Michael Gilbert: A Fresh Start
Michael Gilbert is director of logistics and facilities at Indianapolis Fruit Company, which provides fresh fruits and vegetables to grocery stores and restaurants in eight midwestern states. He joined the company in 2011.
Responsibilities: Supervising a team of four managers who run the warehouse’s shipping department, the facilities maintenance and sanitation department, and regional inbound and outbound transportation.
Experience: Courier, operations manager, service assurance manager, senior manager, FedEx Express.
Education: Parkland College, Champaign, Ill., A.A.S., 1986 ; Madison University (online), B.S., business administration, 2005.
I started my logistics career at 23 as a courier for FedEx Express in Champaign, Ill. Of my 22 years with the company, I spent 21 in management. During my last 10 years, I managed several locations in Indianapolis, which are some of the largest FedEx Express package locations in the central United States.
When I joined Indianapolis Fruit Company in 2011, my first order of business was to assess the transportation operation, looking for ways to make it more efficient. I felt it was important to start using information technology the way we did at FedEx—to track and trace all shipments to the minute. Joe Corsaro, Indianapolis Fruit Company’s vice president of operations, allowed me to take the necessary steps to reach that standard.
One initiative we launched was to install Navman Wireless computers on our refrigerated truck fleet. The units provide GPS-based navigation, vehicle tracking, and text messaging. They also collect data we use to analyze driver performance and route efficiency.
We use the technology to improve customer service and, at the same time, boost employee morale. For example, the units allow us to closely monitor unnecessary extended idle times and wasted fuel, reduce miles on delivery routes, and identify driver inefficiencies. They also help us identify employees who are doing all the right things every day, so we can give them the recognition they deserve.
Another project we introduced involves tracking shipping productivity, monitoring how many packages employees are picking per hour, and assessing how well they’re doing their work. We want to reduce mistakes and make sure pallets are stacked correctly—to ensure, for example, that employees don’t stack potatoes on top of tomatoes. Currently, we gather most of that data manually, but we are implementing a warehouse management system that will provide the information electronically in real time.
We’re also helping our sales department target ZIP codes where we can serve more customers without adding more manpower. Thanks to the Navman units, we can identify the gaps in our existing routes. Because we know when trucks pass through certain areas, sales professionals can offer prospective customers specific delivery times.
Having spent 22 years of my career in the fast-paced world of express shipping, I had a deep pool of experience to offer Indianapolis Fruit. Although the company is different from FedEx, they both make customer service and satisfaction their primary goal. I have spent my entire career getting customers what they need when they need it, seamlessly.
Making that happen takes an army of people working together behind the scenes. I pride myself on my ability to bring together people with complementary strengths, so they can deliver the best possible service to our customers.
I knew little about the produce industry before I came to Indianapolis Fruit, but I’m learning more every day. As a picky eater, I’m also making a point of trying a new fruit or vegetable as often as I can.
The most important thing I’ve learned in my first year at Indianapolis Fruit is that it doesn’t matter what’s in the truck. Packages or produce, it’s all about the customer experience.
The Big Questions
What do you do to recharge your batteries?
Relax with my nine-year-old daughter and watch a movie.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Carrying chickens at the Teuscher farm in Fisher, Ill., was hot, smelly, and dirty. My mom would make me leave my work clothes outside the house.
What’s on your Bucket List?
Scuba diving in Australia with a great white shark—in a cage, of course.
A Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard.