From providing critical PPE distribution to furthering transformational equity in the workplace, HJI Supply Chain’s journey to national prominence is built on adding value
“Our core focus is to enrich the lives of our people and our community, and provide peace of mind for our customers. We do that by providing 3PL solutions to supply chain challenges.” That’s how Condrad Daniels, president of HJI Supply Chain Solutions describes one of the most exciting, daring, and disruptive regional logistics services companies in the nation.
It is also a rarity in the industry: a second-generation minority and women-owned business. Founded in 1994 by Alice and Wade Houston, the Louisville, Kentucky firm is a darling of major companies in a range of sectors, and is on the front lines of the fight for equality, justice, and inclusion in business.
HJI provides manufacturing support services and order fulfillment and value added warehousing services to the automotive, consumer goods, healthcare, food and beverage, retail, and manufacturing industries. With approximately 400 team members and 1 million square feet of facility space in six locations across Tennessee and Kentucky, HJI offers flexible solutions to tough logistics and distribution problems.
That’s why Humana turned to them as a conduit for medical supplies when COVID came.
“We were part of Humana’s first-ever diverse supplier mentor-protege program,” Daniels explained. “They were really intentional about developing minority-owned companies and doing business with them and through that whole mentorship process we had the opportunity to learn from top executives and present our company and our capabilities and get feedback throughout the experience to enhance our offering and the value we could potentially bring to Humana.”
When the time came, HJI’s value to the health care giant was tremendous. “We were able to mobilize and pivot very quickly by having the people to handle the new demand and by developing and automating the ordering and delivery process through an order portal,” Daniels said.
Pre-pandemic, Humana’s efficient just-in-time supply chain management model allowed clinics and care providers to keep a small supply of PPE on hand that could be easily ordered and filled on demand. “When the pandemic hit, everything changed. Fortunately, this is what we do on a daily basis. We understand expectations and we were awarded the business in Tier 1 to help them face this challenge.”
With their distribution facilities already well prepared, HJI enhanced their intuitive ordering portal to onboard thousands of Humana partners in need of supplies. Over the course of the pandemic, HJI has stocked roughly 8 to 9 million PPE devices and equipment, managed over 4,000 shipments, and distributed nearly 5 million units to Humana facilities and associates.
Born out of the automotive industry, HJI had already been investing in different ways to make ordering products and kits easier for their customers. “The automotive supply chain has to be so succinct because you're dealing with suppliers in China, Africa, Mexico, Canada, all trying to provide enough lead time and product to support an automotive plant that's literally making 75 trucks an hour,” he said. Ford Motor Company – the fourth largest automaker in the world – has been an HJI customer for 26 years.
As the trend towards assembly outsourcing heats up, companies focusing on their core competencies are shedding tasks that can be done more efficiently by partners like HJI. “That’s where we’re seeing quite a bit of growth,” he said. “Whether it’s GE Appliance or the automotive OEMs and the Tier 1’s that supply them, manufacturers just want to take the big pieces, put them together, and send the product on its way. They send all the little pieces that make up the big pieces to us.”
Their assembly solutions include in line and broadcast sequencing, line-side presentation, container management and repair, rework, quality control, and sorting. “Everyone’s trying to increase their profit per square foot, so having 20,000 square feet of product waiting to be consumed versus 20,000 square feet of another manufacturing line that’s putting together a new product that they can sell, it doesn’t take much to do the math and see which approach is going to be more profitable,” Daniels said.
HJI also provides pick, pack, and ship services for B2B and B2C orders, ecommerce omnichannel order fulfillment, OMS and WMS with track and trace, contract packaging, kitting and assembly, and reverse logistics. They also offer contract warehousing and managed transportation solutions.
Lifting up, moving ahead
“To work for HJI Supply Chain Solutions is to welcome change management,” Daniels stressed. “Part of what sets us apart is that everything we do is to lift the community and give opportunity to those that may not traditionally get it. In an industry that’s male dominated there’s not a lot of others doing it. We’re never going to be the biggest, but we can be the go-to innovative regional supply chain company, and we live that through technology investments.”
Partnering with the University of Louisville, HJI brings students in to work alongside the engineering team on projects such as goods-to-person automation to minimize lost time, and working with a collaborative robot palletizer used for end-of-line for kitting. “Incorporating smart technology, and knowing that people will always be what makes our company, how we utilize their talent is going to set us apart,” he said.
CEO Lynn Moore added, “Conrad gave our team a vision for what it looks like for HJI to be an innovative leader in supply chain solutions. It’s one thing for a company to say, ‘we're going to lead in technology, we’re going to be innovative.’ Actually having a vision and plan for what that looks like? That’s going to help us to really follow through on what we say we want to do and who we say we want to be.”
When companies do business with HJI, they're also doing business with other Tier 1 and Tier 2 minority, women, and-disadvantaged owned enterprises. “We have a bold goal. We want to have 40% of our Tier 2 partners come along for the ride. We're not there yet but we're close,” Daniels said.
Not there yet – those words are an agonizing reality for Black, Indigenous, and people of color in business, and HJI is dedicated to changing that. “We're nowhere near where we need to be but the journey takes time. Have a plan so that in a year, two years, five years from now you’re trending towards that goal. And if you’re not, hit it. Know that it’s not working and you have to be more intentional about it. It’s going to take champions. We can start it together but we can’t sustain it without champions. It’s hard work,” said Daniels.
“However, the racial unrest we went through last summer, especially in Louisville with Breonna Taylor being the epicenter of every sporting event from NASCAR to the NBA to women’s soccer, I’m personally encouraged to hear from so many allies who want to disrupt business as usual with knowledge, with understanding, with the objective of equality of opportunity and access. However, it‘s time to turn these conversations into actions and having a framework that you’re willing to share.
“Our younger generation is looking for transformational equity, and they’re willing to disrupt anything. We have to anchor ourselves now in what this next generation is going to be calling for. HJI Supply Chain Solutions is a means to provide opportunities for those so we can say that we’re doing our part.”
Co-founded and based in Louisville, Kentucky, by Alice and Wade Houston, Houston-Johnson, Inc. (HJI) has been providing logistics services to leading corporations since 1994. Louisville is recognized as one of the nation’s top regions for providing competitive logistical services, giving HJI the advantages of a centralized location as well as access to top national and global distribution resources and talent.
HJI’s core capabilities evolved as a Tier 1 and Tier 2 supplier to major clients including Ford Motor Company, Johnson Controls, Lear Corporation, SVP Worldwide, and PGA of America. However, our supply chain warehousing and logistics expertise has enabled us to strategically extend HJI’s service capacity beyond the automotive industry. As a result, we can also accommodate the complex needs of other industries—such as appliances, technology and household goods—while integrating seamlessly across diverse supply chains.
We believe that innovation, dedication, relationships and proven results are necessary for competing successfully in today’s global marketplace. As a partner in your supply chain and distribution process, HJI will provide the valuable expertise and assistance your company needs to respond quickly and decisively to ever-changing market demands.
HJI is an organization focused on completely meeting the needs of our clients, a commitment reflected in our company’s reputation for reliable quality and innovative solutions. Our vision of being a recognized leader in the logistics industry is at the heart of our growth strategy and an attitude which is reflected by the entire HJI staff.
HJI Supply Chain Solutions
13200 Complete Court
Louisville, KY 40223