Our Duty – Our Commitment
By John Rakoczy
The pandemic proved KAG Specialty Products team can do big things in high-stress situations, quickly designing new solutions and executing on those designs to adapt to customers’ new requirements.
Building a Supply Chain on the Fly
In one instance, we basically built a new supply chain on the fly. Suddenly, ethanol, the main ingredient in hand sanitizers, was needed in much higher volumes. Our team had existing relationships with sanitizer producers, including the manufacturer of the number-one brand in the US. This manufacturer’s ethanol requirements grew threefold within a matter of months.
Suppliers saw the need for ethanol and quickly opened new production facilities just about anywhere they could squeeze ethanol out of corn. Most of the new production sites were located in rural areas far from major highways and our usual routes. Only a small number were set up for commercial vehicles, and even fewer were equipped to accept semi tankers.
Our dispatchers and drivers mobilized to get the ethanol from these refineries to sanitizer-production facilities. This meant longer hauls, with our drivers away from home for longer than accustomed. Making it even more difficult, they had to deal with COVID restrictions. Many of them had to live in their trucks for extended periods of time rather than being at home with their families.
We couldn’t have accomplished this without our dedicated team of drivers, dispatchers, maintenance people and the rest of the KAG team.
Partnering with Customers to Identify Capacity
For other pandemic-critical products, we partnered with customers to identify the capacity they needed for their various products. They prioritized their loads so we could apply the labor where it was most needed and get those critical products to their destinations.
For us, meeting those new customer needs meant shifting to more multi-modal operations. Many of the loads were package-order sizes that had to be hauled by vans. We added 300 vans to our fleet and shifted about 100 drivers to this freight. The new vans included specialty equipment suitable for food-grade and kosher products, chemicals and other special needs.
Becoming Part of Global Supply
We found ourselves involved with more global freight. Many of the materials and products needed to confront the pandemic were shipped internationally from the Port of Charleston. More than ever before, we became part of a global supply chain.
In hindsight, we responded in ways and on a scale that was unimaginable pre-pandemic. For many of us in SPG, mobilizing a response to the pandemic felt like something bigger than any one of us. We felt almost like we were fulfilling a patriotic duty to help provide the products needed to help others fight the pandemic.
We are now operating in new markets that opened as a result of the pandemic, but, thankfully, the pace is much less frenzied.