New supply chain tech aids in effectiveness and efficiency
Several new, innovative technologies are giving operators quick access to more data that can help them make better purchasing decisions, take advantage of optimal pricing, and ensure quality.
Making better decisions more quickly
One of those innovations is the increased availability of real-time supply chain data, which allows management teams to take the information and use it to make better decisions more quickly to manage food and supply costs, address supply chain disruptions, streamline logistics, and access product provenance.
“During the last few years, the industry has developed an appetite for the supply chain data new tech can provide,” says Bill Michalski, ArrowStream’s chief product officer. “Operators, suppliers, and distributors all want a more holistic picture of their supply chain so they can make more informed decisions to stay ahead of potential disruptions. Figuring out how to make use of the increased data is an ongoing trend that not only allows supply chain teams to fully understand inventory needs, but also the best ways to support them.”
Joe Hinton, Brinker International’s senior director of Supply Chain Management, says supply chain integration software has had a profound impact on his team’s efficiency that’s helped them operate more strategically.
“It’s enabled us to review and analyze information, employ predictive analysis, and use the analysis to implement proactive solutions. Having the information readily available has really improved performance metrics.
“For example, we’ve seen a decline in the number of requests for expedited freight, between the distribution center and vendor and from the restaurant to the distribution center. That’s a game-changer for our team and brand. But the real value is measured in quality of life for the team, decreasing the deadline stress so often involved in supply chain decisions.”
Kristi Kingery, senior vice president of Supply Chain for Tropical Smoothie Café LLC, also lauds the continual advancements in supply chain technology, including AI and management efficiency tools.
“AI is obviously the hot topic this year,” she says. “It’s exploded in scope and popularity, and we’re seeing some of our current tech providers integrating those capabilities into their existing tools. But there are also AI tools that are widely available online, even ones as simple as chat GPT, that we’ve taken advantage of to streamline some of our day-to-day activities. We are thoughtful about how and when we use these new technologies, but there are certainly instances when, used properly, it can be helpful drafting content, communications, and creating forms.
“And I use the word ‘draft’ seriously. We always iterate from what the tool generates, but it gives us a jump-start. Most of these tools are in their infancy so we’re proceeding with caution.”
The company also recently rolled out a new management system to help drive efficiencies for franchisees. It ties sales data to how much they should have sold and how much was sold. It does an actual inventory count against that to find out what ingredients were over-ordered and where waste occurred, and helps create predictive ordering models for supplies. That, Kingery says, will allow Tropical Smoothie to work with its franchisees to better order the correct amount of supplies and help franchisees use a predictive labor schedule to deliver a great guest experience.
Jeff Dorr, ArrowStream’s president says that the disruption during the pandemic highlighted the need for connected systems and infrastructures. Having technology is a must in today’s environment and because it’s evolving so quickly, putting together a strategy for a supply chain solution is critical in today’s environment. He advises operators to go at their own pace, but not be afraid to take advantage of what’s available today.
“You don’t have to run; it's okay to walk or even crawl,” he says. “When we deploy our technology, we tell our customers to use it for six months and see how it identifies operational procedures and workflows that could change and get better. Once they realize they’re performing tasks they don’t have to because the technology can do it for them, they can reconfigure and prioritize their daily processes.”
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