Women Transforming Logistics with Ryder’s Kristy Killingbeck
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In this episode, Blythe and Kristy Killingbeck, VP of Supply Chain Operations at Ryder, discuss evolving shipper expectations, the push for automation like AGVs, navigating the labor landscape across the U.S., and her perspective on mentorship for women in supply chain leadership roles. Kristy also describes what it’s like to manage 40 facilities and a $1 billion freight book for major CPG brands.




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Show Transcript

See full episode transcriptTranscript is autogenerated by AI

Blythe Brumleve: 0:05

Welcome into another episode of Everything Is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers. In Afraid. We Were Proudly presented by SPI Logistics and I am your host, Blythe Brumleve. We've got another amazing guest for you, live from Manifest the future of supply chain and logistics, Kristy Killingbeck. She is the vice president of operations consumer packaged goods at Ryder supply chain solutions. Welcome in, Kristy. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me, and this is I don't want to put you on the spot, but this is your first podcast interview ever.

Kristy Killingbeck: 0:32

It is. It is my first. I've never done this before, so go easy on me, absolutely.

Blythe Brumleve: 0:37

I want to. This is a safe space for all of us here, but that's why we don't go live, because you know I'll screw up and then I want to edit this later on. So that's exactly why I'm recording.

Kristy Killingbeck: 0:46

I appreciate it.

Blythe Brumleve: 0:47

So tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get involved with supply chain logistics? It's always a fascinating story. I feel like people's back story.

Kristy Killingbeck: 0:54

You know, I feel like my story is the least fascinating because as I watch podcasts and talk to people about their careers in logistics, they started off in biochem or they fell into transportation and it was never, you know, their plan in life. My degree is actually in supply chain and logistics oh nice. So I thought I wanted to be a lawyer and but decided that a poly side degree didn't give me a lot of flexibility. So I was going to go into business and when I got there I knew that I liked problem solving. I knew I liked numbers, but I didn't want to be an accountant or a CPA, and so the college I went to had a big logistics program, and that was the beginning of the end for me. So I've always been in supply chain and logistics.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:40

Oh wow, so you're one of the rare ones that got started and just knew. Did you know immediately, or?

Kristy Killingbeck: 1:46

Yeah, absolutely. I love problem solving and because of that, you know, I really fell in love with logistics and the fact that every day is a new day, right, it's not that repetitive same thing day in and day out. So once I got a taste of it, I just knew it was what I was destined for it's like we're all psychopaths that just love to solve problems.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:04

Constantly working in logistics.

Kristy Killingbeck: 2:06

Yes, I question that often. Right, it would be a lot easier to be able to punch in someplace, punch out, but supply chain is a 24/ 7 type of a job and for some reason, I love it.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:18

Well, I think it's more or less like solving the bigger problems that exist in the world. And how can you get a little bit better each day? I mean, obviously, the progression of you know being able to mail something across the globe in a matter of days. Sometimes, you know, depending on how much you pay, you can get in a little as day. So I imagine for you so you go to school, you get your degree, and then what happens after that? Where do you end up?

Kristy Killingbeck: 2:41

Well, so I was born and raised outside of Detroit.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:45

So I know the hand thing.

Kristy Killingbeck: 2:46

So southeast Michigan, right. So born and raised. So as a good logistics graduate in southeast Michigan, I started off in the automotive industry. So I started off working in component plants for one of the big three and I was working second shifts, seven days a week, 12 hours a day, managing a crew of four truck drivers oh wow, and that's really where I cut my teeth. So that was one heck of a learning experience. It was a great, great experience, but I decided that's not what I wanted to do for my entire life. I didn't want to live in Detroit forever. So I packed up and moved to North Carolina, worked for a broker IMC, an immobil marketing company and worked there for a while. They moved me back to Detroit and then I finally found my way to Rider.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:39

So you went from managing forklifts to managing trucks, and what are the big differences between managing a fleet of forklift drivers versus carriers?

Kristy Killingbeck: 3:52

You know there's some similarities. You hear some crazy stories from both the four truck drivers and the drivers as well, right why the product or the truck did not get to point A to point B on time, and trying to cut through what's the reality versus what's the story. So I did take a little bit from that and what I will say is working in the plant and automotive kind of thickens your skin, right. So whether you're dealing in the plant or you're working with carriers, you can cut through BS, you can figure out how to work with people, you can figure out how to navigate personalities, and so it was something I was able to build upon.

Blythe Brumleve: 4:33

Are there any similarities between the two groups? Like I you know it did, I doubt there is. Maybe I don't know.

Kristy Killingbeck: 4:40

No, it's pretty different.

Blythe Brumleve: 4:41

Yeah, so they're not worried about dwell time or detention time, things like that? I don't think that that. As that question was coming out of my mouth, I was like yeah, that's a dumb one, all right, so what does your day-to-day look like at Rider?

Kristy Killingbeck: 4:55

Yeah, absolutely so. Vice President of Ops. And so I am responsible for half of Rider's book of business and consumer package goods. So I have a warehouse portfolio of about 40 facilities, oh wow. And so I have about. You have about 40 facilities and about 50 million square feet of warehouses. So I have that and it is really in non-consumable. So my customers are paper products, cleaning supplies, beauty care and then all of the beverage. So I like to say I've let it and unleaded. So all the beer-widen, spirits and then all the soft drinks, juices, all report up to me. And then I also have a team that manages all of the transportation management accounts that fall under CPG as well. So my group manages about a million dollars a freight under management.

Blythe Brumleve: 5:52

That's incredible. So 40 different locations all across the United States, north America. What does that sort of look like? The United States Okay, it's really the United States. Are there any differences between facility to facility, like East Coast to West Coast?

Kristy Killingbeck: 6:06

Yeah, you know there's a lot of similarities throughout CPG Companies, I'd say. Different geographies take on a different type of workforce flavor at times, but there really are more similarities than there are differences.

Blythe Brumleve: 6:19

That's a geography, so how does that affect the workforce?

Kristy Killingbeck: 6:23

It's really about labor availability, the type of labor, whether it is more metropolitan base, whether it's more rural. How are the employees getting to work? Are they driving, Are they busing? Is there mass transit?

Blythe Brumleve: 6:38

So a lot of that availability of work and the competition for that work as well, and so it's like you're managing the logistics of your people and then also the logistics of your clients as well. Oh, absolutely the.

Kristy Killingbeck: 6:52

HR strategy is really critical when we look at designing solutions for our customers.

Blythe Brumleve: 6:56

Interesting. Okay, so now on from the shipper side of things, what does sort of their expectations look like nowadays? I'm sure they've definitely evolved over the last few years, since COVID sort of rocked everyone. What? How does that relationship evolved from the shipper to writer perspective?

Kristy Killingbeck: 7:13

Oh, absolutely. I mean, during the COVID years it was how fast can they manufacture? How quickly could we get it into our facility and out to the customer base? Right Product was hand to mouth trying to fulfill orders, so it was get product out really almost at any cost. Right, making sure that you can. They could get those point of sales. Now right, with the economic changes and really the stabilization, it's really more about how do we find more efficiencies, how do we control costs better. So the conversations today are really dialing in on the KPIs, dialing in on our lean programs and really looking at more automation type solutions in order to drive out people costs and drive predictability and consistency within the operations.

Blythe Brumleve: 8:02

Are some of those optimizations I imagined different from your consumer package goods and some of those CPG products, as I imagine it probably is? As far as managing expectations on the shipper side, yeah, I mean definitely Right now it's.

Kristy Killingbeck: 8:17

We're seeing a lot of AGVs, so autonomous vehicles being deployed.

Blythe Brumleve: 8:21

Oh, I thought you said ATVs and I was like wow, really.

Kristy Killingbeck: 8:23

No AGVs that are being deployed throughout our customers facilities. Oh, interesting. So it's really that automation of the pallet put away and the pallet pick to really allow employees to be more effective and efficient on the dock. So a lot of the conversation is about how do we design autonomous based solutions and find that return on investment from those solutions.

Blythe Brumleve: 8:49

Now for the majority of your facilities. Are they deploying autonomous technology themselves, or there's like moonwalkers that are here? I feel like I've mentioned them a million times since I tried them out.

Bythe Brumleve: 9:00

This morning.

Blythe Brumleve: 9:01

These, like these shoes that you put on your feet, that help the warehouse workers. Are there any kind of automational tools like that that you're deploying inside these facilities to help out the warehouse worker?

Kristy Killingbeck: 9:11

Yeah, I mean, there's a few that we're certainly looking at and I am. That's not my expertise in space but whether it be different voice pick and Google Glass type solutions. Really, what I am seeing more right is more about the flexibility of the autonomous forklifts, being able to again really have that consistency and the efficiency in the moves.

Bythe Brumleve: 9:38

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Blythe Brumleve: 11:09

What's the biggest change in forklift technology that you've seen since your early days versus today? Is there anything happening there?

Kristy Killingbeck: 11:16

It's really just. I mean, when I started the career there was no autonomous right, so really it's just the deployment of the AGVs and we're seeing the price point come down as well as a reduction in the return on investment. As labor prices have gone up, labor wages, people are much more apt and willing to look at different type solutions.

Blythe Brumleve: 11:42

Now being here at Manifest, they have a really strong sort of warehouse robotics presence. It's really cool, for I come from the asset-based brokerage world and Manifest was the first place that I really saw the whole supply chain under one roof. So I'm curious for you as somebody with your history when you walk out on an expo floor like this, what excites you, like, what gets your juices going, you know?

Kristy Killingbeck: 12:05

it's really exciting to see everything in one place, right, because we've got different deployments throughout our network, but to be able to see everything in one place, seeing the actual robots right, I didn't see the moonwalkers, but you see the robots that are out there putting together and building right, so cool it is. It's very exciting to see that we have different auto store type technologies and some of the non-CBG facilities that we have today, so it's just really exciting to see what that new technology is, and so when you, outside of coming to a conference like this, what does sort of your day to day, week to week look like? Yeah, absolutely so. With the customer base right, a lot of my time is spent working and attending QBRs tap to tap meetings, working with the team and developing, helping to develop different strategies for our customers. I am involved in a lot of the sales pursuits as well, so it's interesting because I think once you rise up the ranks, the phone calls you get are usually when things went really well, right, when you win an award or when there are challenges and issues that get raised up, so I never know what every day is going to look like. There's always a new challenge, a new question, whether it be contracting or other issues at the facilities, so it's a different day every day.

Blythe Brumleve: 13:31

Which is why we all love this industry, love and hate at times. I will say Absolutely From my perspective, which I'm sure you share, that sentiment. Now, obviously I'd be remiss not to sort of bring up the fact that we're both women in supply chain, both been working in the industry for quite a while, and so, when you come to events like this, what does it mean to you to sort of look around and see the growth of women within this industry?

Kristy Killingbeck: 13:59

Yeah, it is extremely exciting. So when I started in automotive and I said that I was working in a plan in the facility, there were most days I was the only female in the building, and so it was definitely a different time, a different look. Attending meetings usually I'd be the only female around the room, and so what I'll say is, over the last 20 years, even being at Ryder, the demographics has changed right. There's much more diversity, not just with women, and so that is extremely exciting to me to see that at the higher levels and to see more college graduates come in, and so being at an event like this and seeing women represented from the shipper side, from the 3PL side, from the technology and automation side, it makes me really proud to be part of this industry, because it has been an evolution over the last 20 plus years.

Blythe Brumleve: 14:55

If you were to give advice to a woman that maybe is thinking about joining the supply chain industry, what piece of advice would you give them?

Kristy Killingbeck: 15:03

First of all, do it. I think it is an extremely rewarding career. There are so many different things that you can go and navigate in different types of jobs that you can pursue. I mean my experience of my background is in play out manufacturing. I was an industrial engineer and then I moved to transportation and now I help run boxes right Warehousing. So there's been a lot of growth, a lot of opportunity for me. And so do it right, try it. Find a mentor, I think is a big one. Have somebody you can talk to. It doesn't have to be another female, it can be a male, but just really find that coach, that mentor that can help you navigate organizations, somebody that you can run things off of. And don't be afraid, right. My biggest advice for everybody is always raise your hand and say yes, right, don't be afraid to take on a new challenge. Don't be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone, because that's when you really excel.

Blythe Brumleve: 16:06

You're dropping gems on the podcast for your first podcast interview ever Now from this show. So we started out as a marketing show and then shifted, got a little bit of popularity, was lucky enough, fortunate enough. So about a year ago we took the show independent. We were able to cover more of these wider range topics. But I still like to go back a little bit to the marketing roots a little bit. So I'm curious. I have a few questions that I ask each guest that comes on the show, or try to ask each guest that comes on the show. So, for you, how do you think about marketing when it comes to maybe you, your personal brand? Are you out there trying to market yourself or are you kind of you know you like staying behind the scenes?

Kristy Killingbeck: 16:45

That's a really timely, interesting question because it's something I need to do more of. I think that you know again, I've been in the industry for over 20 years that historically, especially in the operations rank, it wasn't something that we focused on right. The company worked on marketing the individual. You just kind of kept your head down and did what you needed to do. You know, when you see the impact of LinkedIn and now podcasts, etc. It's something that I need to focus on more and I guess would be advice for those coming up to make sure they start doing it earlier and often I think it helps tremendously for people to have a comfort level with you, to be able to reach out right, and you know, a big part of my job is not only current operations but to help grow the organization. So I need to do more of marketing. It's one of my New Year's resolutions, right? And so hopefully there'll be changes over my LinkedIn profile in the coming days. You know, as I continue to do that.

Blythe Brumleve: 17:42

Heck yeah. I mean, you're already off to a pretty good start. So you're attending conferences and then you're on a podcast, so I mean that's a pretty good starting place. All right, I think I might know the answer to this one. I'm going to ask it anyways what's your favorite social media platform and why my favorite social?

Kristy Killingbeck: 17:56

media platform and why Work related or just in general. In general, I think I'm old school still, so I travel a lot, so friends and family are still on Facebook and it's still the connection of what's going on, you know, whether it be at school, with family members, et cetera. I mean, I'm on the road almost every week, so that keeps me grounded and involved in a way. So no, it's not the whether it's Graham or TikTok or anything like that, it's I'm the old school.

Blythe Brumleve: 18:27

Facebook. Well, I thought for sure you were going to say LinkedIn, because that's the, you know, the consensus answer, I think, for a lot of folks out here. But one thing I just, you know, wanted to pull on for a minute. You're on the road every week.

Kristy Killingbeck: 18:38

I would say three out of four weeks. Yeah, holy crap.

Blythe Brumleve: 18:42

Are you just visiting all?

Kristy Killingbeck: 18:43

the facilities or, yeah, visiting facilities, operations, customers, right. When you have operations throughout the country, that face to face, right, that face to face interaction relationship means a lot, right, and through COVID it was really difficult. So I think it's important to get out there to shake the hands of the people that come into work day in, day out, right. They don't have the option when you think about a warehouse, they don't have the option to work from home, right. So really to go and to let them know that you know, we care, we appreciate the work that they're doing for us, for the customers. So it's not every week, right, but it's a significant amount of time.

Blythe Brumleve: 19:21

Yeah, gosh Dang, that's a lot of traveling. What about conferences? This is my first conference too.

Kristy Killingbeck: 19:27

I've always focused so much on the operations. Yeah, I know it's a year at first. I mean, my New Year's resolutions are to a night. You are knocking them out.

Blythe Brumleve: 19:35

I think it's like February 4th and the 5th the time of recording this. So, yeah, you're kicking it off very effectively. So far, all right. Next question what's your favorite SaaS tool that you use every day? That isn't your own. My favorite SaaS tool that I use every day? That isn't my own, it's like Google. Somebody said Google Docs earlier. I can't say Teams, I guess you can. Yeah, you're one of the rare ones. It does say Teams, though.

Kristy Killingbeck: 20:00

Yeah, I think that the Teams, the connections I'm all about the connections, relationships, being able to see people on video. We use the Teams groups a lot right, so there's a lot of connectivity, a lot of data mining for information, as well.

Blythe Brumleve: 20:17

So yeah, I use Teams. How are you using it for data money Like AI co-pilot?

Kristy Killingbeck: 20:23

Data mining is a little bit more of a maybe more just as data collection right. So a lot of the information that we use on a regular basis, we have stored in different Teams, different groups, and then communicate in that manner.

Blythe Brumleve: 20:37

What kind of information are you looking for? Customer-related information? Oh, interesting, and I imagine with the plug-in to, obviously, chatgpt and that partnership with Microsoft and Teams, that makes pulling out any interesting data points that you pulled from SaaS Some of that early, I guess over the last year or so that everybody started adopting AI. Are there any interesting things that you can share or things that nuggets of information that you've learned?

Kristy Killingbeck: 21:05

Not from an AI perspective.

Blythe Brumleve: 21:07

No, not from that perspective, but maybe from just a holistic approach to customer management, team management.

Kristy Killingbeck: 21:14

Yeah, I think from a customer management business and really from a BI and AI perspective, I think there's been a lot of investment at Rider from a technology perspective and just making sure that we've got the data centralized right. We utilize Rider shares, our visibility platform, really a tool that we can access from anywhere in the country, right Looking at how the operations are performing whether I'm at home, whether I'm on the road and being able to pull that data, being able to understand how operations are running, how individuals are performing, has become a key part of the day-to-day.

Blythe Brumleve: 21:55

Heck, yeah, that's great insight. All right, favorite freight business that isn't your own Favorite freight business More supply chain. I think they're all kind of the same Same terminology. So give me an example. So I tried out the Moonwalkers today and I can't stop talking about them, so I think that that's my favorite right now. Folks say, because I'm going to give this, it's like the third time. I feel like I've said this yesterday, so apologies to the audience if they've heard it a bunch, but a typical warehouse worker and I'm sure maybe you know these stats walks 30,000 steps in one day and these Moonwalkers are like shoe attachments. I think I saw people walking around with them.

Kristy Killingbeck: 22:33

Yes, okay, yes, it's okay.

Blythe Brumleve: 22:37

Okay, and so they. You know it's about $1,300, I think, for a pair of them. They started out on Kickstarter, but now they have all of these. You know convention centers and warehouses using them in order to but how am I getting my steps in, Right, true? Well, I guess you're getting. You know you're getting half of that instead of the full thing. So I think it could be. You know that aspect, instead of walking 15 miles a day in a warehouse, you're walking about 12, or not 15, but you know half of that. Can't do math. Right now we're in Vegas. It's been a long day, all right. So favorite freight business of your that's? Can you think of any that maybe you've seen on the X-PoP floor?

Kristy Killingbeck: 23:16

I think that might be my new favorite now. I'm gonna go check it out, yeah.

Blythe Brumleve: 23:19

They can let you demo them too. Okay, that's where I'll be heading. All right, moonwalkers, it is All right. What is a book or podcast that has changed your perspective on something?

Kristy Killingbeck: 23:30

Again, probably more old school right or an older one is would be atomic habits, right. I think really taking the slow and steady right, making small changes that roll into big changes in your life, really busy and so it's very easy to make excuses for not taking the bite at the apple and making those changes in your life. So I think that was one that was really impactful.

Blythe Brumleve: 23:58

Oh, love that Great answer and great book, by the way. All right, and last one, which favorite supply chain or logistics fact?

Kristy Killingbeck: 24:08

So I don't know so much the supply chain fact but, as I'd indicated, I have a responsibility for Ryder, for all of your wide experience, right. So I think I'm the envy of a lot of my, my counterparts and I don't know so much of the fact as it is seeing in operation. But tequila production coming out of Polisco and Guadalajara and seeing those, the amount of tequila that has moved northbound from that region through Mexico into the US and being a part of a lot of that transportation in Mexico, the cross-border, and then distribution within the US is something that's pretty exciting. So we move that tequila for a lot of our customers and seeing the volume that is moving into the US, especially during COVID, was pretty fun.

Blythe Brumleve: 25:06

That's a great one and I'm so glad you brought that up because it's I've covered the logistics of tequila before on the show and it's just such a fascinating process. I'm a big tequila fan. We are in Vegas so I've enjoyed a couple already. But yeah, that's a great one. So I appreciate you answering those questions for me. One last thing Anything that you feel is important to mention that we haven't already talked about.

Kristy Killingbeck: 25:30

No, I just appreciate the opportunity for being my first. We'll see if there's any others after Heck, yeah, I can introduce you to the podcast community, that's for sure.

Blythe Brumleve: 25:41

I really appreciate the time, absolutely. Now where can folks follow you? Follow more of your work LinkedIn, maybe. Linkedin, absolutely All right, perfect. We will put a link in the show notes and then, if anybody obviously is listening that's interested in getting in touch with Rider and using some of the Rider services, 90-year-old company. You guys cover a lot of ground. Reach out to you, reach out to Rider directly. How does that work?

Kristy Killingbeck: 26:04

Yeah, no, you can absolutely reach out to me and I can help navigate. And then Ridercom website also has the intake to be able to identify what company we are, what kind of services that you're looking for, as you indicated, 90-year-old company, 91 years old this year and really have true port-to-door services. So whatever it is you're looking for, whether it be warehouse, transportation, management, co-pack, co-manufacturing services, e-com, we can help serve all of that, Kristy thank you so much.

Blythe Brumleve: 26:41

I'm glad I was your first, which is very appropriate to say when in the town of Simpsons. Thank you so much.

Bythe Brumleve: 26:55

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Everything is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight, telling the stories behind how your favorite stuff and people get from point A to B. Subscribe to the show, sign up for our newsletter and follow our socials over at everythingislogisticscom. And in addition to the podcast, I also wanted to let y'all know about another company I operate and that's Digital Dispatch, where we help you build a better website. Now, a lot of the times, we hand this task of building a new website or refreshing a current one off to a co-worker's child, a neighbor down the street or a stranger around the world, where you probably spend more time explaining the freight industry than it takes to actually build the dang website. Well, that doesn't happen at Digital Dispatch. We've been building online since 2009, but we're also early adopters of AI, automation and other website tactics that help your company to be a central place to pull in all of your social media posts, recruit new employees and give potential customers a glimpse into how you operate your business. Our new website build started at the lowest $1,500, along with ongoing website management, maintenance and updates starting at $90 a month, plus some bonus, freight marketing and sales content similar to what you hear on the podcast. You can watch a quick explainer video over on digitaldispatchio. Just check out the pricing page once you arrive and you can see how we can build your digital ecosystem on a strong foundation. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this episode. I'll see you all real soon and go Jags.

About the Author

Blythe Brumleve
Blythe Brumleve
Creative entrepreneur in freight. Founder of Digital Dispatch and host of Everything is Logistics. Co-Founder at Jax Podcasters Unite. Board member of Transportation Marketing and Sales Association. Freightwaves on-air personality. Annoying Jaguars fan. test

To read more about Blythe, check out her full bio here.