As Santa Monica Seafood’s Vice President of Logistics, I oversee distribution of top-quality seafood and complementary items to grocery and foodservice customers in the Southwest and Midwest. We conduct approximately 1,300 refrigerated pickups and deliveries per day (pre-COVID) using a diverse private fleet and multiple, outsourced logistics providers. I also lead process improvement and selection and implementation of systems for vehicle tracking, route planning, fleet management, and environmental monitoring to help increase our company’s customer service and profitability.
Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Digitally Transform Your Business to Stay Competitive webinar with a few of my peers in the transportation, distribution, and logistics industries. I was joined by Omnitracs Director of Sales Scott McWilliams, enVista Vice President Geoff Milsom, and Chief Transformation Officer at Covenant Transport Ryan Rogers.
Here, I want to highlight a few key points I covered in that webinar to describe how you can implement a digital transformation strategy in your last-mile operations.
Leveraging the right visibility solutions can help you achieve digital transformation
Combining the right solutions for your business can help you achieve digital transformation by eliminating a lot of the manual, time-consuming, and costly processes that were once associated with proper routing and exceptional customer service.
We use Omnitracs for our routing and it has made a big impact to our operations. We create routes nightly from customer orders and push those routes to our drivers’ mobile devices. We pair Omnitracs with other vendor solutions tied to our trucks and vans to ensure the most widespread visibility and enable temperature monitoring for product quality and FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) compliance. These solutions help monitor vehicles via GPS and cellular tracking so our dispatch teams can focus on exceptions and better customer service.
To enhance the customer experience, we use Omnitracs Active Alert to send our sales team and customers delivery ETAs and confirmations. The system sends messages via e-mail or text. This helps prevent our back-office team from becoming overloaded with order status calls.
Modifying your final mile delivery process and serving customers using digital transformation
When COVID first began making waves in the U.S., our business was heavily impacted due to closures with our foodservice customers such as hotels, restaurants and event venues. Now, we are slowly but surely reopening and reservicing.
One of the silver linings that came from COVID was increasing grocery demand. To support grocery accounts, we began supplementing DC (Distribution Center) deliveries with DSD (Direct Store Deliveries) for one of our largest grocery customers. By doing that, we were able to provide faster service, enhance product shelf life, and increase sales by taking orders directly. This demonstrates that when you can think outside the box and efficiently modify your business strategy to suit demand, you can generate profit in the short run and hopefully maintain those profits in the future.
Beyond increasing service to grocery customers, we are looking for new business opportunities that conform to COVID necessities. For example, we developed and launched a set of curated home delivery products (utilizing parcel carriers) called Seafood Express. It has become a new line of revenue for us, and customer response has been positive. We believe this will be a permanent line of business. Another change we have made – at least in the short-term – is leveraging our delivery fleet as a 3PL for companies needing first- or last-mile capacity in Southern California.
Concerning other changes, we are playing it by ear. It truly depends on how demand picks up again with our foodservice and grocery accounts. One thing is certain, though. You can’t achieve change and make lasting improvements without the right solutions. Having the right solutions at your disposal can help you — as it has helped us — stay afloat during these critical times. And that, in essence, is where the main benefit of digital transformation comes in — allowing your business to efficiently and proactively conform and adapt when the future is unknown.
I’ve certainly enjoyed sharing these main takeaways. I encourage you to tune in to the full webinar, to learn more about how we leverage digital transformation — from the first mile to the last.