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The times they are a-changin.' (customer service in the Public Refrigerated Warehousing industry)

This timeless lyric from a Bob Dylan song certainly speaks to the condition of the Public Refrigerated Warehousing (PRW) industry. As I reflect on the past, there's little doubt that the entire industry has adapted to, and often provided the impetus for such change in our quest to provide the best in "world class" services. To say we've come a long way baby is an absolute understatement.

During the 1970's and early 1980's, we in the industry were a content bunch. All we wanted was to fill our facilities with hundreds of loads of mostly seasonal items. This product was simple to handle -- just move in and move out full-pallet truckload quantities. Paperwork was elementary and the job held few surprises or unique demands. Shame on the customer who asked us to do anything out of the ordinary, such as case picking, mixing two product codes on the same load, or direct store delivery. PRWs were simply a distribution point closer to specific markets.

Along came the late 1980's and early 1990's and BOOM! -- our comfy world

changed. We began to see the opportunities for developing unique and customer-specific distribution programs. And as we began increasing our services, so too increased the demands of our many customers whose world was also rapidly changing and becoming far more competitive. Today, unique distribution programs have become a real competitive edge for our customers, as well as a major point of differentiation between PRWs.

Interstate Warehousing and other PRWs are now constantly searching for new and innovative services to offer processors, wholesalers, and retailers. Freight consolidation, pool shipping and order selection are now industry standards, and we are venturing into innovative solutions like cross-docking and consolidated distribution programs such as Interstate's PARTNERSHIP program.

Operationally, PRWs are moving toward the 21st century at an amazing pace. We have developed better and more specific internal inventory systems, applying the latest and greatest computer software to offer superior inventory control, bar coding, and WINS/UCS capability to enhance information transfer. Employee involvement programs such as Total Quality Management (TQM) are sweeping the industry, improving customer service and damage control levels. Even our material handling equipment has become more customer specific. No longer do we ask the customer to meet our standards; now we equip ourselves to accommodate theirs.

Times certainly have changed from a decade ago; the PRW has grown to be more than an outside terminal, but now serves as a "partner" with the industries it serves by becoming an extension of the customers' operations. And in my opinion, every processor, distribution, retailer and wholesaler should challenge us now and in the future because world-class customer service is every PRW's business.

Vern Rose Vice President, Sales & Marketing Interstate Warehousing Inc.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Frozen Food Digest, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Rose, Vern
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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