Whether your business is a big box grocery store, a small-town shop, the local dairy shop or a restaurant, you rely on the transportation industry to get the products you ordered to your business fresh, on time and in good condition. It’s particularly vital in food transportation to know that the product was kept within its acceptable temperature range, that it was handled correctly and that it was transported with other like product so not to be contaminated.

When it comes to food, today’s consumers demand only the best-of-the-best, which makes it even more important for you to know everything there is to know about how the food products were sourced and how they traveled to you – from farm to fork. Lucky for you, we live in the age of data. With the quantity and quality of data available, leveraging tools like business intelligence (BI) helps to ensure visibility into knowing your food shipments are as safe, fresh and travel to you as efficiently as possible.  

With the upgrade in available technology over the last couple decades, it’s easier to track data from the very first step in the supply chain all the way through the final mile – the last step in the supply chain when the order arrives at its delivery location. And, for the food industry, gaining insights into this data throughout the supply chain could mean the difference between providing the best products to your customers, or selling anything off the shelf and hoping that customers come back again.

However, like every industry, there are certain challenges to overcome. One of the biggest challenges is identifying what key performance indicators (KPIs) map back to the business’ goals – in this case, providing the best, safest, freshest food and beverage products. Important KPIs that appear in contracts can now be tracked with technology, like maintaining a certain temperature range within the trailer, the amount of sun exposure the goods receive and any issues during the delivery process.

One challenge is the ever-changing customer. Today’s customers are savvier and their expectations for quality, consumption methods and even purchasing are changing quickly. People want to spend less time in stores and want all sorts of products delivered to their homes. Whether it’s meal delivery kits or weekly groceries, all companies are subject to the “Amazon Effect.” Visibility to data, including customer trends, density studies and transportation specific metrics allow companies to get closer to their customers and provide quick new services to meet the changing demand.

Another challenge is in the terms of the contract. All parties involved with a transaction, including suppliers, customers and transportation entities, should check the terms of the contracts and make sure stipulations are being met by all parties involved. Make sure that all parties are on the same page, which includes learning the same terminology as your partners. Knowing the basics will help you dictate the terms of the contract from what type of trailer the product is transported on to the temperature range that the product can be held at.

Additionally, there are now FDA, OSHA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and other government organizations that publish regulations dictating what can and must be done in the transport of food. The more regulations there are, the more necessary it becomes to incorporate BI tools that make important data readily available and actionable to you.

As a shipper, there are three options: 1) use the latest technology in the transportation industry to track shipments yourself; 2) partner with organizations using the best technology and who will allow you to use it to track shipments; or 3) both own the technology and use the carrier’s systems to ensure that all systems align. Any of the three options will help ensure that your products are arriving in the best condition possible.

As solutions have increasingly gained traction and matured in final mile, particularly with the application of BI, companies are realizing the value of data visibility and how it can impact business improvement. BI can help shippers identify the KPIs that matter most to their business.