The U.S. Dairy Exporter Blog: Market Analysis, Research & News

  • Supply Chain Tips from an Award-Winning Exporter

    By Mark O'Keefe September 8, 2015

    The C.F. Sauer Co. has optimized its export supply chain. The architect of that effort will speak at a USDEC Export Supply Chain Best Practices Forum. 

    If there is one thing Rob Davenport has learned in five years of growing exports at The C.F. Sauer Company it’s this: “It’s a lot easier to get the business than it is to deliver it to your customer.”

    Davenport55Davenport will be one of several speakers at the U.S. Dairy Export Council’s Export Supply Chain Best Practices Forum on October 14 in Chicago. The members-only Forum will be held a day before USDEC’s Board of Directors and Annual Membership Meeting (USDEC members with a password to usdec.org can register for both events here).

    C.F. Sauer is not a dairy exporter, but a Virginia-based spice and condiment company. Davenport is speaking because the U.S. dairy industry can benefit from learning about export supply chain (ESC) strategies utilized in other industries.

    Davenport says focusing on ESC has been both challenging and rewarding for C.F. Sauer, the United States’ second-biggest spice company and third-largest domestic mayonnaise maker. Products include Duke’s, a mayonnaise described in a Washington Post headline as “the Southern spread with a cult following.”

    In the last three years, C.F. Sauer exports have grown from 10 percent to 16 percent of overall sales, which are just over $400 million. In the next five years, the company expects that number to increase to 25 percent.

    “There is always a gamble with exports,” says Davenport. “That’s just the nature of the beast. But the payout in the end is you grow your company’s business and profits.”

    In 2014, C.F. Sauer earned the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Commonwealth of Virginia Governor’s Award for Excellence in International Trade. The company was profiled in an Associated Press article as a Virginia export success story.

    supply_chain-375848-editedAs C.F. Sauer’s sales manager for business development, Davenport manages the branded and private label business for the International Division, as well as private label business for domestic markets. When he began managing the company’s international business in 2011, Davenport was given the mandate of increasing international sales, but without additional resources.

    An efficient and flexible export supply chain has been a key to success.

    In five eventful years (“I’m never bored”), Davenport says he has learned several keys to optimizing his ESC, including:

    • Get executive buy-in to sustain company commitment during inevitable snafus. C.F. Sauer was recently asked to print, “For sale in Guinea,” on its products shipped there. When customs officials in Africa saw the labels, they asked, “Why just Guinea?” Thus, the company had to create similar labels for 23 products shipped into African countries served out of the Freetown port (port for products brought into both Guinea and Sierra Leone). That required the $48,000 purchase of inkjet printers fast enough to print labels on an assembly line that runs at a speed of 200 jars per minute. The investment didn’t grow the export business or increase ROI. It just retained these African customers. Developments like that could give plant workers plenty to talk about, but it’s just the price of doing exports. It helps that everyone knows that the man who signs their checks, CEO and President Conrad F. Sauer IV, is committed to exports for the long haul.

    • When you make mistakes, turn them into learning opportunities. Surprises inevitably occur, such as the time the company learned it had to use muscular local workers, not forklifts, to unload product at an African port. Traditional methods of unloading containers without forklifts meant C.F. Sauer had to adapt. “The one thing about exporting international products is you are always learning,” says Davenport. “If you’re not learning, you are losing sales.”

    • Continually educate your employees on what it takes to serve unique overseas customers. Davenport teaches through circumstances, such as the time a customer had to be told, “Unfortunately, the containers are already on the way.” Why? The customer’s email did not get answered by first thing, Monday morning—in Nigeria. “Believe it or not, I have to educate people that there is a time zone difference we have to take into account for our customers that far away.” Davenport adds that sales people need ESC education, too, because, “It’s important for the people selling the products to not overpromise. Don’t go out and say we can export something if you aren’t certain we can.”

    It hasn't happened overnight, and has required a culture of continuous improvement as C.F. Sauer sends products to Africa, Mexico, South America, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, Puerto Rico and Tahiti, among other places. But focusing on ESC has paid big dividends.

    Says Davenport: "I would stack up our logistics people against any Fortune 200 company.”


     

    Export Supply Chain Best Practices Forum

    logo

    In addition to learning ESC best practices from food executives like Sauer, USDEC members attending the October 14 Export Supply Chain Best Practices Forum in Chicago will learn:

    Members with a password to usdec.org can register here. Companies interested in joining USDEC can inquire here.

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    The U.S. Dairy Export Council is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff that builds on collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to build global demand for U.S. dairy products.  

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