Distribution is an essential part of the supply chain, especially when transporting perishables. However, managing your exports as a produce distributor comes with unique challenges and issues to overcome.
An example would be moving highly perishable produce like avocados or sliced mushrooms from California to Maine while shouldering the risk of reduced quality or losing some to wastage. According to the FAO, 16% of produce is lost to poor transportation.
Besides risking wastage, distributors often incur many costs in person-hours, fuel, car insurance, and claims. Vehicles may also break down en route or get involved in an auto collision. How do you minimize issues like these to avoid losses?
To ensure seamless and efficient distribution, produce distributors should be intentional about improving their system. You can improve your overall distribution system by using fresh produce software like Silo. This software automates your day-to-day produce business operations including inventory management, payments, and more, and it also helps you book reliable freight.
Perks of better freight management include cost-efficiency, profitability, and quality control.
Here are the top four ways to manage your freight as a produce distributor.
1. Custom packaging for each type of produce
The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t apply to produce packaging. Different packaging should be used for different types of produce. For example, plastic bags may be used for packaging cauliflower, but not tomatoes or onions.
The latter should be packaged in wooden or plastic crates instead. Sealing them in plastic bags would expose them to temperatures that’d make them lose their taste and freshness.
In general, the following criteria are considered when deciding what packaging to use for which type of produce.
- Budget – When you are caught between two options, you may want to see which packaging costs less or is within your budget. Packaging is by no means cheap. Therefore, you may want to consider the price of that plastic bag you are about to settle for.
- Trend – The world is tending towards eco-friendly practices; therefore, you should consider this when packaging supplies. Eco-friendly packaging is essential when it concerns food.
- Protection – This is perhaps the most essential consideration to make. The packaging must be such that it still keeps the food fresh, protecting it from excessive handling and extreme temperatures.
- Compliance – The packaging must comply with standards put out by regulatory bodies. Nothing else matters if this isn’t in place.
2. Route optimization
Route optimization helps you cut costs in miles driven, fuel expended, vehicle maintenance, and person-hours. Drivers will spend less time on the road and drive under safer conditions. That’s a lot of savings.
Simply following the route set out by Google Maps won’t cut it. The map may not cater to peculiar complexities relating to produce distribution.
For instance, an excellent route optimization software will show you the best way to move if you need to drop off at five different locations.
You can get an even better experience if you invest in an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software that has a feature for booking affordable and reliable freight.
3. ERP integrations
This is perhaps the best way to manage your freight as a produce distributor. Many product distributors are already employing ERP software in their operations, and you should be no different. Indeed, 53% of businesses consider ERP a priority investment for their business.
Think of ERP as the glue that holds together different parts of the supply chain. A good ERP allows you to create invoices on the go, automate communication, and connect all communications, accounting, and order processing in one place. A choice software for doing this is Silo.
Through Silo, wholesale distributors get a single portal for processing payments, scheduling orders, processing invoices, and managing inventory. It simplifies the complex logistics associated with agricultural produce distribution, especially with the distribution of fresh perishables.
They also have a Silo Capital product offering that allows business owners to access capital upfront—up to 90% of their client’s invoice value.
In summary, ERPs help you make better-informed decisions, meet necessary compliance requirements, see at a glance the overhead costs for distribution, view produce shipping data insights and improve warehouse management.
4. Data collection
Every shipment made is a goldmine of insights you can tap into to improve your overall distribution system.
From shipping data, distributors get a better overall idea of the overhead cost of servicing a particular client, what orders are fulfilled, which area has the most clients, which route exposes the dispatch rider to the most risk, and other such details.
Therefore, collecting more insights on each shipment and acting on this information can make distribution more efficient and seamless. For example, by determining the overhead cost of servicing a client, the distributor will better know how profitable the client’s orders are. If unprofitable, they may then increase their charge.
If data shows so many clients within an area, a distributor may consider establishing a pick-up point there. After careful analysis, the distributor may consider this more profitable than delivering the supplies door-to-door.
It may also help the produce distributor identify loopholes in their distribution system and what areas they are lacking. With these data insights, they know exactly what and where to improve upon.