Finding her way into the agriculture industry by chance, the pieces fell together perfectly for Erica Miller. As she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in business economics from Southeast Missouri State University, Erica found herself as an intern with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Kansas City, Mo., in both the Dairy and Transportation branches. This helped prepare her for what would become an exciting career with DFA beginning in 2001.
Now, 16 years later, Erica oversees the dispatch and scheduling of roughly 540 loads of raw milk from Southwest Area dairies to processing plants, while also tracking another 300 loads of milk that deliver to DFA customers. She works closely with the haulers and customers to ensure that members’ milk travels minimal miles and all logistics for delivery are in line.
“When scheduling milk to our customers, there are many different ways to put the puzzle together,” Erica says. “I enjoy the challenge and get excited when faced with a new opportunity to be creative.”
Erica remembers using a highlighter and printed spreadsheet to cross reference hauler and customer schedules when she started with DFA. With advancements in technology, she seized an opportunity for innovation and was one of the first to use optimization software, eventually leading to the integration of SAP, a business operations management software, across DFA, which she was instrumental in implementing.
“Technology seems to move faster than we can keep up,” she says. “We have to be able to change and adapt.”
Erica was nominated and recognized last fall as a recipient of DFA’s Be More Award. This award honors DFA employees who exceed the Cooperative’s high standards and stand out from the crowd by positively impacting the Cooperative and the communities in which they live and work.
“Her dedication, drive and passion for our company, her employees and our business model is unparalleled,” says Justin Phillips, Manager of Hauler Relations for the Mideast Area, and one of the individuals who nominated Erica for this award. “I have yet to meet anyone in this industry who dedicates as much energy and time into their business.”
Erica’s passion for success and excellence is rooted deep as she constantly strives to make the impossible, possible. She is the face and voice to the customers and haulers she works with, making it a priority to represent DFA in the most positive way.
“I always tell my team, never tell a customer no,” she says. “There are occasions when customers ask for what seems impossible, and once in a while it really is impossible, but I try to do everything I can to keep them happy.”
Communication is key to the work Erica does as she is often the middleman. Between sending out daily supply and demand updates, reporting information about loads of milk and working with the hauling and logistics department, Erica is always talking to people face-to-face, on the phone or through email.
Outside of work, she enjoys working in her garden, cooking, traveling, crafting and spending time with family and friends. Erica has been married to her husband, Jeremie, for 13 years and they have a nine-year-old daughter, Ali, and a four-year-old son, Wyatt.
Erica is not only committed to her family at home, supporting her kids in a multitude of activities, but she is also committed to the DFA family. Whether it is a weekend or holiday, vacation or a day off, she is always ready to help whenever needed. Erica goes above what is asked of her, ensuring that the business runs efficiently and effectively.
“Erica is the standard that all employees within this organization should model themselves after — she is tireless, passionate, intelligent and caring,” Justin says. “She treats those who work for her with respect and compassion, while simultaneously maintaining control. She doesn’t demand respect, but rather earns it with her drive and dedication.”
Erica finds great joy in the work she does. Challenges do not scare her and she never bats an eye at even the most difficult tasks. Erica is commended for her leadership, appreciation to everyone, respect for others and passion for the industry.
“I am proud to work for the dairy farmer families here in the Southwest,” Erica says. “I feel like what I do each day is important and I come to work ready to make the best decisions for our dairy farmers.”