A two-year lead time for a bicycle and sparse car dealership lots. The impacts of trade wars, COVID-19 and a blocked Suez Canal have wreaked havoc on the supply chain, but at Iowa Select Farms we have weathered some of the storm thanks to a brand new (to us) warehouse and distribution center in Iowa Falls.
Known to many as the old K-Mart building, the 48,000 square foot space has been retrofitted and repainted to bring increased stability and reliability for our farms. “They are able to get the supplies they need in a timely manner,” said Shawn Lents, director of supply chain. “It seems kind of funny to say, but this building really helps animal care. The farms are able to run better with more certainty in their supplies.” The consolidation of space has also improved biosecurity, with restricted entrance and exits and clearer clean and dirty lines.
While everyone can see the improved curb appeal of the building, what they may not know is all the changes made to the inside. “We added HVAC to adequately heat and cool the space, a large office with a reception area and two workstations, and lots of racking,” shared Shawn Lents, director of supply chain. All that racking can hold 1,620 pallets plus about 400 more on the floor means enough room for 2,000 pallets of farm supplies under one roof.
The distribution center serves as the hub of our hub-and-spoke supply model. Dean, in his 11th year with Iowa Select Farms, handles the intake of bulk purchases and breaks them into smaller pieces for transportation to satellite locations in Osage, Rockwell City and Osceola. “We average about four or five larger deliveries each day,” Dean said. “Having the space to store and receive everything has really made the difference in our efficiency.”
On the warehouse side, Jennifer handles order fulfillment and custom walk-in orders for the finishing farms. “She has the most in-depth knowledge of our inventory and has the patience to answer a lot of questions,” Shawn said. When asked how many orders she picks in a day, Jen says, “It depends on what the emergency is today.” Sounds like someone focused on customer service to us!
Also working in the warehouse is Troy, who is the newest team member in Iowa Falls and handles our sow farm, gilt development unit and nursery fulfillment. Troy used to work at Hy-Vee in Iowa Falls and laughed when asked how working for a pig farming operation is compared to his old employer, “It’s the same job, but with very different inventory.” Troy’s orders at Iowa Select Farms include everything from light bulbs to 50-pound bags of drying agents used on newborn piglets.
But just having those orders pulled is not enough – they have to get to the farm. That is where Skyler comes in. Skyler has been with Iowa Select Farms for more than three years and drives the supply delivery truck, ensuring adherence to biosecurity protocols, including downtime and supply entrance procedures.
Before those supplies can get to a farm, they have to be ordered, and the inventory has to be managed. That is where Amanda and Erin come in. “They are responsible for inventory management with proactive decision-making,” said Shawn. “They are analyzing inventory turns, stock out dates, and other parameters to ensure supplies are on-hand when our farms need them.” Amanda handles the receipt of goods and has been with the company for three years. Erin will be celebrating her 15-year anniversary this year.
When asked what their biggest achievement was in the last year, the entire team agrees it was the move. “We worked together to make the move from the two old warehouse buildings in one week during COVID while ensuring consistency of operations,” said Jennifer. The space they moved into quadrupled the footprint of the operation and has the team dreaming of what is next.
“To keep the momentum going, I would like to be able to implement a process that has a real-time inventory and warehouse management system,” Shawn said. “Imagine something like Menards with real-time knowledge of how many of each item is in what warehouse.”
Thank goodness Shawn has a team like Dean, Jennifer, Troy, Skyler, Amanda and Erin to keep up with those dreams!