New Challenges, New Solutions: How Technology Can Save The Food & Beverage Industry

Mobile workforce management solutions can help food and beverage distributors succeed through actionable data.

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Valerie MyerValerie Myer Michael RexroatMichael Rexroat

Who doesn’t love sitting down to a home-cooked meal? It’s a luxury not everyone can enjoy due to the amount of work that goes into it: recipe research, ingredient planning, grocery shopping and, of course, the actual cooking all take substantial amounts of time and effort. But before all of that, there’s a much bigger piece: getting food and beverages from farms, factories or CPG plants to the stores.

The food and beverage distribution business functions like a finely choreographed dance, requiring many moving parts working in sync to get the final products to their destination on time and in good condition. As if that isn’t hard enough, new challenges impact the industry, including:

  • Changing demand and increased variety
  • Market consolidation
  • Federal, state and local labor laws
  • Tax reform

The key to tackling these modern challenges lies in actionable data — the information and analysis that will allow employees, from executives down to the people in the field, to make the right decisions — enabled by technology.

New technologies like mobile workforce management platforms can increase food and beverage distribution companies’ success by capturing and analyzing data like which clients were visited, what activities were completed at each client, how many miles were driven and more.

Optimize Personnel

Data capture allows organizations to understand factors like high-volume times so they can adjust staffing and schedules accordingly. For example, a company in the process of acquiring other businesses may assume it needs to hire more sales personnel. But the numbers may tell a different story. Data may reveal that the current sales personnel are only busy on certain days of the week and spend the rest of the time doing paperwork. This insight helps businesses redeploy the people they have to cover the field and the office more evenly.

As companies expand through organic growth or acquisition, data will help them understand whether they have the right people doing the right things at the right time, or whether and where they need more.

Increase Effectiveness in the Field

Mobile workforce tracking can facilitate a number of productivity improvements. A beverage distributor may find that a certain stop on a route is always scheduled for an hour-and-a-half, but the data reveals it only takes the driver an hour to unload the order. Finding these “fudge factors” across every driver’s route helps the company schedule more realistically, and may even help squeeze in an extra stop each day.

Simply capturing mileage doesn’t reveal this kind of data; understanding the activities each rep is completing at each stop with each customer will reveal what activities are driving results, allowing companies to take action and adjust their focuses accordingly to improve the bottom line and customer satisfaction.

Companies also can easily determine worker productivity by ensuring reps enter data categorizing each stop based on whether the meeting was scheduled or a drop-in; what product or service was presented; what next steps are and more. This additional context allows companies to dig even deeper into data.

Retain Employees

Analytics and insights aren’t just helpful for a company — they also help employees. Sales reps don’t always have a say over how their territories are structured, and may receive a schedule with unreasonable drive time, traffic and average meeting time demands. But with mobile workforce management metrics, employees can make an evidence-supported case for adjusted schedules, different territories and other opportunities to earn more commission.

The intelligence also identifies which sales rep or merchandiser is most successful with which customers, allowing them to spend the proper amount of time with each specific client, and potentially share their methods with the rest of the sales team.

Additionally, companies can equip their employees with this technology when presenting to clients. Competing on price in this contentious industry is not easy, but sharing data can provide employees with a leg up on the competition. Translating data behind activities could mean offering better understanding of product shelf life. Using these metrics, a sales rep can present factual data that provides value greater than a competitor with lower prices.

A mobile workforce management platform with a mileage tracking capability also simplifies processes and saves time; employees can hit a few buttons to capture mileage and reduce the amount of manual entry and paperwork they need to complete to log their stops and/or get reimbursed. The less time they spend on manual tasks, the more time they can spend in front of customers — and an organization providing its employees with tools that save time and increase results has a better chance of a low turnover rate.

Navigate Shopper Demand and Provide Better Service

E-commerce has changed the industry. Food and beverage distribution companies can help their customers be more successful with shoppers by using technology to determine what has worked in the past at certain times of year, or what works in certain regions, based on data collected with mobile workforce management applications.

Sales consultants or merchandisers can use this data to educate their customers, helping them appropriately target and market the right products at the right time, whether by helping them plan a new menu, arrange a display targeted to local interests or stock product flying off the shelves in other stores.

Understand What F&B Competitors Are Doing

A mobile workforce management platform can provide visibility into what an organization’s competitors are doing through industry benchmarking. This provides context around data points by benchmarking them based on other businesses in the same industry as well as each individual customer account.

When companies are able to see what “normal” means for their industry or a specific account, it helps them understand whether they are performing better than competitors and how each sales rep or merchandiser is doing.

Manage Disparate Vehicle/Expense Programs

Mergers and acquisitions mean processes and programs may be carried over from other companies, leading to multiple types of vehicle programs and reimbursement methods — and this can create confusion and reduce visibility into expenses.

Alternatively, companies may choose to run multiple types of vehicle programs geared toward different levels and types of employees, but may not have a way to manage, measure and understand the reimbursement expenses.

A lack of visibility into vehicle and expense programs can create risk, especially in states with stringent labor laws like California that require companies to accurately reimburse employees for job-related expenses. In food and beverage distribution organizations, mileage reimbursement is often the No. 2 or No. 3 expense — if it’s not that high, companies should worry, because they may not be reimbursing employees appropriately.

Even with multiple types of programs, a mobile mileage platform can simplify the reimbursement process by prompting employees to enter qualifying information while tracking mileage and capturing all stops and starts. Following calculation based on odometer readings and data captured, the reimbursement takes into account the geographic market, the regional price of gas and any other information relevant to that particular vehicle.

Mileage capture apps also ensure businesses accurately reimburse mobile employees while remaining in full compliance with the IRS and tax laws. The technology does all the work, providing visibility and assurance of accuracy while reducing risk and removing mileage log responsibilities.

As companies continue to merge and hire new employees, they must manage and measure the risk and expense of all vehicle programs.

Solving New and Old Challenges

The unique challenges of modern food and beverage distributors mean it’s no longer realistic to succeed in a vacuum. Companies need every advantage they can get, and as new technologies make it possible to obtain and analyze more data than ever before, organizations can leverage these capabilities to manage risk, increase profits, better serve customers and gain actionable intelligence.

With customized mobile workforce management platforms, food and beverage companies can not only measure data, but also gain actionable insights that directly impact the bottom line and customer service. By seeking out a technology partner to help manage programs or provide a solution, organizations can take their mobile workforce from comfortable to the cutting edge.

Valerie Myer is a national account executive for Runzheimer. Myer can be reached at vlm@runzheimer.com. Michael Rexroat is a national account executive for Runzheimer. Rexroat can be reached at mpr@runzheimer.com.

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