COVID-19 has upended the entire economy, and few industries have been more affected than food and beverage. Labor shortages, hoarding and a collapse of the restaurant segment have led to wild swings in demand. And while a recent analysis of FourKites data shows that panic buying has largely subsided around the country, F&B freight volume is edging up 5-10% percent, in part due to the economic restart, as well as the arrival of produce season.

Optimize your supply chain operations with data & analytics during market turbulence

Now is a crucial time for F&B companies to revisit how OTIF can be sustained during the “new normal”; to assess facilities and implement operational improvements to reduce friction; and to institute warehouse best practices and keep freight moving efficiently to optimize the food supply chain. Here are 6 considerations to keep in mind as you look to streamline your operations.

1. Analyze scheduling and workflow

What’s the protocol for scheduling? Loading? Unloading? Operations go far more smoothly when everyone knows what’s expected of them. Drivers need to know where they are in the queue, as do facility managers. Integrated scheduling software can play an important role in making sure everyone is working off the same information – what happens if a delay occurs in the truck? Is your appointment management system aware of this delay?

Securing Your Facility Entry & Exit Process [Checklist]

Supervisors and site leaders should verify that their entry and exit process is secure, safe and efficient by running through the following questions:

  • Are drivers being checked in on arrival?
  • Is there a safe distance and touchless process to securely check-in?
  • Are clearances adequate and sightlines sufficient to minimize any risk of injury in the yard?
  • Are trucks in well-defined lanes so they avoid crossing one another?
  • Is there adequate lighting throughout the facility?
  • Is the loading area free of debris?
  • Have you optimized staffing? The fewer idle people in the loading area, the faster and safer everything will run.
  • Do you have basic signage in the yard and in facilities for navigation? Can drivers tell at a glance where things are, or do they have to ask someone, or worse, guess?

Map out the workflow for drivers from the time they arrive for check-in, to loading and exit. Any first-time visitor should be able to follow that workflow without hand-holding.

2. Focus on driver comfort and dwell time

Dwell time and driver satisfaction go hand in hand. As with airports, the goal is to get in and out quickly: Dwell time cuts into truckers’ hours, so extended dwell is money out of their pocket. That said, while drivers are at your facility, make them comfortable and feel welcome.

Clean restrooms, good beverages and coffee, and a spacious waiting area will go a long way toward bringing them back again – and inspire them to rate your facility highly, on a community platform, like the FourKites CarrierLink app.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

There’s a simple maxim about communication: Bad news doesn’t get better with time. If there’s bad news, take action before things escalate. Close alignment with your customers and carriers means making sure folks have the right information when they need it.

Here’s just one example: If drivers are going to face 12-hour wait times, don’t make them wait to find that out until they show up. Give them the heads-up beforehand so they can prepare for the delay. Close alignment and collaboration among manufacturers, customers, carriers and warehouse operators reduce the chances of dissatisfaction between parties.

4. Handle (food safety) with care

Food safety requires awareness, and the higher the volume, the higher the risk. Drivers need to know when food is going into the truck and any special handling requirements for that food.

  • Arrival times need to be fully synced.
  • Verify what has been loaded and that it’s being handled safely.
  • Everyone should have clear expectations as to delivery day and time, and what’s needed to prepare for the arrival of perishables.

5. Measure your results

Make sure workers understand your goals. Place TV monitors in your facility showing the standardized key metrics you are measuring. If you’ve had challenges with velocity or an incident, use those monitors for corrective action. Huddle after each shift change to review your goals and steps to achieve them.

6. Focus on continuous improvement – your reputation is your business

Continuous improvement training matters. Many methodologies exist, such as Lean Six Sigma, to ensure that every player on the team has shared ownership in achieving those continuous improvement goals.

Reputation is everything in this business. If a facility gets a bad reputation, prices will start to increase on those lanes, and carriers may start to refuse to pick up or deliver there because money isn’t always worth the hassle. Have your staff talk to drivers to find ways you can improve – this is an easy way to get all team members involved in continuous improvement activities. And don’t forget to ask them to rate your facility in CarrierLink! Good ratings mean you’ll be seeing them again soon.

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