By Nettie Holland, Business Process Lead – Product Supply
Think of your best online shopping experiences during the pandemic.
Chances are, you were never face-to-face with another person. You simply made a few clicks to place your order, and a few days later, to your delight, you found your package on your doorstep and the delivery driver pulling away. When you checked your email, you saw a delivery confirmation with a picture of the package where it was left. The entire process from order to delivery was free of close contact with strangers.
That frictionless experience is no longer the sole purview of e-commerce. At our plants, we’re pioneering the contactless movement of freight, which is so critical to us getting our essential products on store shelves.
How does it work?
Historically, drivers and plant team members swapped papers, signatures and information face-to-face.
During the pandemic, though, this work had to be reimagined. In the new system, a driver uses a mobile app to let the site team know he has arrived and what he’s delivering or picking up. The site team can message the driver to let him know where to go, give any special instructions and track the driver’s movements while on site. Finally, the driver signs off on receipt of the load and photographs it for documentation. Everything is saved to the cloud and accessible within seconds.
Why do it?
Eliminating physical contact and touches between the distribution team and our drivers and supplier partners enhances safety and health protocols. Drivers no longer need to get out of their cabs except to connect or disconnect a trailer. All the paperwork is completed and exchanged through the app.
To our retail partners and consumers anxiously awaiting delivery of our products, it also creates efficiencies that help prevent disruptions to our supply chain.
This solution also offers sustainability benefits. We’ve cut way back on paper and toner use and have eliminated the need for storage and disposal of all that waste.
Benefits beyond the pandemic
Contactless freight was a clear response to a moment in time, but we’re envisioning benefits that will outlast the pandemic. It’s a clear example of how we can tap technology to simplify and speed up outmoded, manual processes — and benefit the environment at the same time.
And though it’s only live in our Atlanta region today, this is an improvement we’ll be rolling out to other production facilities later this year.
Shaping industrywide standards
We’re also part of a broader effort to develop uniform standards for contactless shipping across the consumer packaged goods industry.
Last year, the Consumer Brands Association launched a Contactless Delivery Task Force to provide guidance in the implementation of contactless deliveries at scale throughout our supply chains. As part of this effort, we’re working with more than 20 of our peers to study the impact of, and develop uniform standards for, implementing contactless deliveries at scale throughout our supply chains.
While these initiatives may have been spurred by the pandemic, they now offer the promise of transforming operations for the good over the long term.