In order to remain competitive, food distributors need to have accurate and real-time visibility of every step of their delivery operation.
Food service, restaurant and grocery customers are all dependent on timely deliveries of food. They need a provider that consistently delivers the right products, but they also expect accurate and timely information about the expected date and time of delivery for each order.
The same concerns apply for a fast-food outlet manager anxious to know if there are enough burger buns to cover the lunchtime rush or the staff waiting to receive a load of frozen chickens at the back of a big-box store. There are few industries where visibility – both real-time and detailed – is more important.
Add to this a raft of pressures such as the growing number of increasingly strict food safety regulations, federal restrictions on driver hours, and the pressure to keep prices down. The end result is that food distribution is now impossible to manage manually.
There is a wide range of technology solutions available that can help food distributors streamline their operations, from vehicle maintenance to warehouse management systems and route planning. What the best of these systems have in common is the ability to simplify the complex and provide maximum visibility. The ability to gather, disseminate and act upon critical data, in real time, allows food distributors to provide the high levels of service required while at the same time increasing the efficiency of their operations.
Electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) systems are a good example of the technology that can deliver this type of competitive advantage. They streamline the delivery process for each and every delivery, but they can also provide visibility for customer and food distributor at an individual item level. For example, the driver and the customer will know that delivery for Quick Service Restaurant (Stop 24) consists of 200 beef patties, 200 burger buns and 100 packets of ketchup. They may also get visibility that the order was supposed to include 2000 straws, but this product is not available today and will arrive on the next delivery.
What impact would this type of information have on your delivery operation? Here are some more examples of ePOD technology making a difference based on real-world scenarios.
Did customer ABC receive their delivery after the breakfast rush so staff were available to quickly unload and stack the shelves? Was the fresh food delivered within the correct temperature range? Did the empty racks or bins get picked up and returned?
Imagine how this level of visibility could improve your operation. Not only does it make the delivery happen more smoothly, it also helps the whole customer service team back in the office too.
An electronic proof of delivery system that provides up to date information via easily accessible dashboards means that progress out in the field can be monitored as it happens and exception alerts received in real time. The ability to dig down into more in-depth details also allows office-based teams to address customer service issues proactively. A much better approach than responding the next day when the driver debrief is received from the dispatch office or when an angry customer rings to complain… or, worse still, cancel the contract.
Restaurant managers or store managers expecting deliveries are dependent on delivery data to schedule staff breaks outside of delivery times. The availability of accurate ETA data ensures a quick turnaround when the vehicle arrives and no interruption to the end consumer experience on site. It’s a win-win situation.
With an ePOD system, you can automate the ETA updates you send to customers via email or SMS, even providing access to an online delivery tracking portal that provides live status updates on the progress of deliveries. Customer service levels improve, deliveries are completed faster, and drivers are ready to set off for the next delivery more promptly.
At some convenience stores or other retail outlets, chilled food might need to be delivered directly into a refrigerator at the customer site. Or a concession stand in a National Park might require the driver to approach via a non-public entrance, to avoid congestion.
Food customers are incredibly diverse – from huge institutions to food trucks on the move – and they have widely differing stipulations about how, exactly, deliveries get made. With an advanced electronic proof of delivery system, the data-capture processes and protocols your drivers must follow are entirely configurable by you. This means that you can log unique delivery protocols to align with different contract stipulations or specific product requirements.
Out in the field, your drivers are presented with the appropriate actions for each delivery on their mobile devices without needing to remember the differing procedures. Back at base, your operational teams have immediate visibility of this business-specific data, allowing them to manage both workforce productivity and customer service in real time. Access to this detailed data can also help reduce damage and shortage claims.
Your customers often need proof that food was handled correctly while under your care. For example, they may require temperatures readings to be recorded at regular intervals throughout the delivery journey.
With an ePOD system, you can provide drivers with pre-departure protocols, such as ensuring the truck is chilled to the correct temperature before loading and leaving. Drivers can also be prompted to check and log the temperature at every stop.
Real-time visibility of this data can alert your operational teams to any potential problems as they arise. Equally, advanced proof of delivery systems can be configured to prompt drivers to take different actions if the temperature reading they enter into the system falls outside the acceptable range pre-defined by your office-based teams.
Many food distributors deliver their products using returnable assets, such as totes, bins or cages. Electronic proof of delivery systems can be used to track and manage movement of these valuable assets.
Drivers are able to record which assets have been left with a customer and, when it comes to collecting the same assets, data-capture prompts will ensure the driver completes that job successfully too. For example, you may require the driver to record how many assets the customer returns and secure their signature as confirmation. The same processes can also be used to manage and record the collection and disposal of packaging.
In the highly competitive environment of food distribution, it’s no longer a question of whether you have visibility of your delivery operations, but how much and how fast.
Using paper-based or rudimentary data capture processes in your mobile workforce operations no longer cut it, because they bring slow and insufficiently detailed updates. It’s not good enough to wait for your drivers to return to base with physical paperwork, then wait while office-based staff manually enter data into the relevant system (with the very real risk of errors creeping in).
With ePOD systems, detailed information is available to you in real time. That means you can deal with delays and other problems quickly, satisfy customer demands for timely information about the status of their deliveries, and sharpen your competitive edge.
Real-time visibility with an electronic proof of delivery system could supercharge the day-to-day performance of your food distribution operation. So, what are you waiting for?
Get in touch with one of our experienced team to schedule a demonstration of the fleXipod ePOD system, or read our Ultimate guide to the benefits of proof of delivery software to find out more.
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