MMPA supply chain department fulfills marketing mission

Few career and lifestyles are like dairy farming. The passion, dedication and hard work of dairy farmers is well known. But what happens after the milk leaves the farm? That is where the MMPA supply chain department steps in.

From getting raw milk from the dairy farmers to delivering milk products to customers, the MMPA supply chain department is involved with every step along the way ensuring the cooperative and dairy farmers receive the most value from the milk they help market.

MMPA’s supply chain department of 13 dedicated team members make up a vital part of the cooperative milk marketing team. With over 85 years of combined experience, the department is internally cohesive while working with other business areas of the cooperative. The supply chain department manages the flow and execution of raw milk and manufactured milk product sales for the cooperative members.

“When presented with the impossible, others may not see solutions, but it is our job to make it possible,” added Brent Weller, production planner.

The Logistics of Moving Milk

As part of the supply chain, high quality milk and milk product transportation is an important part of ensuring success in the marketplace. With staggered work schedules, a three-man dispatching team, Matt Sweet, Adam Reed and Bruce Brennan staff the dispatch center to ensure they are available to address any load
delivery challenges that may come up.

“If there are trucks on the road, we are available to handle delivery emergencies,” said Reed. Originally working in supply chain for a fuel and oil company several years back, Reed returned to dispatching at MMPA in 2016. Bruce who carries the nickname ‘the veteran young guy,’ brought over 40 years in truck logistics as a driver and manager before hired onto the team 18 months ago. Unlike Reed and Brennan, Sweet didn’t have a supply chain background prior to joining the MMPA supply chain dispatch division six years ago. Now as the logistics lead, he utilizes the out of the box thinking and flexibility he gained from his former jobs to the dispatch team.

The dispatchers tackle scheduling load deliveries starting with the local loads to regular customers followed by out of state deliveries. They are on the phone and emailing with processing plants, milk haulers and the sales department to create the most economical and efficient schedule while meeting all customer requests
such as the amount of milk needed and milk quality criteria.

The dispatchers take in consideration State D.O.T regulations, processors receiving schedules and milk transportation variables like tanker size and distance from milk pickup to the end destination. MMPA plants are used for balancing purposes, meaning that outside customer orders and spot sales or special orders that are inconsistent are fulfilled first.

John Fritzler, who was brought onto the supply chain team over two years ago, uses his strengths in managing a constantly changing work environment
and vision for future opportunities to enhance the team.

“What sets us apart from our competitors is our milk quality and our customer service. I always try to have a ‘what if’ plan in my back pocket in case something comes up causing us to adjust our plans of fulfilling customer orders. The most important piece for logistics is communication. If we aren’t constantly communicating with the entire department, our plans will probably impact someone else’s solution,” shared Fritzler.

Fritzler continued, “Although my team and I focus on the start of milk marketing chain with handling the raw milk from the farms, the destination of the loads will influence production at our plants, our customer’s orders and ultimately the economics of the co-op.”

Forecasting Product Demands

Making the decisions of what is on the production schedule at the MMPA plants, managing product inventory to have available for orders and which batch of inventory meets customer’s criteria when shipping it out is all part of the production planning division. Brent Weller, whose father was an MMPA member, has been working with production planning at MMPA for eight years after serving in the U.S. Navy. Now Weller heads up the production planning division of the supply chain department.

Working with Weller in production planning is Debbie Kniffen, fluid sales specialist; Kay Green, customer service representative; and Bill McCarthy, inventory analyst. Meagen Hadley, who also works in customer service, is the fourth member of her family to work for MMPA, starting with her great-aunt who worked at the original MMPA Detroit office. Meagen coordinates with the sales department and production planning team to make strategic production decisions for butter and milk powder made at the MMPA manufacturing plants.

The group works with the sales team to understand the customer commitments made and layering in sales projections into the decision of which products will be scheduled to be made in the MMPA plants.

“We don’t make product in our plants just to make product. We focus on making the best product that will sell and give us the best financial benefit,” said Weller.

When making strategic decisions, factors such as when preventative maintenance is scheduled at the manufacturing facilities, what sale commitments have already been made with customers and member farm milk production trends are taken into consideration. Since fluid products carry only a 72-hour shelf life once
processed, they take priority when planning production schedules. Both Kniffen and Hadley spend much of their time coordinating with customers and the MMPA plants to ensure the orders committed by the sales department are produced on schedule, meet customer’s criteria and are delivered on time.

Kniffen said, “After 31 years, I still take pride in that MMPA milk is highly sought after because of our quality. I like finding dairy products in the grocery store made by a company that I know bought milk from us. It is important to provide great service when working with members and customers so we can get the most value for their milk.”

McCarthy focuses his time on the Middlebury Cheese Company orders and inventory production. He cross checks what is made at the plant with what purchase orders need fulfilled, managing the inventory storage of the cheeses produced and coordinating with the on-site retail store on their needs.

Accuracy and Verification

After raw milk weight manifests arrive at the office, the weights division headed up by Wanda Perez, the raw milk manager, separates manifests by milk delivery destination. Trish Toth and Kim Burlison scan the manifests using ABBY, a scanning software solution implemented in 2017 to reduce manual data entry and increase accuracy, this system feeds the data into the new DSI payroll system.

The DSI payroll system is the new solution that MMPA implemented in 2018. It tracks weights and components, as well as handling the customer class utilization and pooling information required by the Federal Milk Marketing Orders. It communicates the scanned data to other departments within MMPA such
as the lab system so quality sample information can automatically be paired with weights and be available to members sooner.

“This system replaced a legacy system that no longer was benefiting members and now saves us time to focus on verifying weights before invoicing customers and paying our members.” said Tierney.

After the weights team verifies all the weight information collected from members and customers are correct they focus on invoicing customers. Their attention to detail is important in making sure all the parts throughout the process are correct and accurate.

With many moving parts in the milk marketing mission, it truly takes teamwork, communication and foresight. The supply chain team works seamlessly using many forms of communication to make sure if any challenges arise, it is addressed quickly.


“We are consistently talking back and forth to the plants, our accounting department, the sales team, the customers and each other to make sure decisions and plans are made as seamlessly as possible,” said Tierney. “There isn’t anyone we don’t communicate with to get the job done. Our department is always working; this department is a 24 hour, 365 days a year job.”

“Supply chain understands and embraces the cooperative business. The whole team is very committed to the co-op. We understand the members work long hours and rely on this department to be efficient and retain the most value out of their milk and we are honored to part of this business,” concluded Weller.

From the starting point at the dairy farm to the finish line of selling the milk, MMPA’s supply chain prides itself on getting the most value out of the milk for
the farmers. Foresight of what products to make in MMPA’s plants, navigating tough sales markets, and the diligence for accuracy define the hardworking supply
chain department.

–Krista Schrock

This article was originally published in the December issue of the Michigan Milk MessengerSubscribe »