Roni Taylor was recently honored with Supply & Demand Chain Executive’s Women in Supply Chain award for 2022. This award celebrates “female supply chain leaders and executives whose accomplishments, mentorship, and examples set a foundation for women in all levels of a company’s supply chain network.”
Roni is SVP, Strategy and Business Development for Spireon, a Solera company. At Spireon, she started its trailer management group and plays a significant role navigating the business through supply chain challenges while connecting fleet customers to cutting-edge industry trends and intelligent data solutions.
We spoke to Roni about the award and her rich experience.
How does it feel to be a recipient of SDC Executive’s Supply & Demand Chain Executive’s Women in Supply Chain award?
I’m honored. I have been involved in the telematics technology side of the supply chain for almost 20 years, so it’s nice to be recognized.
If you think about it, everything you touch, wear, sit on, or otherwise interact with daily comes to you in the back of a truck. On the surface, it seems so simple. In reality, it’s an extremely complex process, and that’s where technology becomes so important for this industry.
I started out in this space when there was no reliable trailer technology for goods manufacturers or trucking companies to gain visibility into their loads. It just didn’t exist. So, we decided to change that. Basically, for 20 years I have made it my mission to leverage technology so the line of visibility remains open for every load as they go from point A to B.
I am proud to be part of this industry, and humbled to have been selected for this award.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work with Solera and Spireon in the supply chain industry?
I love to learn. Working for Spireon and Solera, the learning never stops. And probably the best part is what I learn from my customers. While they all interact with me in the same industry, their businesses are very different.
We get to know our customers intimately to tailor our solutions specifically to their needs, and that’s the perfect environment for someone like me. It’s fascinating to me all the differences between how Dollar General moves all its inventory versus how Levi’s moves jeans, or how Hershey moves chocolate and what they do to preserve the chocolate in transit.
What’s something you know now that you wish you knew back when you started your career?
I wish I had known how to negotiate and sell better. I’m actually a marketing person by trade who grew up in the ad agency world. I didn’t really get into product, selling, and everything else until later. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in this industry is how to listen and how to sell. You must be taken seriously as an expert in your business to succeed.
How has the supply chain industry changed over the course of your career?
It’s gotten more complex. Prior to the prevalence of e-commerce and the revolutionary effect of companies like Amazon, people mainly shopped at big box stores and there was a certain type of supply chain and logistics that facilitated that process. Once e-commerce companies came into the picture, that completely changed. We, as consumers, decided that we didn’t necessarily want to go out and wanted everything to come to us. As COVID-19 progressed, having everything delivered became a necessity.
Now, we’re all accustomed to deliveries as consumers. There’s so much in life we don’t have control over – but I can get my Amazon package the next morning or the same day. I marvel at the way things have changed. Technology has enabled all of that to happen.
What would you consider a highlight of your career?
My favorite part of my career has been using the knowledge and experience I gained helping a startup grow 40,000% in five years to start the trailer management group here at Spireon. When I started here, Spireon was an established GPS tracking company on the automotive side of the business and had recently gotten into the fleet business tracking customers like florists, plumbers, and electricians. I came in and helped create the trailer group. Over the last 10 years, we’ve grown from zero trailers to monitoring and managing around 400,000 trailers.
How did Spireon’s trailer management group grow so rapidly under your leadership?
We looked at what our competitors did right and what they did wrong and decided we could differentiate ourselves in two ways. The first is with “white glove service,” where we built an entire service organization — including client account managers, sales engineers, and customer service representatives — around our customers. Our structured methodology of engagement takes clients through a customer-centric sales process that includes important elements, like showing how to get a return on your investment.
Because of that, we’ve been able to maintain our customer base with a very low churn rate across multiple years, despite industry changes.
The second way we’re different is we were the first to embrace cellular networks. In doing so, we can provide a lot more data. In trailer tracking, you used to get one location ping per day. Your trailer could be almost halfway across the country before you would get your next ping. To fix that, Spireon created rich data where we monitor the trailer every 10 minutes and give the customer continuous updates. You could say we were providing continuous video in a space where our competitors could only provide one or two still photos.
I have customers today that still talk about our white glove customer service and rich data 10 years later.
How would you describe the current market of opportunities for women seeking a career in the supply chain industry?
However, supply chain is one of the most interesting and underappreciated industries.
Opportunities for continuing your career here are better today than they’ve ever been. As a result, women can take advantage of these opportunities to push the industry forward while growing their own careers. This industry has been predominately male in the past, and there’s so much opportunity for women to come in and offer a fresh, new perspective. Working in supply chain is like solving a continuous puzzle – perspective, creativity, and approach matter. Anyone in this industry not marketing to women to fill these important jobs is missing a big opportunity.
What do you see as the industry’s most pressing challenges? How is Solera positioned to help?
The labor shortage is the most pressing challenge right now. It’s not just drivers. It’s not just operations personnel. It’s not just technicians. It’s across the board. Everybody is having trouble hiring workers.
Spireon and Solera can help address these challenges. We launched a new managed services offering a year ago to manage things like trailer tracking telematics for our customers, and it has become a third differentiator for us. We have a team that manages all the reports, does your yard checks, runs your detention reports, and does all the other work you would hire people for internally.
Many of our trucking company customers are not only taking advantage of being able to circumvent the labor shortage, but they’re also seeing a positive impact on their bottom line because their trailers are better utilized.
How else is Solera and Spireon helping its customers?
The opportunity for our customers is terrific — we are a natural fit. I love how Solera appreciates people who know and care about their part of the business. Because of Solera’s breadth and reach across these industries, they are able to provide endless opportunities for collaboration, growth, and expansion. In my business in particular, there’s a lot of interest in moving into Canada and Mexico, as well as places like Europe and Australia. Solera makes those additional opportunities possible.