Food Distributor Plays It Cool
Golden State Foods warms up to a cold chain performance monitoring solution that meets customer compliance requirements.
When McDonalds, Starbucks, and Chick-fil-A are your main customers, expertly monitoring in-transit fresh, refrigerated, and frozen food temperatures is a valuable competitive asset.
Food services distributor Golden State Foods (GSF) feels that pressure every day. The company operates 26 dedicated distribution centers across the United States. It ships frozen, refrigerated, and dry food, along with packaging and operating supplies, to 9,361 restaurants. GSF makes 38,600 weekly deliveries with its fleet of 800 tractors and 1,000 trailers.
“Our customers are high volume and rely heavily on our just-in-time routing,” says Tim Bates, corporate quality systems director, logistics.
To meet these demanding requirements, GSF invested in a telematics solution from Coretex to monitor air and food product temperatures inside the trailers, and to better understand cold-chain performance from order pickup at the distribution center to delivery at the restaurant.
In 2012, Golden State Foods Distribution, a division of Golden State Foods, a $9-billion company based in Irvine, California, faced a dilemma. Its existing Hours of Service (HOS) platform was being sunsetted, and dedicated customer McDonalds, which it has served since the 1950s, kept upping its already high standards for food safety from warehouse pickup to restaurant delivery.
To keep pace with the industry’s food monitoring compliance requirements, GSF needed more in-depth visibility into the trailers’ air and food product temperatures, as well as temperature fluctuations in the frozen and refrigerated trailer compartments.
Improved monitoring and compliance were baseline requirements, but GSF also wanted to find ways to improve overall efficiencies and operations. After reviewing various options, the company shortlisted five solutions providers. Coretex was on that list.
At the time, Coretex, a fleet management services provider headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand, with U.S. operations co-based in San Diego and Fort Lee, New Jersey, was building its North American presence. Its relationship with Gateway Industrial Power, a refrigerated equipment dealer, earned it an introduction to GSF, and helped the solutions provider win the contract, recalls Craig Marris, executive vice president of mixed fleets for Coretex.
Coretex started with two years of pilot programs aimed at ensuring that robust and reliable technology capabilities were being embedded to meet GSF’s customized needs. It followed through with a full rollout about five years ago, circa 2013, says Marris.
The initial solution, Coretex’s IBRIGHT platform, focused on complying with HOS at the driver level, harvesting data to monitor GSF Distribution’s cold chain performance, and meeting McDonald’s’ continuous temperature monitoring requirements.
QCD Gets Into the Act
As the GSF Distribution rollout was happening, Marris was invited to participate in joint presentations with executives from GSF’s Quality Custom Distribution Services (QCD) division. QCD provides distribution services for restaurant chains; Coretex now provides solutions for that part of the business as well.
“We constantly work with GSF executives to see what areas we can focus on to drive even more efficiencies,” Marris says, adding that the GSF parent company is now able to monitor cold chain performance and operations at both divisions through one platform.
As the GSF Distribution and Coretex relationship evolved, new functionality has been layered onto existing technology.
For instance, five years ago, the technology focus was on creating visibility and accountability for the refrigerated compartments. That has since migrated to improving in-cab technology that gives drivers more information about the trailers’ air temperature and any fluctuations in food product temperatures.
With IBRIGHT now shifting to what Coretex calls its 360 platform, GSF will also have deeper granular-level data around remote reefer control, trailer and in-cab technology integration, fuel usage, and route planning. Soon, it will also include greater hyper-local weather information that will allow drivers and dispatchers to see how changing weather conditions affect roads and closures.
Some of those features proved useful in September 2018 when Hurricane Florence hit the U.S. East Coast. “The IBRIGHT GPS-related mapping was valuable in remotely monitoring delivery vehicles that had to use many alternative routes due to road closures,” Bates says, adding that the company was also able to give its customers better arrival-time estimates during the weather crisis.
Marris expects to have even more conversations with GSF officials about how this hyper-local weather input may address other short- and longer-term planning and in-transit supply chain and logistics issues.
Besides the unexpected weather-related planning benefits, the Coretex solution has boosted GSF’s overall performance in other ways. Most notably, GSF saves $50,000 monthly because the new predictive product temperature monitoring eliminates the need for drivers to probe product temperature at each stop.
Additionally, the company no longer has to manually manage portable temperature monitoring devices on approximately 200 routes each day, saving significant time for drivers and speeding up deliveries.
“IBRIGHT provides real-time information regarding temperature control and reefer operations that we once had to collect manually,” says Bates. “This helps our teams focus on delivering on time.”
Previously, drivers used the Coretex solution to manually probe products at different times en route to measure temperature and note any changes that affect food safety. GSF customers required that temperature fluctuations over a set range for a certain number of minutes were reported.
These manual steps have been eliminated as the trailer and in-cab technology has evolved. Today, trailer information is instanteously fed to the cabin and drivers see that information on an LCD screen fixed to the cab’s dashboard. Coretex and GSF now have a better understanding of various dynamics, large and small, that impact fresh and frozen food temperatures while in transit. For example, the companies have learned more about the importance of the bulkheads, how reefers best work, and what causes temperature fluctuations in food product delivery. Those insights, in turn, have helped GSF improve its supplier compliance rating and other key performance indicators, Marris says.
One area targeted for additional improvement is optimizing the drivers’ in-cab activities via Electronic Logging Device (ELD) capabilities. With Coretex’s integrated workflow technology, GSF Distribution will have a single view into pickup times, en route transportation data, driver logs, offload rates, and any delivery issues.
“Because the technology is in the cab and on the trailer, we can direct the information from trailer to driver via a display screen,” says Marris.
Having that data and identifying potential problems early also help GSF drive out unnecessary costs and take corrective action when necessary without losing the load.