date27 July 2020

Food sector logistics in the pandemic era

Lockdown has been a testing time for the UK food sector, and also a period of extraordinary demand. From May to July, sales of groceries were up nearly 17percent, with most of that coming from online services and local shops. The way we shop for food has shifted in response to lockdown; many consumers have cut the number of times they visit asupermarket during the week in favour of a larger, planned ‘bulk buying’ approach, often online. That’s when they can get an online delivery or pick up slot though – demand for online food deliveries has skyrocketed too.

All told, lockdown has been a sort of boomtime for food distribution, but one that’s made logistically gruelling by a global pandemic. The pressure to expediate supply chains in the face of a never-before-seen public health emergency has been nothing short of monumental.      

Has there ever been a greater need for digital support and optimisation within the food sector? Here’s how Electronic Proof of Delivery (EPOD) keeps the food sector moving as efficiently as possible.

Enabling food sector diversification

Many food and catering companies have reacted to the interruption of their normal operations by swiftly adapting their customer services. Restaurants have become meal delivery providers and/or takeaways, while delis and grocers have packaged up meal kits. That’s alongside supermarkets that haven’t had to diversify, but have had to keep warehouses stocked and create as many delivery slots as possible to meet new levels of consumer demand.

For the food distributors supplying these businesses, these changes are passed on up the supply chain, creating their own need to provide different types of goods and/or goods in greater volumes. Fully scalable, an EPOD solution like PODstar provides a smooth transition to an expanded vehicle fleet, increased delivery rates and a broadening supply chain, all with full visibility of operations in real time and data stored for analysis and reporting. PODstar takes the headache out of operational agility, automating processes such as route optimisation and job scheduling so as to ensure deliveries are as efficient as possible, even when demand is at its highest.

Tracking food safety compliance through to delivery    

Logistics for the food sector comes with its own unique challenges, not least the fact that the goods are perishable. Food distributors must be able to prove that delivery vehicles and journey durations meet strict food safety and cold chain compliance regulations, especially for chilled and frozen foods. By connecting to temperature monitoring systems in refrigerated and cold chain vehicles,

PODstar gives live temperature status at any point in a food delivery in transit or at the drop off. Temperature readings are automatically included in the POD for the customer, along with images taken by the driver on their connected mobile device as extra evidence if required. What’s more, the digital nature of EPOD enables paper-free and contact-free receipt of goods, for maximum social distancing guideline compliance and customer and driver peace of mind.

PODstar’s Drop and Go feature allows food delivery businesses to leave goods in a safe place if no one is there to receive them, and prove this through date, time, photographic and geolocation verification, automatically uploaded to the system from the driver’s mobile device.

Transparency and clarity for customers     

Perishable goods and high consumer demand means food and catering companies need suppliers they can rely on. They want to know when deliveries will arrive, be alerted to any change to this as it happens and that their food supplier can provide the order and delivery information they need, when they need it.  

Through PODstar, customers awaiting food deliveries can access their own unique online portal, where they can view order history, archived PODs and most importantly, real time updates to their goods out for delivery. If anything affects the delivery window automatically generated by PODstar’s job planning and scheduling tool, the customer can see it here, saving the delivery company significant time that could be spent fielding customer calls and enquiries.

Complete operational optimisation for the food logistics sector  

Without the digital infrastructure an EPOD system like PODstar provides, a food distributor is left to manage and respond to the ever-shifting needs of its customers in the dark. Only digital support and optimisation enables a food delivery organisation to pivot its focus quickly enough to stay ahead of its competitors at times of intense demand, or to streamline its operations through automation and integration.  

Stronger in the long-term

While no industry has had an easy time of it during COVID-19, it’s obvious that the logistics industry has had a particularly difficult few months. It is one of only a handful of sectors that has been simultaneously subject to unprecedented demand in some areas and to an overnight drought in others, while also facing the challenges of social distancing, safeguarding and preserving public health. There’s much further to go before any kind of ‘new normal’ can be established but, if the coronavirus crisis has proved anything, it’s that the logistics industry is built of strong stuff. We’re confident that it will emerge stronger than ever.     

To find out more about how PODstar could benefit your food distribution business, please get in touch with us today.