Tracking technology helps Adams Beverages’ field team
AB InBev distributor turns to latest technology to streamline routes
Adams Beverages has come a long way since its founding in 1937. The family owned AB InBev distributor has become a force in the South, with a network of distribution facilities that bring with them their own sets of rewards and challenges.
“We’re a multiple-location, two-state wholesaler in the Southeast, with locations in North Carolina and Alabama,” says Chris Koch, director of information systems at Adams Beverages. “We’ve grown from one facility in Alabama to over 500 employees.”
Adams now operates six facilities in the two states, following a series of acquisitions throughout the first two decades of the 21st Century. Alabama locations include Opelika, Tuscaloosa and Dothan, while Adams’s North Carolina footprint includes sites in Charlotte, Wilmington and Goldsboro.
Its most recent growth spurt occurred this past March when it acquired 23 counties in eastern North Carolina.
As the company grew, Adams Beverages looked for ways to address the increasing challenges of driver retention, employee quality of life, safety, customer service and a general lack of visibility and reporting into its team’s daily activities.
“We’ve been looking with interest into what our folks have been doing throughout the day — not so much a Big Brother approach, but more in the sense of is the team efficient and effective with their routes and how can we improve by seeing specific details from a stop-by-stop account?”
Adams Beverages turned to Encompass Technologies to help make that happen. The distributor started gradually rolling out the software and analytics system across its fleet in mid-2018 and ramped it up considerably in the past year.
“The GPS system enabled us to seamlessly integrate with our routes, so we could see the actual route stop — not only stops per day, but time per stop,” Koch says.
Without a system like Encompass’s Fleet Tracker, fleet managers typically have to look at how many cases are on each truck and the number of stops each day and then average it out to figure out the proper route dynamic.
“Now, we’ve got the ability with actual live data, with, say, time on task or at the stores and we can make more effective and efficient routes,” Koch notes. “And we’re not spending too much time doing it. We can be more preventative than reactive.”
The Encompass system provides extensive reporting, customized dashboards, alerts, timecard reports, information on planned versus actual routes and maintenance tracking.
And, Koch, points out, the system has enabled the operator to identify efficiency opportunities not only within the delivery fleet, but within the sales and merchandising teams as well.
“We can differentiate activities at the store level — not just how that store is performing but what the activity is,” he says. “In other words, at this account it takes X minutes to accomplish merchandising activity and Y minutes to accomplish sales activities.”
From an employee-coaching standpoint, Koch reports significant improvements across the board. The system brings activities to the forefront where executives can see the costs associated with actions throughout their day-to-day, such as the amount of time a truck spends idling. “It’s done in a way that’s not berating anybody or negatively communicating with them,” Koch adds. “It just enables us to have candid communications with them: ‘You’ve been idling for X hours, that costs X dollars.’ We’re already seeing dramatic decreases in idling time just having this data in an easy and accessible fashion.”
For the hardware, Encompass partnered with GeoTab, which, the company says makes the system easy to install for the fleet operators. “We did that to make the system plug-and-play,” says Derek Jones, business development executive at Encompass. The Fleet Tracker component is part of a suite of services Encompass offers as a compete enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for the distribution industry — including warehouse management systems (WMS), route accounting systems (RAS), customer relationship management, mobile retail ordering and other functions.
“We provide the RAS and WMS and all of these tools as an ERP system and now we’re a system of record for not just what users are doing on their routes, but now we know exactly what they’re doing and how they’re doing it,” Jones says. “The information that can be derived from that is very good from the standpoint of how the route is working.”
Koch notes that the system has paid dividends for Adams Beverages. Employees are happier, thanks to better working hours and more balanced workloads. The company also has been able to provide better customer service for its retail accounts, particularly because it has access to real-time insights on each of those individual accounts. And, of course, the increased delivery efficiency has translated to substantial cost-savings. BI