The new platform is Internet-based, which improves the reliability of the data collection system and reduces data collection costs. It also provides precise, dependable and near-instantaneous inventory readings for any customer 24/7, plus a backup power supply and a local display of tank inventory.
“While it was good by industry standards, it wasn’t where we wanted it to be and the upgrade in infrastructure increased reliability to 99%,” Mowery says. “Having more reliable, modern equipment in the field has also reduced our maintenance costs.”
The upgraded AIMS system also includes satellite communications with Novus’s fleet of more than 20 dedicated delivery trucks nationwide to automatically track locations, routes, deliveries and customer billing activities. The logistical efficiencies created by these enhancements provide superior bulk liquid delivery operations with an added end-user benefit: AIMS allows Novus to monitor customer inventory without customer involvement.
“The main benefit is that [AIMS] makes feed ingredient supply more like a utility. The ingredient is there when they need it. Customers don’t have to spend time and resources monitoring it, and they pay for it at the end of the month,” explains Mowery.
Since the liquid product is a small component of a greater scope of ingredients, Brenda Kochanny, regional merchandising manager at Cargill’s Coralville, IA-based animal nutrition division, notes how AIMS provides “one less thing” for the logistics managers to have to worry about.
“It’s so easy because all the guesswork and monitoring is eliminated from our responsibilities,” she says. The regional office serves eight feed mills in the upper Midwest supplying feed products for 10 or more animal species — four Cargill feed mills benefit from the AIMS system.
“Our customers can redirect the energy wasted on supply concerns and instead bring value to their customers,” Mowery says. “Most customers don’t feel like they add value by monitoring ingredients; they add value by delivering finished feed when their customers need it with documented quality and reliability.”
An added benefit Novus brings to customers is its economical less-than-truckload (LTL) bulk liquids deliveries, Mowery notes.
Kochanny mentions how helpful the AIMS system has been for supplying bulk ingredients to Cargill’s smaller operations. For example, the company’s Big Lake, MN operation where Novus fills the tank to Cargill’s specification.
“The mill doesn’t require a full tank, and we want to avoid holding large containers of the liquid ingredients because we don’t want to tie up our working capital with inventory,” Kochanny says.
The sustainability characteristics of the system allows customers to use bulk liquids without requiring them to maintain and store containers, drums or totes.
“The only way we can economically provide a sustainable service to customers is to optimize how we deliver bulk ingredients to LTL customers,” Mowery says. “Everyone would like to reduce the amount of containers in the supply chain, but the challenge has always been how to do that while still servicing customers who traditionally can’t take 50,000 pounds of material at one time.”
The environmental impact is an additional benefit to the system, Mowery notes “fewer containers mean less nonrenewable resources will be used in container manufacturing and fewer containers will be added to land fills.”
A happy customer
“From a logistics, working capital and inventory management perspective, AIMS has been a great advancement,” Kochanny says. “Even though it can be difficult to manage with the lower inventories we want to carry, [Novus] came to the table with a solution. We still could use the products, and they would deliver them at the quantities we want, when we need them.”
She concludes: “It’s just a great customer solution and Novus has always been a great partner.”