Canadian Shipper

Feature

Follow the North Star


From its headquarters in St. Thomas, Ont., near London, North Star Windows & Doors manufactures and sells energy-efficient vinyl windows, patio doors and entry doors. Since 1985, North Star products have been enhancing homes, new and old. These windows and doors are literally show-stoppers. In 2017, Home to Win, the popular HGTV Canada series, offered viewers a chance to compete for a gorgeous waterfront home featuring North Star Windows & Doors. In the company’s winning story, improved transportation plays a starring role.

We do windows

A few years ago, with business opportunities expanding, North Star arrived at a corporate crossroads: It could sink money into its aging fleet, or grow the core business.

“We had not replaced trucks or trailers for many years,” says Pat Rooke, North Star Vice President. “But, rather than updating the fleet, we wanted to invest money back into equipment to facilitate growth in the organization.” Deciding to go with the dedicated transportation Solution was step one. Step two? North Star wanted a partner who understood its unique challenges.

“Delivery of our windows and doors is very different than the delivery of goods for other industries,” says Dan Burzese, Materials Manager for North Star. “Drivers and helpers unload at both warehouse locations as well as job sites. These are very diverse delivery conditions. Safety is an issue too; the drivers have to know how to handle the large units.”

Partnering with North Star was about the alignment of corporate values around customer service and image, says Mark Edds, Managing Director, SCS Ryder Canada.

“North Star Windows was looking for a partner that could handle the growth expectations they had in their business as well as a company that could support ‘white glove’ last mile delivery.”

The single largest challenge, according to Edds, was dealing with a work force at North Star that was very tenured and with wages and benefits that were not in alignment with the market. “We worked closely with them on a strategy of moving the workforce over to Ryder to ensure their customers felt no impact from this need to outsource.

“They needed to get out of trucking and concentrate on building the quality products that they do well and Ryder was the solution to make that happen.”

Given years of work with the windows and doors industry, Ryder was able to provide the expertise needed, along with drivers who specialize in drop van deliveries. Ryder also enables North Star to efficiently handle seasonal fluctuations in demand, with a pool of experienced drivers ready to step up as needed.

“We also wanted to improve the customer’s experience with North Star,” says Bryan Smith, North Star’s Controller. “Delivery is an extension of our service. Ryder may be handling transportation, but it is still North Star delivery in the minds of our customer.”

Ryder takes a project management approach says Edds, where subject matter experts in safety, human resources, IT, engineering, equipment sourcing, sales and operations are engaged. Once a start date is agreed upon, weekly meetings are held to review the project plan and call out all completed tasks and any task that is becoming a potential barrier to success.

“The subject matter experts are asked to lead their area of expertise and report to the executive team made up of leadership from both Ryder and the client,” says Edds. “We’ve had a very successful launch history when the proper resources and time is given to a start-up. North Star launched during one of their busiest times and it was a success because both organizations needed it to be and both provided the start-up team with the resources and time to execute without any issues.”

On time and on-site

With Ryder on the job, Smith says on-time delivery is above 99 per cent. Ryder is also delivering another key advantage: peace of mind. A Ryder representative works on-site at North Star every day, simplifying communications and success. “Advanced communications with our customers lets them know of delays due to weather, road conditions or issues with other customers on the routes, and that is critical to North Star’s success,” Burzese says. “We also follow up with customers after the delivery to let them know that North Star and Ryder are jointly looking at ways to improve our delivery and customer service.”

Having Ryder on site enhances collaboration on customer expectations for delivery and load sizes and organization, says Smith. “With improved communications between Ryder and North Star, we can respond quickly to delivery changes and issues that arise on delivery day. From the customer’s perspective, it’s a seamless integration; they feel like they are speaking with a North Star employee.”

According to Edds, the reason behind the impressive results are twofold.

“[Ryder] was able to handle the growth North Star achieved in a manner they would not have been able to if they were still using a private fleet model. We were able to flex up, provide more equipment and drivers than they had been able to prior to our taking over the business.

“We were also able to bring stability to their program. Our on-site team works closely with theirs and operate as one. We are making decisions that are in harmony for both companies not just moving freight. All of these actions have saved North Star money and allowed them to concentrate on their core competence, which is building a superior product for the building industry.”

“When we started working with Ryder, we had definite expectations,” Rooke says. “Delivery on time, every time. Lower logistics costs. No capital expenditure. The ability to fluctuate labour with the seasonality of our business improved customer satisfaction.

“Ryder has delivered.”