A close shipper-carrier relationship has helped ensure consistent, reliable service for customers of Novus International Inc, a manufacturer of animal feed supplements and feed preservatives. It is a relationship that has already endured for more than 25 years and continues to strengthen.
Novus directs distribution operations for its liquid methionine hydroxy analogue product, ALIMET, through its Automated Information Monitoring System (AIMS) infrastructure that has incorporated the latest satellite communications and remote monitoring technology throughout the company’s bulk liquid supply chain. The Novus distribution network includes distribution centers, transload sites, and a dedicated fleet of 310 tankcars.
Bulk Transport Company, a division of Schilli Corporation, which is owned by TFI International, began working with Novus in 1993. Based in St Louis, Missouri, the tank truck carrier provides a dedicated truck fleet that includes 35 drivers, 35 tractors, and 38 meter-equipped tank trailers. The carrier also has three customer service representatives assigned to the Novus headquarters in Missouri.
“We believe we have built a very robust supply chain management system that enables our customers to focus on other critical aspects of their operations,” says Brittany Pham, manager of North America customer supply chain for Novus International. “Novus’ core values include protecting society and the environment, and our supply chain has a direct impact in supporting that objective. We’re continuing to improve all aspects of the supply chain management system.
“On the tank truck carrier side, we have built a partnership that successfully aligns the core competencies of each organization to bring a holistic service to Novus customers.”
Robert Schilli Jr, senior vice-president of operations at Schilli, adds that the carrier truly is an extension of Novus in the field. “With this operation, all we do is support Novus and its customers. Essentially, we are Novus’s dedicated third-party fleet operation.”
Novus was founded in Missouri by Mitsui & Co (USA) Inc and Nippon Soda Co Ltd in 1991. The first two products in the new company’s portfolio were ALIMET feed supplement and SANTOQUIN feed preservative.
ALIMET is a liquid feed supplement that supplies a source of methionine, a critical amino acid that goes into feed for poultry, swine, aquaculture, and dairy and beef cattle.
The products are manufactured in Chocolate Bayou, south of Houston, Texas.
By 1993, Novus was developing its AIMS supply chain management system. “Over time, the concept grew into a full-service inventory management system for our customers,” Pham says.
While AIMS is proprietary to Novus, other bulk liquid animal feed ingredient companies have similar offerings. “What sets us apart is not technology but the robustness of our customer service team in providing value-added inventory management services,” Pham says. “We also provide a value-added service by monitoring the usage of the product and alerting customers to consumption changes are noted by our system, which can assist in identifying improper dosing and equipment failures.”
Novus benefits from AIMS by having real-time data to plan and execute supply chain strategies. The visibility into customer inventories generates synergies in planning and supports a sustainable supply chain.
The AIMS system has become increasingly sophisticated. From 2009 to 2010, Novus updated the system with the latest satellite communications and remote tank monitoring technology. The internet-based system provides precise, dependable, and instantaneous inventory reading for any customer 24/7.
By late 2018, Novus had begun installing prototypes of a newer generation of tank monitoring system at select customer locations. The custom-made units are equipped with SCADALink satellite and/or cellular communication. This will allow Novus to gather tank inventories much faster and with even greater reliability.
While the basic function of the system is to monitor tank levels, the new technology has the capability to connect to Micro Motion meters that could enable Novus specialists to remotely monitor system variables and remotely troubleshoot systems.
Future developments will utilize customer-specific profiles and enable customers to view their liquid system information and tank inventory. Customers will be able to create set points for high/low level alerts. The system will automatically send an email alert if a high-use event occurs. All of this will mean a quicker response to address inventory levels, prevent overfills, and detect leaks.
“We currently monitor 450 customer storage tanks across the United States and Canada,” Pham says. “This enables us to build delivery routes optimized for both efficiency and delivery quantities, benefitting our customers by managing their inventory and reducing the administrative workload on their staffs.”
Customer tanks range in size from 1,000 to 12,000 gallons, and customers may have multiple product tanks at a single location.
Product tanks typically are plastic and are kept outside in an area with spill containment. Tanks exposed to extreme cold are equipped with heat trace equipment and are part of an annual maintenance reminder program that Novus provides.
“We serve customers of all sizes, from very large to very small,” Pham says. “The optimal product offering of ALIMET and SANTOQUIN is in bulk quantities. Bulk deliveries optimize inventory planning and route optimization, leading to a more efficient and sustainable supply chain. Some of our customer sites take as many as three tank trailer loads a week, while others get just a few hundred gallons at a time. We want to accommodate differing needs in our supply chain while remaining sustainable.”
ALIMET is shipped by rail from the production plant in Chocolate Bayou to facilities across the United States. Over time, the network evolved to include eight major distribution hubs. These facilities are located in Little Rock, Arkansas; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Petersburg, Virginia; Boone, Iowa; Nampa, Idaho; Muncie, Indiana; Fremont, California; and Lincoln, Alabama. From these hubs product is then distributed to customers.
In 2017, Novus began strategic review of its distribution centers across the country. This review was intended to address an increasing shortage in available drivers, service level improvements, and sustainability initiatives. The review identified multiple opportunities and new facilities are planned for Lancaster, New York; Seaford, Delaware; Odessa, Kansas; and Jackson, Mississippi by the end of 2020. The facility in Boone, Iowa opened in 2018 as a result of this study.
All of the distribution facilities have rail sidings to handle product shipments by tankcar from the Chocolate Bayou plant. The largest distribution points are Little Rock and Fayetteville.
“We ship about 65 million pounds of product a year through the Little Rock location and 47 million pounds a year through Fayetteville,” Pham says.
Dispersed across the Novus distribution center network are the Bulk Transport drivers and tank transports. They typically operate within a 500-mile radius of a distribution center, but some shipments travel as many as a thousand miles. Drivers deliver to customers across Canada from the US locations.
Larger customers will take a full trailerload of product, but the Bulk Transport drivers also make plenty of peddle runs with four to eight deliveries to smaller customers. All shipments are sealed and tanks are resealed after each less-than-trailerload delivery.
Bulk Transport drivers selected for the Novus operation know they have been picked for a premier job. “They have a lot of pride in what they do, and Novus shows them a lot more respect than other shippers,” Schilli says. “These are some of our most experienced drivers.”
Drivers chosen to work with Novus are brought to headquarters to meet with Novus personnel. They also receive specific training in the processes and procedures required by Novus.
“Our dedicated delivery fleet drives about 3.3 million miles a year for about 9,000 deliveries of ALIMET,” Pham says. “Because of the distribution system changes we began making in 2017, Novus recorded a 10% improvement in total miles driven and fuel used. We cut nearly 100 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. The plans for additional locations will deliver even more results in reducing miles and carbon dioxide emissions, fulfilling one of Novus’s key values: provide commercial solutions that promote reduced waste, and the reuse and/or recycle of our natural resources.”
ABOUT NOVUS INTERNATIONAL, INC.
Novus International Inc is headquartered in metropolitan St Charles, Missouri, USA and serves customers in over 100 countries around the world. A global leader in developing animal health and nutrition solutions, Novus International’s products include ALIMET and MHA feed supplements, ACTIVATE nutritional feed acid, ACIDOMIX preservative premixture, CIBENZA enzyme feed additive, MINTREX chelated trace minerals, SANTOQUIN feed preservative, AGRADO feed antioxidant and many other specialty ingredients. Stratum Nutrition, a division of Novus Nutrition Brands LLC, focuses on human nutrition through specialty and functional ingredients for manufacturers of foods, beverages and dietary supplements (www.stratumnutrition.com). Novus is privately owned by Mitsui & Co (USA) Inc and Nippon Soda Co Ltd. For more information, visit www.novusint.com.
ABOUT TFI INTERNATIONAL
TFI International Inc is a North American leader in the transportation and logistics industry, operating across the United States, Canada and Mexico through its subsidiaries. TFI International creates value for shareholders by identifying strategic acquisitions and managing a growing network of wholly-owned operating subsidiaries. Under the TFI International umbrella, companies benefit from financial and operational resources to build their businesses and increase their efficiency. TFI International companies service the following segments:
• Package and Courier
• Logistics and Last Mile
TFI International Inc. is publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: TFII) and the OTCQX marketplace in the U.S. (OTCQX: TFIFF). For more information, visit http://www.tfiintl.com.