper-of-choice awareness.

“It became a theme in the industry several years ago,” Kara Hegg, Whirlpool Corp.’s manager of supply chain and logistics, told FreightWaves. “Our team wanted to know how we stacked up against others and worked to figure out how to measure the perception. We collected data and focused on our biggest opportunities for improvement.”

With 12 factory distribution centers feeding into 12 regional distribution centers that in turn connect to the company’s local distribution network for final-mile home delivery, securing trust with carrier and driver partners is critical for maintaining efficiency throughout the company’s logistics network Hegg said.

“We work really hard on the relationship to understand what’s important to our carriers. It is critical to be a good partner to ensure capacity isn’t walking away from us.”

The Home Depot (NYSE: HD), which also won in the Availability and Facilities categories, has been committed to being a shipper of choice. As part of its One Home Depot initiative, the company is investing roughly $1.2 billion in its One Supply Chain network. The investment “is designed to continue to improve productivity and connectivity across our supply chain platforms to achieve the fastest, most efficient delivery capabilities in home improvement,” the company stated.

The retailer, which racked up $110 billion in sales in fiscal 2019, is investing in approximately 150 new facilities to drive speed and delivery reliability for customers, it stated. The build-out will continue to ramp up, with the largest number of new facilities coming online in 2021 and 2022.

In addition to The Home Depot, Whirlpool and HNI, the 12 Best Overall Shipper of Choice winners include (in alphabetical order):

  • Agri-Mark
  • Costa Farms
  • KraftHeinz
  • Nestle Purina PetCare Co.
  • Nestle Waters
  • Schreiber Foods
  • Syngenta
  • Tyson Foods
  • Weston Foods 

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

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.