Dean Yerem attributes the following to being named Fleet Executive of the Year:

■ Reducing fleet size based on driver use.

■ Setting levels for personal use fees.

■ Collaborating with fleet managers and fleet management companies.

■ Communicating openly.

■ Listening carefully and making sure all sides are heard before making decisions.

As purchasing manager for Nestlé Business Services (Nestlé's Shared Services Organization), Dean Yerem is responsible for fleet, fleet management, small package, office supplies, furniture, and office services for the U.S. and Canada, and supports global and regional initiatives as well. Nestlé operates more than 5,000 vehicles in the U.S. and Canada and close to 29,000 units worldwide. Yerem supports several fleet managers throughout the company, with the goal of bringing value to the fleet and those managers.

In his three years with the company, he's seen big results. Working with fleet managers on a daily basis, they have streamlined Nestlé's operations and improved the fleet. In doing so, they've not only helped the organization become a greener operation but have also yielded savings for the company.

Now, they have validation for all their hard work: Yerem is this year's Fleet Executive of the Year, an award co-sponsored by The CEI Group, Inc.

"It is a great honor to receive this award," he said. "I am in a unique position being able to support the fleet managers on decisions behind the scenes, and it is really great to be recognized for the work we have accomplished over the past couple years."

"Managing fuel costs is one of the most critical and difficult challenges facing fleets. Dean Yerem has demonstrated leadership and innovation in tackling this problem on a global basis for Nestlé and has shown us that it can be done. All the candidates were worthy, but his selection sends a particularly timely message to fleets around the world," said Wayne Smolda, CEO and founder of The CEI Group, Inc. "CEI has been proud to be a co-­sponsor of this award with Bobit for the last 10 years. It is a very fitting way to acknowledge that fleet best practices are achieved through the cooperation among managers and executives with different but complementary tasks and skills."

Yerem has implemented several highly successful fleet initiatives over the last three years, and those initiatives are yielding major savings.

"My role at Nestlé Business Services - Procurement allows me to be in a great position to support the operating companies in North America. Many employees in Nestlé don't have as many opportunities to gain that unique exposure in working with all the businesses," he said. These operating companies include Nestlé Nutrition, Nestlé Purina PetCare, Nestlé USA, and Nestlé Waters North America.

Prior to joining Nestlé, Yerem held a similar role with The Walt Disney company for four years. "It was a wonderful experience and really helped ready me for working for a global company, like Nestlé, with its many complexities," he said.

CEI Founder and CEO Wayne Smolda (left) and Ed Bobit (right), founder and chairman of Bobit Business Media, congratulate Dean Yerem on his Fleet Executive of the Year win after the awards presentation at the NAFA I&E in April.

CEI Founder and CEO Wayne Smolda (left) and Ed Bobit (right), founder and chairman of Bobit Business Media, congratulate Dean Yerem on his Fleet Executive of the Year win after the awards presentation at the NAFA I&E in April.

Name-Making Initiatives

Yerem's recognition as Fleet Executive of the Year is due in large part to his leadership role in initiatives that streamline overall fleet processes and help promote greener operations, while also driving key savings for the company.

"In my role, I need to continually find the best value and benefit for the company while being aware of the different needs of my stakeholders. Trying to align opportunities and initiatives is one of the main things I do on a day-to-day basis. Nestlé does an outstanding job of always providing opportunities, training, and goals that allow the individual to succeed - and contribute to the company's overall success, too."

Yerem's first goal in his role was to identify the differences between the operating companies he supports and look for ways to influence the cost points for the fleet. One initiative he implemented was to convert a U.S. fleet from six- to four-cylinder units over a three-year period. This transition has improved the performance of the fleet and saved on capital and fuel expenditures.

This effort also resulted in a greener fleet, an achievement Yerem took advantage of promoting further. "We made sure to communicate 'green' driving practices and followed up with quarterly newsletters for reinforcement of the success we were gaining. It not only became a green initiative, but these environmentally friendly driving habits have reduced our accident rate as well."

Overall, Yerem and his teams have suggested adjustments in the selector list and a focus on more fuel-efficient vehicles, which will lower CO2 by more than 3,000 tons each year.

Another effort spearheaded by Yerem in the last three years was an evaluation of personal-use fees between the various operating companies. This led to a phased implementation of set levels for personal-use fees for all drivers.

A third initiative Yerem led was to reduce the number of vans in the fleet over time. By surveying drivers, Yerem's team identified those vans unnecessary to the fleet and has now made major reductions in the van fleet and cost over the past two years.

In 2009 alone, Yerem's initiatives in the U.S. and Canada have seen a reduction of more than 300,000 gallons of fuel and a 15-percent reduction in emissions, resulting in savings for the company.

Yerem's most recent success was to tie in Nestlé's global partnerships in a bid process with a car manufacturer that covered all of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. "We leveraged our position with some of our partners and created new partnerships along the way," Yerem said.[PAGEBREAK]

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Collaboration Bolsters the Win

Yerem said his collaboration both within and outside Nestlé helped him accomplish his successful initiatives, as well as his Fleet Executive of the Year win. 

His first nod is to the backing he receives from the fleet managers he works with on a daily basis. "They keep me apprised of their needs and goals and make sure we align ourselves as a group to make the process successful," he said.

Secret to Success No. 1: Communication

While the support Yerem has received from his internal and external partners has bolstered his success, his achievements are arguably due to his own management techniques as well. Yerem's personal work philosophy relies heavily on good communication - both to overcome issues and to work together toward a common goal.

"We have established great lines of communication at each operating company and have given fleet some excellent visibility with more sustainable solutions (i.e., more "green"), accident reduction, and cost savings over the past couple of years. I have monthly calls with all of the fleet managers where we identify any roadblocks or future opportunities," Yerem said.

What is his most critical success factor? "I cannot stress how important it is to ensure everyone is on the same page and on board with what you are trying to accomplish," he said.

Yerem noted that communication has helped him and his team members overcome the natural challenges of different cultures and geography that exist in a company of Nestlé's size. "We are a very large global company and it can be complex taking into consideration the different business needs and cultures with every opportunity," he said. "I feel the key is communication. I send out as much information as possible on each project. We review the return on investment (ROI) on everything, keeping an account of each individual fleet need and the goals we agreed to at the beginning of the project."

Secret to Success No. 2: A Careful Ear

For Yerem, listening is just as important as communicating. His advice to other fleet executives? Listen to everyone.

"Listen to your fleet managers; fleet management company; other fleet management companies; car manufacturers; internal Human Resources; health, safety, and risk; environmental; as well as keeping in line with what is going on in the market," Yerem emphasized. "Each initiative has its own set of stakeholders, and my role is to ensure everyone is heard and part of the decision-making process. I may have a strong opinion going into a process, but I can be quickly influenced by a stakeholder with a specific need that will ultimately alter the outcome of the overall project."

Yerem said listening carefully to partners and stakeholders can reveal opportunities that might otherwise go undiscovered. "Fleet is a great category and has many complexities to deal with on a daily basis. I can truly say that my success is based on listening to the fleet managers, my peers, lease management, and everyone who has an opinion on fleet - which we all know is everyone," he said. "You never know when and from where you will get some great information that will ultimately lead to your next opportunity."

More Work Ahead - and a Little Bit of Celebration

Yerem's next initiative is to implement a comprehensive safety program that establishes a baseline that can only get better. "We realize the driver is the most important asset in fleet, and we are taking steps to ensure we provide the necessary program, training, and policy that reflect that goal," he said.

While Yerem continues to be hard at work, he has paused for just a moment to celebrate the success of his Fleet Executive of the Year honor. "It feels great," he said. "It is a great honor to receive this award."

Yerem celebrated by sharing the news of his - and the company's - success with those who helped him get here. "I sent out an e-mail to all my stakeholders in Nestlé (even my non-fleet ones) with a link to the online story about this recognition and thanking them for their support along the way."

Originally posted on Fleet Financials