Category: Fleet

‘It’s All About Fuel’

By John Holl

When he was a teenager working in the business that bears the family name, Jeffrey Mims had a very important and specific task. He would examine index cards imprinted with client information and place color-coded stickers on each to signify the volume of beer the customer was purchasing. When he finished that arduous task the sales staff would come in and sort through the 2,000 cards and figure out territories and the best routes. It took six weeks to complete that job, he said. 

Now, all the staff at Mims has to do is press a button and the Roadnet Technologies software the company installed a few years ago does all the work in a matter of minutes. Time is money and efficiency is important to the bottom line as well. Which is one reason Mims Distributing has invested so much money on technology in recent years, says Mims, the chief sales officer. 

With the Territory Planning software in place the workday “wasn’t a guessing game anymore.  When we first used Roadnet it saved us 10,000 miles,” he says. “That’s incredible cost saving. We’re saving about 50,000 gallons of fuel a year now.”

Looking at his fleet now, Mims wonders aloud why he didn’t implement the technology sooner. 

Mims has been a part of Raleigh, N.C. since the 1960s when H. H. “Boots” Mims was hired as sales manager for an existing beer distributorship. He purchased the company later that same year and renamed it Mims Distributing Co. complete with 17 employees. Boots’ brother Joe came aboard as a partner and they grew the business, all while staying true to their objective of generating profit. Efficiency is key to that. 

“Our customers provide us with the incomes that put the bread on our tables,” reads the company mission statement. “Their satisfaction with our performance is paramount. We owe them our best. We will sell and deliver our products in a timely and efficient manner. We will provide our customers with the freshest product possible. We will learn our customers’ needs for their businesses so that we can be their partners in growing their sales and profits. Offering our customers service at the highest level will make us their preferred beer vendor.”

The company grew slowly until 1974, the year Miller Brewing introduced Lite to the country. Demand soared, the company says, and its warehouse went through a needed expansion and they then moved to a larger facility four years later—adding more trucks to its fleet. Mims grew in the 1980s and 1990s, and the company brought a wine company, Famous Brands, into its portfolio. In July of 1996, Mims Distributing acquired the rights to sell Miller products in Durham, which brought an additional four counties to its territory and the need for a larger fleet. In 2000, Mims divested its wine division to focus solely on its beer portfolio. 

There are more than 120 full-time employees working at Mims, which serves nine counties in and around the Triangle region of central North Carolina. Being large means being ready for anything, and the company was not content to stop at one piece of Roadnet technology. More recently  Mims added FleetLoader, software that examines inventory and effectively calculates where it should be loaded. This is especially helpful with the fleet’s six side loaders and 16 tractor-trailers. The summer months are particularly busy and they add extra drivers, Mims says, and an additional truck that comes off the road following Labor Day. The software has “made our days more efficient,” he says. “I’m not sure why we didn’t do it sooner. It’s a hell of a lot faster than index cards.”

It’s just not on the roads— but in its new location. When Mims went to move into a new building a while back the company looked at three different sites and were able to plug each location into the software and evaluate potential routes, settling on one that would be the most efficient to get to its customers and save money. 

The location the company eventually selected was closer to its accounts and had more space—23 bay doors as opposed to the previous location’s three. That helped fleet management tremendously. Added doors meant that workers did not need to spend the overnight in loading areas constantly moving trucks into and out of position —something that also saved gas.

“It’s all about fuel,” Mims says. “It still takes time to deliver 15,000 cases of beer a day, but we’re cost effective through this technology and we’re saving money and the environment by being smart.” 

Talk with Mims for only a few minutes and it becomes abundantly clear that he cares about the environment and is committed to keeping the company’s carbon footprint as small as possible. The company has installed solar panels and other green technology throughout its facility. “If someone has ideas or something that is efficient on the roads,” he says, “I’m always listening.”   

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