Aaron Leach: A Bird’s Eye View of the Supply Chain

Aaron Leach: A Bird’s Eye View of the Supply Chain

Aaron Leach is senior director of supply chain with Wayne Farms, LLC, in Oakwood, Ga. He has held this position since 2013. Wayne Farms is the sixth largest vertically integrated producer and processor of poultry in the United States.

Responsibilities: Inbound and outbound logistics, warehousing and inventory control, and supply and demand planning.

Experience: Director of strategic planning and director of financial planning and analysis, both with Wayne Farms; senior business analyst, financial analyst, and accountant, all with Rich Products Corporation.

Education: B.S., Business Administration, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, N.Y., 1998.

The on-time delivery percentage at Wayne Farms today is slightly more than 97 percent, to a 15-minute window. When I took over the supply chain function in 2013, on-time delivery operated in the mid to high 80 percent range.

In the past, many of the challenges centered around a lack of process, both with our carriers and brokers, and internally. Now, we’re much more deliberate in planning our supply and loads. We know when our customers need products. We back up to a realistic ready time from our plant, and then use realistic transit times.

We also benchmark every indicator in our processes: How many pickups and appointment schedules were on time? How far in advance were those made? What were the carrier-related delays, shipping-related delays, or product shortages?

At Wayne Farms, our birds grow to their target weight anywhere from 38 to 60 days, and we process more than 7 million birds per week. If I’m off one-tenth of a pound across those birds, that’s 700,000 pounds of product. That means 17 to 18 truckloads worth of product could be impacted by one-tenth of a pound of variance in bird weight. That’s where my finance background comes into play—I understand the numbers and know how to analyze data.

I concentrated in finance at the University of Buffalo and started my career in accounting and corporate planning with Rich Products. I was director of finance for Wayne Farms for a number of years before transitioning to supply chain. We were performing poorly in some of our planning, logistics, and distribution functions. The company asked me to see what I could do to rehabilitate those processes.

In the past, nobody truly owned responsibility for the supply chain and getting goods from suppliers to customers. My background helped me analyze and find supply chain inefficiencies.

Even as we’ve improved, we’ve been able to keep the same carriers. We’re loyal to our partners and give them the chance to work through the challenges. I believe collectively we’re much stronger.

Developing and maintaining solid relationships is critical. We’ve been successful in reducing costs and improving on-time delivery based on the relationships we’ve formed. I have strong leaders in my group, and I engage and enable them to make smart decisions. I also trust my carrier and broker partners to do the right things, and enable them to make the right decisions.

To improve costs, obviously you can go to a carrier or vendor and try to get a lower rate, but that tends to be short lived. The key is implementing processes, measuring them, and making sure you’re effective every day. That’s where we take costs out. We tend to be obsessed with processes.

For instance, our loading times needed to improve. We realized the inefficiencies resulted because the production department didn’t formulate accurate ready times, and trucks sat for longer than they should. We had to go back upstream and make sure our planning and production processes were in place and accurate.

I try to truly practice servant leadership. Everyone wants to do well, so I’m here to help them find solutions. When people know your intention is not to fix the blame, but to fix the problem, they will work with you more freely.

The Big Questions

Describe a dream adventure.

I’d like to bike the Continental Divide down the Rocky Mountains from the Canadian to the Mexican borders.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I recently finished my fourth Iron Man triathlon.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

One piece of advice I’d give myself is not to be so self-centered and be patient. If you focus on working hard, delivering results, and just doing the right thing, everything will work out the way it should.

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