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As sports like baseball increasingly use metrics to enhance game strategies, so is the retail food industry turning to data-driven “game plans” to improve supply chain logistics beyond the truck terminal.
“Although consumers may have new apps on their phones to give them immediate access to a multitude of products, the supply chain teams must still physically move the product,” notes Scott Reily, SVP logistics at Brookshire Grocery Co., in Tyler, Texas.
Among the key issues Reily sees influencing product movement are pending government regulations that he feels will continue to redefine Brookshire’s supply chain processes and negatively affect efficiencies in the short term.
“Talent is still the key for any successful supply chain, so you must recruit and train people continuously,” he adds, noting that while “technology is moving faster, you must be selective and ensure that you choose the right systems and hardware to enable your team. We have more data than ever before, but you have to determine which data will help run your supply chain more efficiently.”
According to Reily, Brookshire's works with several associations to develop and present a unified message on these issues, and also networks with other members to learn new ideas and rethink processes.
“The successful and basic tactics for running daily operations will not change drastically, but the expectations of consumers will,” he observes.
Ahead of FSMA
Chris Lafferty, VP of sales at Jupiter, Fla.-based Locus Traxx Worldwide, which has the technology to monitor location, temperature, and security of cargo in the cold chain in real time, points out that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), slated to go into effect on April 1, 2016, requires that temperature records must be maintained during transportation, as specified by the shipper, and that shippers and carriers must retain all trip records for a period of 12 months and provide them upon request. “Locus Traxx provides this today,” he asserts.
At C.H. Robinson, in Eden Prairie, Minn., VP of North American Truckload Bob Biesterfeld says: “There continues to be a need for shippers to gain as much access to variable and cost-effective truckload capacity as possible, so that is still a main focus and why we have developed a flexible and efficient model which allows customers to manage and transport product with greater control.”
Biesterfield’s company manages the retail food supply chain “from field to fork” and offers a suite of inventory management and multimodal solutions such as truckload, LTL (less than truckload), consolidation, intermodal, and global services. He notes that, in the past, retailers would look for a transportation solution, but “today we are asked to provide full supply chain solutions, which allow organizations to move from tactical to strategic operations and become more profitable.” According to Biesterfeld, the retailer with the most effective supply chain will win in the end.
Addressing the current driver shortage, Cyndi Brandt, senior director of product marketing and alliances at Roadnet Technologies, asserts: “Technology will play an important role in recruiting and keeping younger-generation drivers. If you’re not providing technology to help them do their jobs, they will be less likely to accept or stay.” Dallas-based Roadnet, an Omnitracs company, provides last-mile vehicle routing and GPS tracking, which includes services from order scheduling to daily and strategic route planning; GPS tracking for drivers, sales reps and merchandisers; advanced proof of delivery; telematics; and proactive delivery notifications.