Bryan Goins: It’s All About the Execution

In 1994, Bryan Goins joined Associated Food Stores (AFS) to help re-engineer major business processes at the Salt Lake City-based grocery distribution cooperative. It was not an easy transition.

” I went home almost every day for one year asking myself, ‘What have I done?'” Goins says.

Goins spent the previous 18 years at Ryder Transportation Systems, starting out of college as a management trainee and moving through a series of promotions. He knew the giant transportation company inside out. But he knew nothing about the grocery business.

Goins has come a long way since that shaky start. After completing the re-engineering project, Goins was tasked with developing the company’s inbound logistics program. He and his team implemented software to help manage operations, showed buyers how to coordinate their loads to cut transportation costs, and worked with vendors to determine the most cost-effective way to move products to the DCs.

Later, his responsibilities grew to encompass the entire distribution and logistics operation—all 600 grocery stores in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona to which AFS distributes products.

About 30 of those are owned by the corporation; the rest of the stores are independently-owned co-op members. The co-op offers its members efficiencies and economies of scale to help them compete with large grocery chains.

One of the toughest periods in Goins’ nine years at AFS came four years ago, when the company consolidated several small DCs into a large facility in Farr West, Utah.

“There was one time during the first two weeks of transition when I honestly thought we wouldn’t be able to get deliveries out the next morning,” Goins says. “And no one had slept more than a few hours the previous two days.”

Nevertheless, AFS stopped deliveries for only one day during the changeover. The successful effort was marked by ” maximum team work, pre-planning, networking with other companies, support from our retailers, beta testing, and making mistakes,” Goins says.

Along with laboring mightily to complete the consolidation, Goins and his team had to overcome resistance from some co-op members, who were unhappy to learn they’d be getting only two deliveries a week from Farr West, rather than the four they were receiving from the old, local DCs.

“These guys fought us tooth and nail,” Goins says. ” But within 60 to 90 days, a majority of them were on our side.”

With fewer deliveries, grocers found it easier to schedule personnel to receive the loads. And because the large new DC had more buying power than the old facilities, AFS could offer its stores higher-quality, more varied products, he explains.

As much as he enjoyed his 18 years at Ryder, now that he’s tasted life at a smaller, privately held firm, Goins wishes he’d made the move sooner.

” I have learned so much more in the past nine years about true supply chain initiatives and challenges,” he says. “The biggest difference working for a strong regional company is the ability to have a large impact. We do not have anyone telling us what to do. My team and I are paid to execute.”

The Big Questions

What are you reading?

I recently finished Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy.

Business motto?

You can be the most intelligent person in the world, but if you cannot see the big picture, you will sink. And you have to know how to execute—without that, you will never make it in high-level companies.

Advice to people starting out in logistics?

When looking at new process changes, always put yourself in the position of all customers—both internal and external. This allows you to make the right decision for everyone.

What’s in your briefcase?

I work between our corporate office in Salt Lake City and our DC in Farr West, so I usually have transition work and files in my briefcase.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I have 14-year-old twins who keep my hands full. My hobbies include golfing and riding my Harley.

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