Talking turkey with Perdue's CIO

FRAMINGHAM (11/05/2003) - Though you've got only one turkey to handle at Thanksgiving, this year, the folks at Perdue Farms will manage to move roughly 1 million turkeys--each within 24 hours of processing--to reach holiday tables across the nation.

The task isn't as tricky as it was before the food and agricultural products company invested US$20 million in supply chain management technology five years ago. Using Manugistics Group Inc. forecasting software and supply chain planning tools, Perdue has become more adept at delivering the right number of turkeys to the right customers at the right time, says CIO Don Taylor. "As we get to November, we have live information at our fingertips," he says.

Before investing in supply chain management and forecasting software, Perdue's managers went by the "gut feel" of its suppliers and customers, as well as the seasonal history of past consumption. It worked well enough; the company Arthur W. Perdue founded in 1920 has grown to reach annual sales of $2.7 billion. With the forecasting and supply chain systems, Taylor says the privately held company monitors its products year-round, checking in more frequently as Thanksgiving approaches. While the third week of November is Perdue's busiest time of year, the company's output doesn't change radically. The big difference is the form the turkeys take. Most of the year, it's more food parts and deli meats, while this time of year it's whole birds.

Getting turkeys from farm to table is a race against time, so Perdue has turned to technology to make sure its products arrive fresh. Each of its delivery trucks is equipped with a global positioning system that allows dispatchers to keep tabs on the turkeys en route from each of the company's four distribution centers to their destinations. If a truck breaks down, a replacement is sent to rescue the palettes of poultry. "We know where our trucks are exactly at all times," says Dan DiGrazio, Perdue's director of logistics.

Perdue uses everything but smoke signals to communicate with customers, staying in touch via telephone, e-mail and video conferencing. Some stores have vendor-management inventory control systems, which allow Perdue to track sales of its products in real-time.

"We're always looking at new technologies as they come along to see what makes sense for us," Taylor says. And come Nov. 27, Taylor will probably give thanks to his supply chain for making his job a little bit easier. And getting the drumsticks to his table.

SIDEBAR

Drumstick Details

Perdue produces more than 48 million pounds of chicken products and nearly 4 million pounds of turkey products each week.

- One million turkeys will be shipped nationwide from four Perdue distribution centers in time for Thanksgiving.

- Turkeys arrive at supermarkets and other destinations within 24 hours of slaughter and processing.

- Perdue trucks are connected via satellite to dispatch and distribution centers.

- All chickens and turkeys are produced under contract by almost 3,000 independent farm-family partners.

SOURCE: Perdue Farms

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