Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation (GML) is a private label food manufacturing company headquartered in Chester, Illinois. GML has 13 locations that are strategically located in the Midwestern United States across two states. They specialize in producing a wide range of food products, including cereals, snacks, baking mixes, and other dry food items. Their products can be found in various grocery stores and retail outlets across the United States and beyond. Many of the products they manufacture are aggregated within their distribution centers which allows them to offer multiple products within palletized bulk shipments.
GML has greatly supported the mostly-rural communities where it operates, creating jobs and stimulating economic activity. Operating in a rural area comes with its own set of challenges due to the limited surrounding population. Two of their distribution centers (McBride, MO and Steeleville, IL) are located more than 50 miles from any major metropolitan area, and the surrounding towns are relatively small. Each of the distribution centers handles palletized products only, requiring each worker to be a certified forklift operator. In rural areas, trained forklift operators are not as readily available as compared to larger cities with ample warehousing activity. When GML first evaluated working with Veryable, the marketplace was not active yet in the region, thus there were no workers on the platform yet.
Due to the seasonal nature of some food products, GML typically experiences demand surges that build from midsummer to late winter. At the end of October 2022, GML was well into their busy season and had more than 70 backlogged loads on the lot, compared to a target of under 40. This caused a bottleneck in their operation and resulted in extended lead times, employee overtime/burnout, and increased costs while trying to keep up with demand. Keeping service levels to customers high and being able to quickly move products through their distribution centers was the priority.
Working in conjunction with the President, VP of Operations, and each DC’s Superintendents; Veryable and GML developed a strategy to address these challenges and remove the current bottlenecks. GML began by posting shifts to the Veryable platform and connecting directly with local operators who downloaded the app. GML was also able to accelerate the growth of the local operator pool in the region by leveraging their involvement in the community to help raise awareness. Operators on their first op were exposed to an accelerated forklift training program that allowed them to provide value-add labor while also receiving training. They were then evaluated based on work ethic, willingness to learn, and safety. Those that were highly rated were added to GML’s labor pool to further develop them and give them priority on future shifts. Supervisors tested the operator’s skill using forklifts and opened all functions within the facility as they proved capable of safely performing each required task.
GML was able to build a labor pool of 75 trained forklift operators and gained over 9,000 hours of direct labor over the busy season. This allowed them to eliminate the 130 load backlog and respond in real time to their customers’ orders. Overtime utilization saw a significant reduction of 35% and nearly $60,000 in overtime costs were avoided. GML was also able to achieve the ability to scale down after the busy season without layoffs and address any micro surges. After the busy season, GML reduced their forklift operator usage to perfectly match smaller intra-week and intra-month demand surges while preparing for the next peak season. Additionally, GML expanded their Veryable program into food production operations.
“These guys really tried to understand our operation and how it works so they could actually help us”
“Without Veryable, we wouldn’t have been able to return to on time delivery”
-J. Moore, D.C. Superintendent