Last October, FourKites and Food Shippers of America released a survey conducted with over a 100 industry leaders asking what their biggest challenges they faced in their logistics and supply chains.The results probably shouldn’t surprise any produce shippers. The challenges they listed are the same challenges produce shippers have faced since time immemorial: labor shortages (49%), capacity issues (39%), and supply chain disruptions (35%). Produce shippers are especially susceptible to seasonal market fluctuations in truck capacity. The logistics industry as a whole is keenly aware of “produce season”, and plans for (or tries to plan for) tighter reefer capacity, higher rates, and a higher percentage of contracted freight cancellations due to spot market rate increases.
These challenges are persistent in the produce industry for a number of reasons. First, farm workers have probably the most precarious labor positions anywhere in North America. Produce pickers are usually seasonal itinerant laborers that are often migrants. These jobs don’t pay well, are difficult as hell, and, well, are not fun. So labor shortages are always a problem, and usually result in delays in packing and loading. Second, fresh produce shippers always face some sort of capacity issues when it comes to moving their time-sensitive freight because the product is picked right at the farm, is perishable, and needs to be hauled right away. And third, which is tied to the second, supply chain disruptions. With fresh produce, disruptions can happen at any touchpoint with the load. On the shipper side of things, common setbacks involve the product simply isn’t ready at the shipper so the truck charges detention; the product might be loaded wrong so the weight isn’t balanced correctly on the truck and needs to be reworked. Once the truck is loaded and gone, communication between the truck driver, carrier partner, and the shipper can often break down for a number of reasons, leading to problems and delays. Sometimes, supply chain disruptions are caused by product spoilage and rejection due to temperature deviations. And finally, if the truck doesn’t arrive on time, well, then everyone is upset, leading to strains on business relationships between the shipper, carrier, and customer.
Fortunately for food and produce shippers, many of these problems can be reduced or eliminated entirely by partnering with a transportation service provider that specializes in hauling for the produce, food, and beverage vertical. Food logistics providers offer extra incentives for produce shippers because they, like you, have worked in the produce space. They understand the meticulous operational requirements needed for shipping fresh produce, including having a large network of vetted carriers, real-time visibility on all shipments, and technology that helps produce shippers reduce their transportation costs. This article takes a look at some of the ways that 3PLs are helping produce shippers optimize their supply chains.
Why is Shipping Produce so High-Stakes?
Shipping time-sensitive perishable commodities involves a lot of risks that produce shippers are certainly aware of. Cold chains, in general, require real attention to details. Produce must be handled carefully and in temperature controlled environments that prevent product spoilage. From the moment that a truck gets loaded, transportation service providers must ensure that the driver has the reefer set at the correct temperature. Hopefully the reefer chute is working properly and not blowing cold air directly on pallets of peppers or asparagus. A truck that swerves on the highway might bruise the fruit and be rejected. Even a slight temperature deviation could be the difference between a load delivered on time at the receiver, or having the carrier deviate the load to a local food bank or dump. Freezing and spoiling an entire load of berries could potentially bankrupt a small carrier, make a freight broker quit his job, and have a customer lose his confidence in your company.
Experienced food logistics providers like Wicker Park Logistics provide a level of transparency to produce shippers that mitigate most of the risks that can occur on a loads journey. Their technology is designed specifically to help food and produce shippers overcome issues such as capacity shortages, market volatility, and shipping delays caused by poor route optimization. Food shippers want to know that their product is in good hands, and with a company that offers dedicated fleet service.
Dedicated Reefer Capacity
Produce shippers depend on a steady supply of reefer capacity to connect their North American customers. Whether you have cross-border freight, U.S. domestic shipments, or need specialized service like transloading, cross-docking, or final-mile solutions, Wicker Park Logistics provides year-round dedicated capacity for cold chain shippers moving time-sensitive produce. Their carefully vetted network of reefer carriers help produce shippers with their just-in-time deliveries. Whether your company needs help with spot loads or regular volume, Wicker Park Logistics guarantees food shippers with on-demand reefer capacity year-round, with team service, and door-to-door expedited delivery.
One of the biggest challenges that produce shippers face involves monitoring each load within their supply chain. If a truck takes a one pick one drop from Salinas, California going to Boston, MA, there’s an expectation that the truck will run 500 miles a day and be held accountable to make their miles. An experienced food logistics provider will make sure that their customer has end-to-end visibility on every load. Wicker Park Logistics provides their customers with TMS Enabled Visibility that offers an online portal that logistics managers can use to access up-to-the-minute load notifications, GPS tracking, and get automated delivery notifications. This oversight brings unprecedented visibility for produce shippers and makes sure their time-sensitive freight will arrive on time.
Cut Transportation Costs Through Automation
Another advantage of partnering with a food logistics provider is their ability to streamline operations through their technologies. Automation is helping food shippers make the right choices, cutting time, energy, and money. Wicker Park Logistics helps produce shippers reduce their transportation costs. Their technology helps produce shippers eliminate tasks like check calls, email updates asking about a truck’s location, and the manual data entry used to update customers. Wicker Park Logistics has a team of data analysts and pricing specialists that also help produce shippers optimize their routes, helping customers save on their transportation budget. Through their technology, Wicker Park Logistics helps shippers visualize their shipping data, and reallocate labor to positions that can expand their current market share.
Wicker Park Logistics Has your Produce Loads Covered
Steady reefer capacity, quality operations support, good communication, and on-time delivery are the standard benchmarks that Wicker Park Logistics holds when servicing loads for fresh produce companies. Whether your company is looking for local, regional, long-haul, or cross-border freight, Wicker Park Logistics approaches each load with the same protocol. Their operations and capacity team ensure the best trucks are assigned to your load, that the drivers are using GPS tracking, and that your shipment gets delivered on time and in full. Their technology helps shippers get more power out of their supply chain, and you should connect with an expert at Wicker Park Logistics today to see how they can help your company get more from your supply chain.