December 2011 | Sponsored | Above & Beyond

Dedicated Refrigerated Fleet Helps Food Distributor Keep Its Cool

Tags: Customer Service

THE CUSTOMER: United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), Providence, Rhode Island

UNFI is a U.S. independent national distributor of natural, organic, and specialty foods and related products, including nutritional supplements, personal care items, and organic produce.

THE PARTNER: Cardinal Logistics, Concord, North Carolina

The third-party logistics (3PL) provider serves multiple industries nationwide with dedicated contract carriage, final-mile delivery, and logistics management.


UNFI's inbound logistics operation transports more than 40,000 products—including natural and organic groceries, and frozen and perishable foods—to its 14 distribution centers throughout the United States for outbound delivery to its customers. Cardinal Logistics supplies inbound transportation services for UNFI's Eastern and Western Regions.

The 3PL helped UNFI consolidate from multiple carriers in the Eastern Region by engineering a dedicated fleet operation. The arrangement has proven to be a reliable option for UNFI, which now has one point of contact for its inbound network. Cardinal is able to manage the inbound moves and incorporate vendor freight without increasing the fixed assets.

While converting from multiple carriers to one, Cardinal assumed UNFI's refrigerated trailer assets and added Cold Link® refrigerated tracking technology with alert management and reporting capabilities. The refrigerated trailer fleet can be remotely monitored and reset as required.

Cardinal transitioned UNFI's Western Region activity from single-temp refrigeration and dry van movements to multi-temp equipment, reducing the overall product shipment cycle. The current solution also optimizes driver and equipment resources.

With UNFI's input, Cardinal built region-based key performance indicator (KPI) reports to assist with decision-making. Changes to origin points presented an opportunity based on more detailed shipping information.

Cardinal's mobile handheld technology, Cardinal Activity Tracker, is used for EDI updates such as arrival and departure times, and supports UNFI's KPIs and weekly reports.

Before the relationship with Cardinal, UNFI had limited inbound fleet metrics. With Cardinal's help, the KPIs allow UNFI to monitor costs on a load, stop, and mileage basis. UNFI is now also able to track reefer fuel burn and loaded trailer dwell time to help increase efficiencies.