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, such as recipe research, ingredient planning, grocery shopping and the preparation time. Before all of that can even happen, there is a much bigger piece to preparing a home-cooked meal—it starts with getting food and beverages from farms, factories or consumer packaged goods (CPG) plants to the stores.

Food and beverage distributors work hard to ensure customers get only quality food, yet there are new challenges that affect the industry today, including changing demand and increased variety, market consolidation, federal, state and local labor laws and tax reform.

Yet, there are ways that the food and beverage industry can overcome these modern challenges—actionable data, which is the information and analysis that allows employees, from executives down to the people in the field, to make the right decisions.

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

Here’s how new mobile workforce management solutions can help food and beverage distributors succeed through actionable data.

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 to more evenly re-deploy the people they have to cover the field and the office.

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.

Increase effectiveness in the field

Mobile workforce tracking can facilitate a number of productivity improvements. For instance, a food distributor may find that a certain stop on a route is usually scheduled for an hour and a half, but the data reveals it only takes the driver an hour to unload the order. Companies 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 the next steps are and more. These data points can help a food distributor more realistically schedule across every driver’s route.

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.

Additionally, companies can equip their employees with this technology when presenting to clients. Translating data behind activities could mean offering better understanding of product shelf life.

A mobile workforce management platform with a mileage tracking capability also simplifies processes and saves time. Instead of having employees manually log in their stops and/or reimbursements, they can simply hit a few buttons on the mobile workforce app. The less time spent on manual tasks, the more time they can spend in front of customers.

Understand what 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 the 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. In food and beverage distribution organizations, mileage reimbursement is often the No. 2 or No. 3 expense 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 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.   

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.