Before food lands on a grocery store shelf, a kitchen counter or a restaurant table, it embarks on a journey that may span thousands of miles while changing hands multiple times. Fleets involved in transporting food throughout this supply chain journey have one common goal: ensuring that products are moved safely and efficiently. Fortunately, a combination of the right technology can help fleets reach this goal through improved traceability, efficient route planning and better connectivity. Retailers and consumers can not only feel confident that their food is safe to consume at its final destination, but this technology will also give fleets the opportunity to increase efficiencies and improve how they do business.
One of the most crucial logistical challenges of the food supply chain is traceability. Technology needs to be able to provide transparency from the first to the last mile to ensure food safety and accountability, not only for suppliers but also for consumers seeking additional information about their food. Products such as HarvestMark from Trimble allow companies to track products at each step of the supply chain to provide real-time information about where food has been, as well as its quality and freshness, to meet food safety requirements and build shopper loyalty. HarvestMark’s president and general manager, Dan Sun, says its technology is “an advanced traceability system that offers easy to use mobile and web-based load inspection, tracking and reporting tools as well as integration with various temperature tracking solutions. When used by fleets, HarvestMark can provide information about the length of time and temperature of the products and temperature history on a truck, as well as exact delivery time and shelf life,” Sun adds. By integrating data across the supply chain, fleets have the opportunity to transform data into actionable insights.
More efficient route planning
The food industry in particular has a lot of multi-stop, multi-order operations that force fleets to be as efficient as possible in their operations. Unfortunately, manual route planning can be time-consuming, paper-intensive, error-prone and stressful. By implementing an automated management tool for better route planning, fleets can eliminate some of these challenges and start to see a return on investment (ROI) almost immediately.
“Software such as the DirectRoute final-mile optimization from TMW Appian can help fleets reduce costs and lower the number of miles traveled; reduce the number of trucks required for deliveries and the time it takes to route customers; improve control over field operations; and track vehicles in real time,” Brian Larwig, vice president of TMW Systems, says.
Other automated solutions available can provide insight into product maintenance and service scheduling, as well as fleet costs and resources, to make sure entire fleets are running as efficiently as possible.
Another part of ensuring safety and efficiency in the food service transportation industry comes from having visibility into a fleet and its drivers throughout supply chain transportation. In-cab and portable devices are built to connect people and equipment by converting data into actionable information in real-time. For example, PeopleNet’s ConnectedFleet platform allows fleets to subscribe to specific data based on their needs, view messages and keep tabs on their hours of service (HOS) totals to meet requirements for the ELD mandate, among other things. This platform also has the ability to integrate with third party direct-store-delivery (DSD) functions so drivers and fleet managers can monitor delivery progress in relation to customer commitments and shipper information—resulting in greater levels of safety and compliance and reduced costs. By using the ConnectedFleet platform, one PeopleNet customer improved its truck-receiving process, resulting in a weekly reduction of 1,000 hours in dwell time, which translated to $38,000 per week in cost savings.
Applications and software for improved traceability and more efficient route planning like those above can all be run on PeopleNet’s ConnectedTablet to provide a full-service solution for entire fleets.
Assuring safety and compliance
A crucial issue facing fleets is maintaining compliance with regulations specific to the food service industry. Automated technology solutions can help fleets comply with new requirements set forth by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and through the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food (STF) rule. By following these rules, which are mostly built on having proper documentation in place, fleets will help safeguard their transportation practices so they do not create food safety risks. Distributors, suppliers and carriers can also benefit by pairing available solutions together to meet the specific needs of their roles within the supply chain.
A safe bet
Consumers trust and expect that the food they buy and consume is safe to eat, and making that expectation a reality involves the entire food service industry working together in collaboration. As a critical link in the supply chain, the fleets involved in transportation are looking for the means to demonstrate accountability and reliability. The right technology solutions can ensure that fleets are able to do this and much more.
For more information on the FSMA and how to implement compliant technology, download Trimble’s e-book, Food Safety Technology Solutions Spanning the Supply Chain.
This article was contributed by Angela Shue, the senior vice president/general manager of PeopleNet. Prior to joining PeopleNet, Shue has held executive roles at Cadec Global, Xata, Tripmaster, and Transportation Management Systems.