There will be a homecoming of sorts in San Antonio at the end of March. Dairy and ice cream’s logistics, distribution, and fleet management professionals will gather for the 37th installment of the Dairy Distribution and Fleet Management Conference.

In addition to the Alamo, and the RiverWalk, San Antonio offers such sites as the Tower of the Americas.

There will be a homecoming of sorts in San Antonio at the end of March. Dairy and ice cream’s logistics, distribution, and fleet management professionals will gather for the 37th installment of the Dairy Distribution and Fleet Management Conference.

In addition to a full program of issue related topics, DDC attendees will also get a truly unique “look, listen & learn” opportunity; as the traditional vocational tour will be hosted by H-E-B Supermarkets’ fleet management group at its new 108,000 sq. ft., state-of-the-art, central fleet maintenance facility in San Antonio. Attendees will learn about innovative fleet maintenance management practices and systems. Plus they will see and discuss leading edge fleet vehicle specification applications currently in H-E-B fleet use. Those include “super single” tires & wheels along with collision avoidance and anti- rollover performance standards.

The vocational tour has always been a keystone of the conference, and that will hold in 2007 with the H-E-B facility, according to conference organizer Don Wilson.

“Beyond seeing the facility and some other unique things they have built into it design-wise, I think one of the most important aspects is going to be seeing what they are doing as far as fleet management,” Wilson says. “It will be a superb opportunity to see first hand and talk to some of the folks at H-E-B about what they are doing in terms of equipment and driver safety. It really is a world-class operation that they have there.”

H-E-B operates 300 grocery stores in Texas and northern Mexico, generating more than $11 billion in annual sales. It operates its own captive dairy in San Antonio, where the company is headquartered.

The 101-year-old company was recently recognized by the USEPA as one of the top “Green-Power” users among retailers. As much as 25% of the energy it uses in its Austin-area operations comes from Texas-generated bio-gas and Texas wind turbines.

Back in the running

It’s been nearly four years since the last conference was held in Savannah, Ga. While beginning preparations for a 2004 conference, Wilson suffered a heart valve failure that required open-heart surgery. An unrelated condition required a second operation less than a year later, and more rehabilitation.

“There were no after effects, from a health perspective,” Wilson says. “But there was a lot of time lost, and after not being able to do the conference for two years, I really did not think that I could do one in 2006.”

But there were plenty of people in the industry who did not want to see the DDC fall by the wayside.

“Early this year I started getting calls from the folks at the companies that had been involved, encouraging me to get the conference back on line again, so I finally agreed to meet with several of them to talk about it.”

Wilson says there was a consensus that the dairy and ice cream industry might be even more interested in the conference now than in the volatile period of consolidation of the 1990s.

“That was enough for me to make the leap,” he says. “Knowing that we were six months behind we expected it to be a real test-and it has been-but I think we have caught up and I think we are going to have an outstanding program.”

Program sessions

The programming focus comes from the volunteer program steering committee, and these are the people who are involved in dairy and ice cream distribution and they know the things people are asking about, and it’s not just technical but also management issues, including how to better manage people and better manage change.

Program topics, to date, will include:
  • Dealing with continuous change
  • A briefing on Homeland Security’s Highway Watch Program
  • Managing both the X and Y generations
  • Distribution & logistics technology updates
  • New fuels and engines, including those that comply with low sulfur mandates
  • DOT safety compliance updates
  • Important insights on labor laws, and stress management

The session on the Department of Homeland Security’s Highway Watch program, will tell dairy and ice cream companies how the program works and how they can participate in it.

“My understanding is that it’s all about getting more eyeballs out and about and looking for unusual activities,” Wilson says. “The focus thus far has been on the for-hire segment and there has not been much use in private carriage, but now the Department wants to move it into that area, so I’m sure some of the attendees will be very interested.”

The Torch of Friendship

Area attractions

There is plenty to see in the San Antonio area. The Alamo is one of the most significant historic sites in Texas, and the Alamo museum contains relics and mementos from the Republic of Texas and offers narration on the fall of the Alamo. It is actually one of several historic missions that remain in the area.

Paseo Del Rio, also known as RiverWalk, in the heart of downtown, is the pride of the city. Lush green foliage lines the banks of this peaceful, historic river. Cobblestone walkways lead visitors to the river-level restaurants and shops. River cruisers travel the RiverWalk’s three miles past unique retail shops, restaurants and nightclubs. River cruises are available.

Registration and underwriting

The 2007 DDC will be held at the Holiday Inn Select Airport in San Antonio. Attendees receive a special hotel rate of $119 per night. The conference begins with a “get acquainted” reception the evening of Wednesday March 28, and concludes with a Saturday golf outing on March 31.

Conference and hotel registration details are available atwww.dairydistributionconf.comor by calling 972/937-2442.

Getting the DDC back in operation had a lot to do with the support that the conference has received from underwriters and sponsors, Wilson says.

“We were able in the short period of time to get the necessary underwriting commitments. About half of those underwriters go all the way back to 1996, when the conference first came out of IDFA and they’ve committed to us ever since.”

Event sponsors include All-Star Dairy Inc.,Dairy FoodsMagazine, Quality Chekd, and the Wilson Group.