Jun 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By David A Kolman
Founded in 1925 in West Palm Beach, Florida, with one truck delivering eggs, milk, and butter, Cheney Brothers Inc (CBI) has grown into one of the largest privately owned broad line foodservice distributors in the South. Today, the company inventories more than 15,000 items and has yearly revenues exceeding $700 million.
Products include everything from fresh meats, seafood, poultry, gourmet foods, specialty cheeses, eggs, butter, and ice cream; to frozen seafood, entrees and hor d'oeuvres; to fresh produce, beverages, paper goods, restaurant supplies and equipment; to institutional chemicals and janitorial supplies.
Cheney Brothers maintains two distribution centers: a 325,000-sq-ft facility in Riviera Beach, Florida, and at its newest location, a 495,000-sq-ft facility in Ocala, Florida. Both have refrigerated multi-temperature warehouses and freezers, all monitored via state-of-the-art computer systems, plus dry storage.
It operates a modern, all temperature-controlled fleet to deliver products, six days a week, to accounts throughout Florida and in parts of Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Alabama. Last year the fleet, equipped with satellite positioning technology, logged nearly 6,770,000 miles.
Both distribution centers have a completely computerized product selection and barcode processing tracking system. A new warehouse management system allows it to keep track of customers' products through the entire processing system, thus increasing the accuracy of customers' orders.
Technology advancements reach throughout Cheney Brothers from order processing to deliveries, warehousing to accounting, enabling it to operate more efficiently. This, in turn, allows the company to “provide customer service that we consider to be second to none,” says vice-president of operations Cecil King.
That, in combination with a stable, experienced workforce, is what has helped make the company the tenth largest food distributor in the nation, he notes. “We hire only good, quality people, based on the criteria we have determined that makes for a successful employee here. We cultivate our people, largely promoting from within.”
King joined the company in 1981 as a truck driver and is a testament to this process. He worked his way up through the ranks to his current position.
When hiring drivers, Cheney Brothers looks for a number of qualifications. A safe driving record is a priority. Candidates must be at least 24 years of age. The company prefers drivers who have some food distribution experience. “They know what to expect, unlike road drivers who are accustomed to bumping a dock, rather than handling freight,” King says.
Driver hires go through an intensive orientation. “The first thing we do is welcome them to the company, and let them know how important they are to our continued success,” he explains. “We have all the departments heads come in and explain how their operations work, and we stress the importance of safety in all that we do.
“Additionally, we have a member of management, who prior to being promoted was a long-time route driver, talk with them. He tells them first-hand what they need to know and what to expect.”
Following the orientation, new drivers are assigned to one of eight driver trainers for approximately three weeks, or longer if needed, before they are assigned their own truck and route.
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