One Company, Four Divisions, Complete Supply Chain Services

The Schilli Companies
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Complete supply chain provider Schilli Companies delivers raw materials and finished goods all over the world and offers road freight transportation, logistics, and warehousing services from its base in Remington, Indiana. It is made up of four divisions that were originally considered to be four separate companies when it was established in 1960.
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The Schilli Companies was created in 1960, under the name Schilli Motor Lines, as a bulk carrier of fertilizer products, and in 1972, Thomas R. Schilli assumed ownership.

After purchasing some flatbeds and vans, the company developed two truck lines that continued to grow, and additional companies were created for other services that support trucking. Schilli Transportation Services (STS) was formed to manage truckloads and orders, and Schilli Motor Lines became Schilli NationaLease (SNL) to provide leases and rental programs. Schilli Specialized (SSI) and Schilli Distribution Services (SDS) are the other two companies in the quartet.

The Schilli Companies may have made the process a little harder on itself by initially isolating each division of the company to ensure each had a specific service offering and footprint. Every division actually viewed the others as vendors or customers, rather than two arms of the same company. Thomas has now led the company for over fifty years, and as of May 2017, the Schilli Companies operate as a subsidiary of Daseke, Inc.

While the division of liability has remained, the company has grown together to work as one team that can provide full supply chain services. The Schilli Companies provides a variety of services, and clients can choose a customized supply chain solution using a combination of services, or only one.

The Schilli Companies have thirteen locations throughout the United States, and its distribution services have a global reach through its location at the port in Savannah, Georgia. It employs approximately 545 people, but for such a large company, it has a surprisingly family-oriented atmosphere.

“It’s a nice thing to come to work with people who you consider to be your family,” says Schilli Companies President Lee Michaud. “I have a very different style of management than the previous owner, and when I moved here, less than two years ago to take this role, they were a little shell shocked when they realized the difference, but I was embraced, and we’ve begun to do some great things because of that.”

As a leader, Lee focuses on creating a positive workplace culture, and he has found that employees respond very well to working in an enjoyable and engaging environment. Remembering the names of family members or an upcoming birthday really makes a difference in attitude and performance in the workplace as well.

Similar to others in the industry, the most obvious challenge for the Schilli Companies is a driver shortage. It is impossible to increase the business to its full potential when there are more trucks than there are people to drive them. A secondary challenge is redirecting the function of the company as one group rather than four. For example, for certain clients such as Caterpillar where it provides the logistics, warehousing, and trucking services, each of the three involved business units has to operate independently due to some business ethics that must be observed. The warehousing division cannot tender freight to the trucking division without Caterpillar’s permission because it may appear like preferential treatment.

However, this is not the case for every client. “Just because we have one customer that spans across all the divisions and we have some ethical challenges that we need to make sure we’re following certain protocols for, doesn’t mean that is the case for everything, so when we approach a new customer about doing business for them, we have to get into the mindset of all being one company,” says Lee.

The two most essential values that guide the company are transparency and honesty. These are important because it is necessary for a supply chain provider to be completely truthful with its clients with the good news and the bad, as clients will begin to resent being kept in the dark otherwise. Responsibility is another standard, and all employees are encouraged to hold themselves and their co-workers accountable for their actions.

The Schilli Companies is not necessarily a perfect fit for every client and is looking for partners that match its principles and have confidence in the company to manage their supply chain fully. Its goal is to create a competitive advantage for these partners by offering customized solutions that increase efficiency in the supply chain and reduce overall costs. This allows the client to focus on other, more valuable, aspects of the business including branding, innovation, and long term growth. The Schilli Companies is also able to strictly focus on one critical area with which a client requires assistance such as the last mile delivery or warehousing.

Sustainability and environmentally-friendly initiatives are a part of every board meeting at the Schilli Companies as it moves forward. Technology is advancing in the freight transportation industry, and many new innovative opportunities are on the table.

“There are a number of different options that are out there now that people are beginning to explore in a much more in-depth basis like electric trucks and natural gases being used in metropolitan areas for mass transit,” says Lee.

There is still no complete solution to over-the-road trucking, but the industry is on its way, and the Schilli Companies is looking forward to the day it will be able to transition to sustainably powered trucks. The company has already adapted to using solar power in its warehouses and especially wind power, as Indiana is known for its wind turbines.

“When I first started in this industry, people would talk in terms of pennies making a difference, in other words, the difference in success and failure might be a penny’s worth. The competition and the cost of doing business have gone up so much that it is now more likely to be measured in tenths of a penny or even hundredths of a penny,” says Lee. The competitive nature of the business is another reason for the company’s sustainability efforts, as these will pay off in the future and save on costs.

The Schilli Companies has steadily improved its safety record recently, and of all of the awards the company has been given, it considers its safety award from the Indiana Motor Truck Association to be the most worthy of note. “We make sure to emphasize that everything we do and every undertaking that we begin starts by viewing it through the lens of safety. In today’s world, it simply has to, that’s just what it is,” says Lee.

The short-term goal of the Schilli Companies is to update some of its current locations with new equipment and technology to remain a leading supply chain provider in the United States. Long-term, the company is looking to relocate its headquarters in Remington, Indiana to a larger, more modern facility, but that move is still a couple of years down the road at least.

The Schilli Companies has adopted the simple business model of listening to its clients to ensure that it provides the customized service to meet their needs. It strives to assists clients in overcoming supply and demand challenges and properly positioning them for growth.

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