Getting ‘Just in Time’ Just Right

Hanover Logistics
Written by Karen Hawthorne

Salty, sweet and crunchy – those chocolate covered pretzels are so delicious, it’s hard to stop at just one. But did you ever pause to consider the logistics, the trucking, the people and the miles covered to get that twisted confection to your lips?

Probably not. Rest assured, Kevin Davis, Director of Logistics for the Hanover Logistics Group, has – and those pretzels have been in good hands.

Davis admits to thinking logistics all the time, noting he can’t walk into a grocery store without considering how all the items got there, where they came from, the warehouses they arrived in, and the trucks and drivers that moved the product across the United States.

“When you sit back and look at everything that gets bought and sold in the grocery store or in the bookstores – that all passes through a warehouse at some point,” Davis says. “And we have a little niche part of that in Hanover, Pennsylvania.”

Hanover Terminal started in 1955. Kurt Dietrich, Davis’ father-in-law, bought into the warehousing company in 1977 at the age of 25. He still owns and operates the family business to this day. The business prospered and Hanover acquired more space and expanded its facilities.

In 2006, Hanover acquired R.H. Crawford, Inc., another family-run trucking company. At that time, the trucking side of the business boasted 18 trucks and nine drivers with warehouse operations totaling 435,000 square feet. Today those numbers have grown exponentially, to include a 120-truck fleet, 180 employees, and four facilities with more than 1.2 million square feet of warehouse space.

Even with all of that growth, Davis proudly points to the familial operations Hanover continues to foster with its team and with suppliers and clients. It was this family-first commitment that lured Davis from California, where he worked in hospitality management, to Pennsylvania to work alongside his father-in-law.

“We were talking with Kurt and he asked, ‘do you have any interest in carrying on the family business?’” Davis recalls. After a move back east and a career change, he’s put down roots in the community and serves as a volunteer firefighter. Much like his father-in-law, he’s dedicated to keeping people and products safe and secure.

“Kurt’s commitment grew the company to where it is, and it has supported his family and provides a number of jobs for people in the Hanover area,” he says. “We’re located in a small town in central Pennsylvania, so it’s great to be able to provide jobs.” Davis acknowledges that as the company has grown, he still firmly believes that the effort to create a family focused company culture is the backbone of Hanover’s operations. “We are all in it together, working for the same goal which is to continue the business and to be successful.”

Personalized service is another aspect that sets Hanover Logistics apart from the competition. Davis recounts the story of a small client of Hanover’s. This company was an early adopter of e-commerce pick-and-pack, with Hanover handling shipping and delivery. The team worked closely with this client to provide a variety of tailored services that helped that small company grow. What was, 10 years ago, a business operating out of a modest 30,000 square foot facility has now grown to an operation of more than 300,000 square feet.

“Being able to scale with a customer like that and to provide a level of service so that they want to stay with us is satisfying,” he says. “They’re very happy with what we do as partners as both of our businesses grow in tandem.”

Good business is ultimately about building strong relationships, and Hanover partners with companies so those companies, in turn, can grow and service their customers on demand. “A big part of the world of just-in-time delivery is being able to accommodate and turn around orders much faster than we’ve ever had to in the past,” says Davis, outlining the rapid speed required to stay competitive in today’s market. “It doesn’t have to just be e-commerce; grocery stores don’t want to hold any inventory but they still need it tomorrow.”

The shift to online purchasing means business for Hanover is brisk. “A lot of people are buying groceries online, not even having to go to the grocery store. Trucks and warehouses have to deliver all of that,” Davis says, adding that Amazon is driving the speed of the demand like nobody’s business: “You can put in an order at eight in the morning and you’ll have it by two in the afternoon.”

Speed without care, of course, can lead to unforeseen problems, which is why Hanover prides itself on the responsibility and professionalism of its drivers. Over the last couple of years, the company has been well represented at the American Truck Association national championship. Prerequisites for this event include no accidents of any kind in the millions of driving miles logged over the years. And to participate in the national contest, there are hurdles that must be overcome – a written test, a driving test, a pre-inspection test – and of course, you must win your state championship to advance to the nationals.

“We are very proud of our drivers,” Davis says. He explains that there are a couple of participation categories in the contest, one for large teams and another for small teams. “We’re not a big company but the number of participants we’ve had qualified us as a large team, and we’ve had a couple of drivers who have won the whole thing.”
Of course, safety doesn’t end with good driving alone. Hanover specializes in the logistics and delivery of food. The company is AIB International certified, similar to the certification and rigors undertaken for food processors. Part of this certification includes annual safety and food-handling audits to ensure the maintenance of these high standards.

Although Hanover specializes in dry warehousing, it also has refrigerated trailers in its fleet. “We’ve been able to acquire some assets to support the shipping of things like chocolate covered pretzels,” shares Davis. No wonder those pretzels are so good, with that kind of attention to care in shipping and delivery.

Hanover also transports paper for a local mill and has contracts that include building supplies such as roofing, lighting and even lumber.

To be sure, location is a key advantage. Hanover Terminal in Hanover, Pennsylvania is just a short distance from the port of Baltimore. This central location, with rail access and shipping convenience, allows Hanover to provide service to more than 60 percent of the population of the U.S. and 40 percent of Canada, all within a one-day drive, and Hanover’s trucking division has the authority to operate in all the lower 48 states.

So what does tomorrow look like for Hanover?

Davis sees e-commerce playing a large role in the future of the company. He is already investigating the use of technology to expedite picking and packing in the warehouse, where employees will leverage technology to improve efficiency – and ensure that Hanover continues to operate at the speed of the fast-paced e-commerce world.

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