Grocers: Is Your Dock Ready for the Future Grocery Store?

Written by: 
Kimberly Mertlich
Posted on: 
December 12, 2019

Trailers and trucks docked at a grocery store's loading docks in need of dock scheduling

Omnichannel ordering and fulfillment is just the beginning of where the grocery industry is headed. Grocery sales have doubled since 1992 coming in at $674 billion in 2017 alone. It’s clear that the grocery business is big and market players are coming in strong to revolutionize the way consumers shop. On the fulfillment side, this may lend itself to drastic changes in your supply chain.

Why Choose Our YMS Software

What Does the Future Grocery Store Look like?

View of the front entrance inside an Amazon Go Grocery store the future of grocery and retail design

The new grocery store concept, Amazon Go, has already been deployed offering a convenience style experience with computer vision free technology. This means customers can walk in with an app on their phone, grab items they would like to buy, and leave. The checkout process transforms self-checkout to walking out as cameras and sensors can see and charge you for your “purchases” on the app. This new technology makes it even easier and efficient when you’re on the go – as long as you aren’t paying cash. The store is a perfect concept for smaller spaces including some of the most convenient places – apartments and retail stores, including one already in Macy’s, are prime candidates. There are 13 stores currently with four more in the works. Next year a full-scale test supermarket is planning to launch in Seattle that can be architecturally built for this new way of shopping, a luxury current supermarkets do not have.

A recent reviewer shows us what it’s like to experience the future of shopping by walking us through the store and making a purchase. No cashiers are present, just a few employees who stock the shelves. Prices were a mix between what you would see at a standard grocery store while some produce, such as a lemon was a bit fluctuated. Produce was limited and not part of the smaller convenience style concept.

Logo of the InHome Delivery concept by Walmart

Let’s not forget about the latest InHome Delivery concept by Walmart being launched where deliveries can occur when you are not home. With smart entry technology, groceries can be placed directly in a refrigerator or garage of the home.

This doesn’t mean Amazon will come out first in grocery but they want a piece of the grocery pie. There are plenty of other players looking into ways to change the shopping and buying experience as well as third-party companies to help cater and provide a checkout-free solution.

Cross Docking and Just In Time Inventory

Logistics companies already struggle to meet the demands of the modern consumer timetable who expect two-day shipping or less. The demands for faster fulfillment means more shipments coming and going and without a dock scheduling system, meeting these demands is near impossible.

Two solutions working together cater to the future of grocery; cross-docking and the just-in-time (JIT) inventory management.

Cross docking is the process of unloading items from a truck and immediately loading them back up to go out, eliminating almost any storage time. In the past, multiple suppliers would bring items right to the store. Instead, suppliers now bring everything to the distribution center to get sorted based on what is ordered and needed then sent back out for store delivery, sometimes the same day. The store has more control by sending everything to the distribution center first to get sorted and organized.

Trader Joes had two to three trucks leave that go from warehouse to store every day. Not many companies have daily store truck visits, let alone two or three. By limiting the amount of items they sell and having less suppliers, Trader Joe’s really has their logistics in order. They even have an entire facility dedicated to cold storage located in Pennsylvania.

Cross-docking is often used for what is called just in time (JIT) delivery which lowers manufacturer costs and ensures money isn’t being spent where it’s not needed. This type of strategy is based completely on demand. Many are a fan of JIT because you are only manufacturing, storing and shipping when needed. This means less staff are pulling or stocking extra items on the shelves that are not in demand. You can guarantee those utilizing this method are certainly running efficient logistics.

The Benefits of Dock Scheduling

Screenshot of graph data showing the benefits of dock scheduling with YardView Yard Management Software

It’s clear that getting your supply chain logistics as efficient is possible is imperative to the future. With the idea that all companies will need to have loads coming and going multiple times a day to survive, a solid dock scheduling solution will save you from a logistics nightmare. And keep carriers and consumers happy.

The dock is the intersection between drivers, carriers and your business. A dock scheduling system is a series of tools that can automated and optimize what’s coming and going at the dock. Having visibility into the dock door is beneficial for several reasons including:

Consumers don’t often think about how their produce got to the store before arriving at their door but this mentality has become the expectation and in return, carriers are expected to run smooth and fast supply chain operations from start to finish. The yard is one of the most complex parts of the supply chain. Don’t let it be the barrier to your future success.

The Future of the Supply Chain

As Amazon rapidly changes the way consumers shop for groceries, what changes can we expect to see in the supply chain? just announced the successful delivery of butter by a self-driving truck from California to Pennsylvania. An individual was in the truck during the test of the three-day journey but never had to intervene. The trip even took place over Thanksgiving week through various weather conditions.

What happens when the self-driving commercial trucks arrive at the gate in the yard? Fortunately, the software managing trailers in the yard changes very little and it tracked the same way, whether that be through RFID or barcodes. Additional technologies will need be in place for the truck to drive from gate to dock door without staff intervention. We will save that for another discussion.

Technological advances in the supply chain will revolutionize every industry. It’s not far off to imagine a world where cars and trucks are automatically delivering the grocery items to warehouses, stores and homes completed today by drivers.