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How to Use Technology to Manage Your Fresh Produce Supply Chain
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How to Use Technology to Manage Your Fresh Produce Supply Chain

In my last post, I discussed how new shopper desires for a larger and more immediate selection of produce are forcing retailers to leverage supply chain experts.

Focusing on growth requires seeing the big picture with key category and consumer insights, but this can present a challenge when individual store locations—ordering in various quantities from a number of suppliers with inconsistent costs and multiple SKUs and PLUs—operate independently without clear or constant communication. How do you transform your fresh supply chains to be efficient and dynamic when you don’t have the visibility you need to determine optimum resupply points and product turn windows?

You have a full suite of options for fresh supply chain expertise

Start by knowing that there are logistics authorities out there that can help you overhaul and optimize your produce supply chain.

Outside providers, like C.H. Robinson, are experts in discovering the opportunities and gaps in fresh produce ordering, shipping, transportation, and receiving—for both large and small stores. They reduce cost and complexity of supply chains through visibility and process enhancements in taking advantage of one of the most robust resources that third-party providers can offer: technology.

Technology paired with experts who have lived the fresh produce industry act like a “X-ray machine” for fresh supply chains. Because so many stakeholders have so much intricate involvement—and your supply chain has to move fast when dealing with perishable products and fast-paced shoppers—the right technology can grant crucial visibility and provide vital infrastructure and performance insights.

Leveraging technology to coordinate and automate produce purchasing

One of the biggest benefits of technology is better communication between all elements of your fresh supply chain.

Automation offered by the best providers helps ensure perishable purchase orders flow easily through your system. By creating a “universal language,” spoken digitally by all parties, technology can significantly improve speed and clarity and result in more accurate fruit and vegetable orders.

When you have orders of varying quantities or commodities, technology can consolidate these orders automatically for ideal freight transportation, timelines, and costs. These systems also facilitate universal item catalogs, encouraging uniformity across all stores and channels for easier management and control of your entire product portfolio.

Leveraging technology to create more retail capacity

Retailers’ fresh supply chains frequently lack the distribution center (DC) network necessary to quickly respond to modern shopper demands for speed, convenience, and product variety. When fast shipping of perishable produce is essential, having the capacity to react to high order volume—originating both from inside your store and online—requires a denser sourcing and distribution infrastructure than most retailers have.

This is where external providers can offer solutions through their network technologies of scale paired with produce industry expertise.

The best third-party providers can give you access to flexible, agile resources, helping create produce supply chain solutions that dynamically adjust to shopper behaviors. By using an existing network that has wider coverage than your own, you can benefit from logistics solutions that don’t require expensive investments or capacity compromises. Responding to seasonal shifts in supply and demand by reallocating sourcing and distribution resources then becomes much easier, potentially opening new revenue opportunities and notably reducing costs.

How do retailers begin?

Your fresh produce business has a clear priority: get more people visiting your store (or website), more often, with more fruits and vegetables in their carts. But you don’t have to adapt to changing consumer demands on your own.

Services like C.H. Robinson’s industry-leading Managed Procurement Services offer tailored optimizations for stores of all sizes, helping modernize and normalize produce ordering to cut through the clutter and generate meaningful cost savings.

For more information on how we combine technology, expertise, and impactful logistics solutions to reduce your fresh supply chain’s cost and complexity, connect with one of our experts today. On average, our customers see a 7–10% reduction in their supply chain costs.

Todd Bernitt

Todd Bernitt - Vice President of Managed Services for Robinson Fresh

Todd has worked for C.H. Robinson for the past 23 years. In that time he has held multiple positions in numerous areas of the company—from truckload to intermodal and most recently Sourcing. As Vice President of Managed Services for Robinson Fresh, Todd manages strategic direction, resource allocation, and technology to meet the demands of foodservice customers and suppliers. Todd holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Business Administration from Illinois State University.
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